Putin says Russia 'will do everything' not to let down UEFA, fans

Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country would do its best to organise the Euro 2020 as Moscow risks a possible four-year doping ban.

“We will do everything not to let down you, fans and players,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin on Wednesday. Russia faces a possible four-year doping ban from WADA. [File Image]   -  AP Photo

Russian President Vladimir Putin told the UEFA president Wednesday that his country would do its best to organise the Euro 2020 football tournament as Moscow risks a possible four-year doping ban.

“We will do everything not to let down you, fans and players,” Putin told Aleksander Ceferin in Saint Petersburg, which is due to host four games in the finals.

On Tuesday, a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) source said however that the Euro 2020 football tournament would be excluded from the potential ban.

RELATED| WADA seeks four-year Russia ban over false doping data

Saint Petersburg is one of 12 locations across Europe scheduled to host matches in next year's tournament.

“This will be a special championship,” Putin said. “This means a lot for us because when the first championship took place 60 years ago, the Soviet Union team won,” the Russian leader added, referring to the first European Football Championship.

Ceferin for his part praised the country's ability to host major sporting events. Stressing that he was not a diplomat, Ceferin said that the World Cup hosted in 2018 by Russia was “organised perfectly.”

“I really mean it,” he added. “We at UEFA are very happy that Russia is more and more a football country,” Ceferin said.

Russia pulled out all the stops to host the football extravaganza last year, the most important event in the country since the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics.

RELATED| How Russian doping scandal unfolded

On Monday, anti-doping watchdog WADA's compliance review committee recommended a four-year sporting ban against Russia over falsified lab data it received from the country.

If WADA chiefs adopt the review committee's recommendations on December 9, Russia faces exclusion from key sporting events including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

However, on Tuesday the WADA source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP the European championships were “not a major event.”

- Risking doping ban, Russia pledges ‘cooperation’ -

The Kremlin on Wednesday said it regrets a proposed four-year ban for the country’s athletes over doping but Russia is still open to cooperation to resolve the scandal.

“This is definitely concerning information. We regret this,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

Anti-doping watchdog WADA’s compliance review committee on Monday recommended a four-year sporting ban over falsified lab data it received from Russia. If WADA chiefs adopt the review committee’s recommendations, Russia faces exclusion from key sporting events including the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

RELATED| Russian athletes shocked by four-year ban over doping

In the Kremlin’s first reaction, Peskov stressed that Moscow was still open to cooperation with international authorities.

“You know the Russian sporting authorities have been, are and will remain as open as possible to cooperation and collaboration with the international sporting community and also with WADA,” he said.

Monday’s call from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s review panel came after Russian authorities were accused of falsifying laboratory data related to the country’s doping scandal, which were handed over to investigators in January.

WADA was not convinced by Russia’s explanations of why evidence of some positive tests handed over by a whistleblower did not show up in the thousands of files it handed over.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it backs “the toughest sanctions against all those responsible for this manipulation,” while cautioning against blanket sanctions that would punish the innocent.

RELATED| 'Don't give Russia free pass': whistleblower lawyers

The head of the United States anti-doping agency Travis Tygart however called for Russian athletes to face the maximum restrictions on participation in Tokyo.

Lawyers for the Russian whistleblower, Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory, also urged the IOC not to give Russia “yet another free pass.”

- ‘Let’s remain sober’ -

Peskov said news of the possible ban was “far from joyful for us,” but Moscow would await the final decision on the proposed ban by WADA’s executive committee on December 9 before making an assessment.

“Let’s remain sober in our judgements,” he urged.

Concerning the tainted data, Peskov insisted Russia had provided “detailed explanations” to WADA of the inconsistencies it found.

Putin said last month that Russia was complying with all of WADA’s demands.

RELATED| Russian athletics officials suspended for obstructing doping investigation

The head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory, RUSADA, Yury Ganus, appointed in a bid to restore confidence, has blamed unnamed officials for interfering with the data, which was being held by criminal investigators, not RUSADA.

If Russia challenges an eventual suspension by WADA the case will go to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport, whose decision will be binding on sports bodies including the International Olympic Committee.

During its suspension by WADA, Russia was allowed by the International Olympic Committee to take part in the 2016 Rio Olympics, but Russian competitors at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games had to take part under a neutral flag.

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