No Putin link to Russian doping: McLaren

Asked how Russia's doping programme could be "state-sponsored" if the president was unaware of it, McLaren said it was a question of vocabulary.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko in 2012, when Mutko was heading the Sports Ministry.   -  AFP

There is no evidence to suggest Russian president Vladimir Putin knew about "state-sponsored" doping in the country's sport programmes, doping investigator Richard McLaren told AFP on Friday.

McLaren's second report into doping in Russia found evidence over 1,000 of the country's athletes took part in an "institutional conspiracy" to use banned substances.

But despite McLaren saying "senior officials" within Russia's ministry of sports actively supported the practice, he found no links to Putin.

"I have no evidence that he knew anything about any of this," McLaren said during an interview in London.

Asked how Russia's doping programme could be "state-sponsored" if the president was unaware of it, McLaren said it was a question of vocabulary.

"If you've got a centralised system and an infrastructure and you draw on different parts from different organisations under the umbrella of the ministry of sport, you could describe that as state-sponsored," he said.

"I don't think the Russians think of it that way because they think of 'state-sponsored' as being the central government decision-makers, which would be Putin and his inner circle.

"They're not involved, so in their terms it's not 'state-sponsored'. But if you look at the facts, then we know the ministry of sport's involved.

"I think different people would put different labels on that. It's just a vocabulary game."

McLaren's report said the sports ministry under Vitaly Mutko, now a deputy prime minister, took control of the country's doping programme from 2012, fearing the cheating would be detected.

Mutko, who has denied any involvement, was not personally named.

He was barred from going to the Rio Olympics by the International Olympic Committee in August, but has since been promoted by Putin.

Asked to comment on Mutko's promotion, McLaren said: "I am not surprised."

Russia reacted to McLaren's second report for the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) by denying it was running any state-sponsored doping programmes.

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