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Russian Officials Deny Reports Of State-Sponsored Doping Of Athletes


There is a new twist to the doping scandal involving Russian athletes in the Olympics. The New York Times reports that now U.S. prosecutors have opened an investigation into allegations that the Russian government ran a doping program that produced winners in several recent Olympic Games. NPR's Corey Flintoff joins us now from Moscow.

And, Corey, it's, you know, rare for federal prosecutors to deal with a doping case. But they can, in this case, take on Russia - right? - because its sports programs overlap with American sports.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Yes, exactly. Some Russian athletes have competed in the United States. And, you know, another way of doing this is to say that some portion of it was financed through American banks.

MONTAGNE: Remind us how this started.

FLINTOFF: Well, these latest allegations come from the guy who's the former head of Russia's anti-doping laboratory. His name is Grigory Rodchenkov. And he's now in the United States. He says he gave cocktails of mixtures of steroids to some top Russian athletes who were competing in Sochi and then helped to cover it up.

He said it involved switching drug-tainted urine samples for clean samples that had been collected months before. So far, there's no official word from the U.S. prosecutors themselves. But two unidentified sources told The New York Times that this will cover Russian athletes, Russian officials and also, you know, the work of some of these international bodies that are supposed to enforce the anti-doping regulations.

MONTAGNE: And the Russians, how are they reacting to this American federal investigation?

FLINTOFF: They're saying that the United States has no jurisdiction in this case. Dmitry Peskov, the President Putin spokesman, says they're treating the story of a U.S. investigation with skepticism. He says they don't understand it, they don't like it. And he says it's becoming pretty common lately for U.S. courts to try to expand their jurisdiction beyond U.S. territories.

MONTAGNE: Is this likely to affect Russia's chances to compete in Rio this summer?

FLINTOFF: Well, Russia's track and field program is suspended right now from international competition because of doping allegations. So it's really a question of whether the program will be reinstated in time for Rio.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR's Corey Flintoff speaking to us from Moscow. Thanks very much.

FLINTOFF: You're welcome, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.