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Russia has never had a state-sponsored doping program, Vladimir Putin insisted Wednesday after the association of National Anti-Doping Organizations called for a temporary blanket ban on the country from international sporting events.
"In Russia we never had, don't have, and I hope won't have a state-sponsored doping program. On the contrary, there will only be a fight against doping," the Russian president said in televised remarks during a visit to Siberia.
Russia has had 18 medalists disqualified in doping cases following Olympic retesting from the 2008 and 2012 Games. Ten more Russians are also obliged to return medals they won as part of relay teams containing dopers.
A major World Anti-Doping Agency report in December said Russian athletes even engaged in swapping dirty urine for clean samples.
Putin conceded there had been individual instances of sports doping in Russia in the past, which he said showed the current system wasn't working. A new doping control system was being put together, Putin added.
NADOs in January called for a blanket ban on Russia from all international sports until the country could demonstrate it has installed and embraced a credible anti-doping system.
Putin’s comments came a day after U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps testified at a Congressional hearing on doping in sports, saying he doesn’t believe he’s ever competed in a major international meet with all clean swimmers.
It also comes after it emerged that none of the Russian athletes recently stripped of their Olympic titles for doping have returned their medals.