Rogge expresses concern about Russian doping cases

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge urged Russia on Monday to get tougher on drug cheats, voicing his concern at the high number of doping cases among Russian biathletes and cross-country skiers.

Just four days before the start of the Vancouver Games, Rogge said he raised the matter in recent meetings with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Russian sports officials.

"We have alerted the Russian authorities, and we expect them to comply," Rogge said. "I understand that people are worried by the numbers. It is absolutely legitimate to be worried. It is now important for the Russian authorities to respond with strong anti-doping actions."

Rogge said it is up to the World Anti-Doping Agency to monitor Russia's record and compliance with drug rules.

More than half a dozen Russians have been suspended in the past year for using banned blood-boosting drugs.

"I was puzzled by the numbers," Rogge said. "That's why I spoke to the president of the republic. That is expressing concern."

On a separate issue, Rogge said he was not worried about the conditions at Cypress Mountain, where unseasonably warm weather has forced local organizers to truck in and fly in snow for the snowboard and freestyle skiing venue just north of Vancouver.

"There is no danger for the competition," he said. "We have absolutely no concerns whatsoever. There is no concern, and there is no Plan B."

Rogge also played down the threat of protests by anti-Olympic activists during the games, including a planned march on Friday, the day of the opening ceremony.

As long as the protests are peaceful, Rogge said, the IOC is not concerned.

"We accept protests," he said. "It's part of a democratic society. What we want is no violence. If people respect the laws of the country, then there is no problem."

Russian athletes will be under tight scrutiny during the Vancouver Games, where the IOC is conducting a record 2,000 urine and blood tests — 800 more than in Turin four years ago. Under a testing program that began last Thursday, athletes are subject to surprise out-of-competition controls at any place and at any time.

Three top Russian biathletes — including five-time Olympic medalist Albina Akhatova and former world champion Yekaterina Iourieva — received two-year suspensions last year after testing positive for the blood-boosting drug EPO.

Russian cross-country skiers Julia Chepalova, Yevgeny Dementiev, Nina Rysina and Natalia Matveeva also were banned for two years for using EPO.

Another cross-country skier, Alena Sidko, was dropped from Russia's team for the Vancouver Olympics last month for the same offense. She won a bronze medal in the individual sprint competition at the 2006 Turin Olympics.

Russian biathlete Olga Pyleva was stripped of a silver medal after becoming the only athlete to test positive at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin. After serving a ban, she is back with the Russian team for the Vancouver Games under her new married name of Olga Medvedtseva.

Rogge was asked why she should be allowed to compete at the Olympics again.

"In law once you have served your time, you are entitled to come back into society," he said.

Under IOC rules adopted since the Turin Games, any athlete receiving a doping sanction of six months or more is automatically banned from subsequent Olympics.

On another matter, Rogge defended the decision to reinstate convicted ex-Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee as an IOC member.

Lee gave up his IOC rights after being indicted in 2008 in a financial and tax evasion case. He was accepted back into the IOC on Sunday after the South Korean government pardoned him late last year, freeing him to push Pyeongchang's bid for the 2018 Winter Games.

Rogge said Lee was treated the same as two other IOC members who had been pardoned by their governments and that none of the three cases involved sports matters.

While reinstating Lee, the IOC also reprimanded him for tarnishing the Olympic movement and banned him from serving on any commissions for five years.

"We are tough on our members just like we are tough on athletes," Rogge said.