'Times' Reporter: Russian Official Admits To Doping Conspiracy
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And I'm David Greene. Good morning. Russian officials finally are saying, yes, there was widespread doping that involved many of the country's Olympic athletes. The New York Times reported last night that Russian sports officials, after denying the scheme for years, have admitted what they describe as an institutional conspiracy. The acting director general of Russia's national anti-doping agency, Anna Antseliovich, made this admission to New York Times reporter Rebecca Ruiz, and she's on the line with us now. Rebecca, good morning.
REBECCA RUIZ: Hello. Good morning.
GREENE: So what exactly did this official tell you?
RUIZ: Well. I spoke with numerous people over three days in Moscow, and the acting director general of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency said it was an institutional conspiracy but not state-sponsored. Not just in that conversation, but across conversations, officials expressed a sense of resignation, saying we are no longer denying the facts that have been laid out in extensive detail - that there was a widespread doping operation, that it tainted the results of numerous Olympics, most notably the one that Russia hosted in 2014. But what they said was, while we acknowledge the existence, the government did not play a part in it.
GREENE: This does not go to the top. Did you believe that when they told you that?
RUIZ: Well, undeniably, there were government officials involved. That's what the reports, the investigation this year have concluded. The deputy sports minister was a linchpin in these schemes in saying, cover up these individuals' steroid use, make sure that this person is cleared for competition, instrumental in the Sochi scheme in swapping out steroid-tainted urine. So certainly there were government employees involved.
However, what numerous people, including the national anti-doping agency director, said was our definition of government in Russia is different from Western definitions of government. It is the president, the prime minister and the sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, who has recently, in the face of this doping scandal, been elevated to deputy prime minister of the country.
GREENE: I see. So they're basically saying that there are only a few people at the top who they consider the state, and this doesn't - doesn't go all the way to the top. Now, I have to ask you - this morning, this official's own agency that she heads - Anna Antseliovich - is being quoted by a Russian news outlet saying that her comments had been distorted by you, taken out of context. Are you standing by your story?
RUIZ: We unquestionably stand by our story. And the full quote was, of course it was an institutional conspiracy, but not state-sponsored. She called the revelations shocking. She said we knew many of these people in this report; they have now been dismissed.
GREENE: This dates back to Sochi, as you said - the Winter Olympics in 2014. Russia dominated those Olympics, but 28 athletes now being investigated. There's talk of their medals being taken away. Will - will this admission in your story change anything in terms of the way international groups and international investigators, the Olympic Committee sees Russia? What is the future of Russia's Olympic program?
RUIZ: Well, we've seen, as you say, disciplinary proceedings open. And there are 28 medal - there are 28 athletes from Sochi currently being investigated, as you say. Russia's acceptance of these facts is a condition set by anti-doping regulators for the nation to come back into good standing. And so, if anything, an acceptance would be likely to change things for the better for the nation in resuming its place at the global sports table.
GREENE: OK, we've been speaking with Rebecca Ruiz, a New York Times reporter. Thanks so much for joining us.
RUIZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.