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Russian minister: No ‘problems of any kind’ despite doping cases

MOSCOW (AFP) — Russia’s sports minister denied there were “problems of any kind” in Russian cycling despite several doping cases in recent days.

“I fully trust the athletes and trainers,” sports minister Vitaly Mutko told state news agency TASS on Monday, referring to the national cycling team. “I don’t see problems of any kind here.”

Russia’s anti-doping agency RUSADA announced last week that track cyclist Yelena Brezhniva, a two-time European champion in the team sprint, had received a four-year suspension for doping. Her suspension was followed by that of Katusha rider Eduard Vorganov, a former Russian road race champion. Katusha suspended Vorganov from all team activities after he tested positive for meldonium, a substance that was only added to the banned list last month.

The 33-year-old became the second Katusha rider to fail an anti-doping test in 12 months after Italy’s Luca Paolini tested positive for cocaine on the 2015 Tour de France.

Russia has vowed to fight doping after a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) independent commission last year released a report alleging state-sponsored doping and mass corruption in the country’s athletics. Russian officials initially dismissed the WADA report findings as groundless, but acted upon some of its recommendations after President Vladimir Putin said the country “must do everything” to fight doping.

The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) provisionally suspended Russia over the report in November, sparking fears that Russian track and field stars could be sidelined from this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Both RUSADA and Russia’s anti-doping laboratory were suspended over the scandal.