Putin Blames U.S. for Anti-Russia Doping Fervor

(ATR) Four more Russians banned from the 2018 Winter Games... Putin says U.S. behind it all.

(ATR) The IOC is banning for life four more cross country skiers by a Disciplinary Commission investigating claims of tampered doping testing at the Sochi Olympics.

The four include Maxim Vylegzhanin who won two silver medals, one of them in the 50km race on the final day of the 2014 Games. Two weeks ago, the Russian who finished first was disqualified by the IOC commission.

That leaves the possibility that Russian bronze medalist Ilya Chernousov could rise to the gold medal, as long as his doping results are accepted and the IOC approves.

The other cross country athletes sanctioned were not medal winners. So far, six athletes from Russia, all in cross country, have been implicated in the tampering scheme in which the seals on vials of urine samples were secretly broken.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is describing the efforts to discredit Russia ahead of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics as an effort to manipulate the Russian elections next March. Putin is expected to run for re-election.

"In response to our supposed interference in their elections, they want to cause problems in the Russian presidential election," he is quoted in Russian media.

Putin says the network of sports organizations and sponsors is a complicated mix of "relationships and dependencies".

"And the controlling stake is in the United States," he says, where some of the biggest sponsors and rights holders are located.

Other Russian authorities continue to deny the allegations of a state-sponsored doping system. Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov told TASS on Wednesday that the country's own investigation into the claims "prove that Russia is innocent of mass doping abuse".

"The Investigative Committee has done enormous work establishing the truth," Kolobkov said. "The Russian Ministry of Sports has been providing it with an all-embracing assistance during the investigation.

"I believe that the evidence provided by the Investigative Committee will be taken into account during further decisions of all international sports organizations in regard to Russian athletes."

Putin rejects claims that the doping problems faced by Russia are the result of collusion by the government. Another IOC commission is examining those allegations.

The Disciplinary Commission headed by IOC member Denis Oswald is reviewing about 1,000 drug tests from Sochi for evidence of tampering. Oswald and colleagues have held hearings this week in Lausanne in a rush to complete their findings by the end of the month. The work needs to be finished to enable the IOC Executive Board to consider whether further action against Russia is needed. A range of measures are possible, from multi-million dollar fines to an outright ban on Russia in PyeongChang.

Reported by Ed Hula.