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World Anti-Doping Agency Confirms Allegations Of Russian Cheating

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Allegations that Russian athletes used performance-enhancing drugs at the Sochi Winter Olympics and that there was a state-sponsored effort to prevent them from getting caught have been confirmed in an independent report. The World Anti-Doping Agency asked a Canadian law professor to conduct the inquiry. It could lead to the entire Russian team being excluded from next month's Rio Olympics.

Professor Richard McLaren talked about his report at a press conference in Toronto this morning. And NPR's Corey Flintoff has been listening from his post in Moscow. Welcome to the program.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Hi. Good morning. These allegations first surfaced in The New York Times a few months ago. Did McLaren confirm any of those reports?

FLINTOFF: Well, he did. As you said, the most explosive allegation here was that the Russian government was basically in charge of a sports doping system. It was state-sponsored. It was overseen by the Russian minister of sports and with the participation of the Russian security services.

McLaren said he confirmed all that beyond a regional - reasonable doubt. And, you know, that's absolutely key. This wasn't just a few athletes and coaches who cheated. It was the Russian government.

He also found that Russia's main doping lab in Moscow operated a system for doping athletes and a system to cover up positive samples by some of them. He found that the lab in Sochi - you know, during the Winter Olympics two years ago - actually had a scheme to protect doping athletes by swapping out their samples. I mean, if they tested positive for drugs, their samples would be swapped for clean ones. And he said he confirmed that there was a very sophisticated system for tampering with so-called tamper-proof sample bottles. So the Sochi allegations basically mean that this cheating extended way beyond Russia's track and field athletes.

MONTAGNE: Well, so the Russian government has already, you know, sort of poo-pooed the original New York Times reports. But have the athletes and the government got a chance to react to this, and what does it all mean?

FLINTOFF: So far, they just seem to be basically absorbing this latest news. You know - but before this came out, a lot of Russian athletes said, they think it's unfair to punish clean athletes for the actions of a few cheaters. Russia's state-owned sports TV channel actually is planning to air a - sort of a mini documentary that claims that Russian athletes were unfairly smeared and that it's all about politics. It's all anti-Russian. And I think that'll pretty much reflect what Russian officials have to say about this.

MONTAGNE: So now the fate of the Russian athletes goes before - becomes whatever the International Olympic Committee says.

FLINTOFF: Well, there's some other hurdles that have to be gone over. Some of these athletes - more than 60 of them have appealed their cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sports, so that'll be more input for the IOC, basically. The individual federations for the various sports have to weigh in as well.

MONTAGNE: OK.

FLINTOFF: And some of them have said, that they don't believe in a blanket - blanket...

MONTAGNE: All right - OK, good, great. NPR's Corey Flintoff, he's been listening from Moscow to a press conference about the Russian involvement with drugs. Thanks.

FLINTOFF: Thanks, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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