Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday called for an internal probe into sensational allegations that the nation's athletes had engaged in widespread, state-approved doping.
Addressing Russian Olympic Committee members in Sochi, Putin said the Ministry of Sports needs to to give accusations made in the report issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) "very close attention."
"We need to have our own internal investigation of the issue, and create the highest level of transparency and openness and professional cooperation with international anti-doping agencies," Putin said, according to an interpreter's translation of the meeting. "Here in Russia, we need to have those questions addressed. We need to shield our athletes from doping, for their own sakes and for fair play."
His remarks come one day after a spokesman for his government called the accusations in the WADA report "groundless."
"Whenever any charges are made, there must be some evidence they rely on," Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said. "As long as there has been no proof, it is hard to react to any accusations, which look rather groundless."
When asked the Kremlin's opinion on why WADA had made charges against Russian sports stars, Peskov said: "It’s none of our business to ponder over the causes of such scandals," Russia's TASS Agency reported.
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko had earlier told Russian TV that the issues brought up by the WADA report surrounding a Moscow anti-doping laboratory were either correctible, or lacking in evidence.
WADA suspended its accreditation for the lab — where an alleged mass destruction of doping samples took place — on Tuesday, according to AP.
Mutko's ministry said Tuesday that Russia was "fully committed to the fight against doping in sport" and would work more closely with WADA, according to the BBC.
The ministry said it was "fully aware of the problems" in the lab, but added that the state did "not interfere with Rusada [the country's anti-doping agency] and anti-doping laboratory work."
Monday's 355-page report detailed “widespread cheating through the use of doping substances" among Russian athletes, and said that “it would be naive in the extreme” to assume that the state had not been involved or tacitly approved of the cheating.