Putin Thinks Doping Allegations Are U.S. Revenge Plot Against Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives to meet with members of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia October 30, 2017. Kirill Kudryavtsev/Reuters

Vladimir Putin has claimed allegations of doping against Russian athletes are part of a revenge plot by the U.S. over Russia's suspected interference in the race for the White House last year.

The Russian president's comments came on Thursday following the sanctioning of Russian skiers Maxim Vylegzhanin, Alexei Petukhov, Evgenia Shapovalova and Yulia Ivanova, who were handed lifetime Olympics bans following a doping investigation into Sochi 2014.

Putin claimed the doping charges were invented by the U.S. to create problems in the Russian election as payback for his country's alleged interference in the U.S. election. The Russian president has called Washington's claims "imaginary."

He said that "the main companies that order and pay for television rights, the main sponsors and advertisers" were based in the U.S., the BBC reported.

"In response to our imaginary interference in their election, [the U.S.] wants to create problems in the Russian presidential election," Putin added, explaining the allegations of doping in the run-up to next year's Winter Olympics could cause issues in the sporting community ahead of the Russian presidential election in March.

His comments echo those previously espoused by the Russian government over a report that alleged the state-sponsored doping for Russian athletes between 2011 and 2015, in which the four skiers were named.

Richard McLaren, who authored the report, said fans had been "deceived" by Russia's alleged doping program and that international sports events had been "unknowingly hijacked by the Russians."

"The desire to win medals superseded their collective moral and ethical compass and Olympic values of fair play," he said

Following the release of the McLaren report in 2016, Member of the Russian Parlament Dmitry Svishchev told news agency Ria Novosti that "this is what we expected. There's nothing new, only empty allegations against all of us. If you are Russian, you'll get accused of every single sin."

Putin has repeatedly denied Moscow interfered in the U.S. presidential election, stating once again at a face-to-face meeting with President Donald Trump in July that there was no truth to the allegations. Nevertheless, the ongoing Russia probe has already resulted in charges against three of Trump's former campaign aides, Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos.

The Russian president has not yet commented on whether he will seek re-election in March 2018, although he is expected to do so.