Russian official says financial misery caused failuresPosted: Wednesday February 27, 2002 2:13 PM
MOSCOW (AP) -- The chief of Russia's Olympic Committee dismissed accusations of failure to protect Russian athletes from doping charges and alleged bias in judging, saying Wednesday that the national team couldn't score a better result because of miserable state funding.
"Thank God that we had the achievements we showed," Leonid Tyagachev said, pointing at the lack of training grounds and advanced medical facilities as key reason for the national team's misfortunes.
Tyagachev said Russia currently doesn't have a single skating rink of Olympic standard, nor does it have a bobsleigh track or a ski jump facility of international level.
"We can't endlessly have our athletes training abroad," he said at a news conference.
Tyagachev said the desperate cash shortage was the root of the national team's failures in Salt Lake City, and added that the government must spend at least US$100 million per year on training Russian athletes for the Olympics, not US$10-15 million as now.
The lack of national doping-control laboratory has contributed heavily to doping scandals that affected Russian athletes and caused broad anger and resentment in Russia.
"Without a strong medical team, we will keep losing and getting into traps," Tyagachev said.
Russian skier Olga Danilova was disqualified from the games after testing positive for the drug darbepoetin, and, in the final blow to Russia, cross-country skier Larissa Lazutin was stripped of her gold medal in the 30-kilometer classic-style race after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug intended to help kidney patients avoid anemia.
Tyagachev insisted that Danilova and Lazutin were innocent and pledged to appeal their disqualifications. He said lawyers and experts were currently preparing to file lawsuits, but gave no specifics.
"What we were incriminated with concerned the latest doping-detecting methods we heard nothing of," said Nikolai Durmanov, the head of the Russian Olympic Committee's anti-doping inspection. "That was a flagrant violation of rules and we will not let it go."
Durmanov assailed the International Olympic Committee's medical officials for their failure to warn Russia of new anti-doping rules.
"If they wanted to use new methods to check our athletes, they should have warned us in advance to give a chance to check our athletes," he said.
Alexei Volin, deputy chief of staff of the Russian Cabinet, agreed that the lack of professional doctors, lawyers and public relations managers all contributed to national team's flaws, but also criticized sports officials for failing to make adequate preparations for the games.
"The people in charge of the Russian sports should have done more," Volin said on the Echo of Moscow radio.
Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berezhnaya, who won the pairs figure skating but later were forced to share the gold with Canada's Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, tried Wednesday to put a gloss on the controversy.
"It seemed the world decided and accepted that the Canadian couple deserved the gold too," Berezhnaya said at a new conference in St. Petersburg.
"We all want to have more happy people on Earth," Sikharulidze added. "Let there be more of them."
In a poll of 500 Moscow residents conducted a few days ago by the independent ROMIR agency, 72 percent of respondents said the judging was biased against Russian athletes, and nearly half said that Russian sports bureaucrats failed to adequately respond to that. The margin of error for ROMIR polls doesn't exceed 4 percent.