Russia responds angrily, one politician alleges probe was part of "new Cold War"
Kremlin spokesman says Russia wants to fight doping, but also to ensure honest athletes aren't smeared
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote from Tatyana Lebedeva.
The FBI and federal prosecutors are investigating allegations of widespread doping by Russian athletes, a U.S. law enforcement official told CNN on Tuesday.
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York is taking on the case, the New York Times reported Wednesday. It is the same office that handled indictments against officials in FIFA, soccer’s international governing body.
The emergence of a federal investigation, however, elevates scrutiny of Russian athletes just ahead of the Rio Olympic Games, which open in the Brazilian city on August 5.
The Kremlin responded angrily to reports of the investigation, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov telling Russian media Wednesday that U.S. justice does not apply outside its jurisdiction.
Russian politician: ‘New Cold War’
“We treat with a certain skepticism and a certain degree of incomprehension and aversion the cases of extraterritorial application of the jurisdiction of U.S. courts which have become pretty widespread lately,” he said.
And one Russian parliamentarian complained of a “new Cold War” against his country.
“Eurovision (song contest), sport competitions, cultural events and now the Olympic Games are now becoming prisoners of a new Cold War against Russia,” tweeted Alexey Pushkov, head of the international affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament.
His comment referenced rival Ukraine’s victory in the immensely popular European singing contest Saturday, with a song widely interpreted as a criticism of Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.
He went on to tweet that the “Olympics in LA in 1984 were held without our athletes. But the games were flawed. No one won from that. And no one would win now.”
Russian senator and Olympian Tatyana Lebedeva echoed the criticism, telling state news agency RIA Novosti that the allegations were groundless.
“As much as I’d like to say that it has nothing to do with politics, it’s not true,” she said.
“These are the actions of the Anglo-Saxon lobby. They see that sanctions are not bringing the desirable results and so they start to attack our strong positions, including sports and music.”
Track and field ban
Russia’s track and field athletes were suspended last November from competing by the International Association of Athletics Federations after an explosive report that alleged widespread doping in Russian athletics. The suspension may well extend to Rio; the IAAF council is scheduled to meet June 17 to hear an update from a task force monitoring Russia’s attempt to be reinstated.
Russia announced reforms that it hopes will allow its team to compete.
“The task force will certainly be interested in details of the U.S. federal investigation,” said IAAF spokesman Chris Turner.
Federal prosecutors are able to bring cases against foreign individuals as long as a connection to the United States can be made. Russian athletes have competed in major sporting events in the United States in recent years.
However, it seems unlikely that Russian authorities will cooperate with U.S. agencies in sharing information, and potentially to extradite individuals.
Ex-official: Systemic state-sponsored doping
At the heart of the investigation is Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the country’s anti-doping laboratory. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that he claimed at least 15 Russian medal winners at the Sochi 2014 Olympics Games were part of a state-sponsored doping program.
Rodchenkov is one of the people under “scrutiny” by the U.S. government, Wednesday’s New York Times report said.
Russian authorities dismissed the allegations of doping at the games as “defamation by a defector.” They did, however, admit in a statement to “doping problems” in the Russian sporting world, but stopped short of admitting state involvement.
More recently, Russia’s Ministry of Sport said it is committed to working with the World Anti-Doping Agency in its investigation.
Speaking to Russian media on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Peskov reiterated the position outlined by Russia’s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who had said Russia was open to cooperate in investigating doping, and had expressed the will to fight doping in sport.
“But we need to personalize the fight so that such investigations won’t put a shade on our champions, our athletes who are taking part in honest competitions.”
Dmitry Svishchev, head of the Russian lower house of parliament’s committee for sport, called the investigation “unbelievable” and “absurd.”
“As I understand, Russian law enforcement doesn’t care much about what’s happening in the U.S. – (neither) in sport, nor in medicine, culture and so on,” he told Russian media.
CNN’s Tim Hume, Alla Eshchenko, Shimon Prokupecz and Evan Pérez contributed to this report