The International Olympic Committee has launched an inquiry into 28 Russians suspected of tampering with doping samples at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games in a new blow to Russia's efforts to redeem its name.
While President Vladimir Putin again denied any state backing for the mass doping revealed by investigator Richard McLaren, the IOC has also ordered new testing of all samples from Russians at Sochi, the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games and the 2012 London Olympics.
The IOC said disciplinary proceedings against the 28 were ordered following McLaren's latest report for the World Anti-Doping Agency released on December 9.
His latest report said that 1,000 Russian athletes in all sports took part in the doping system in which coffee and salt were used to hide failures.
While the IOC did not name any of the 28 athletes involved in Sochi, the International Ski Federation (FIS) said that six Russian cross-country skiers were involved.
The FIS said it had suspended the six and that Russia had withdrawn from holding the cross country World Cup finals in Tyumen in March.
With pressure mounting on Russia and international federations over the scandal, Russia on Thursday withdrew from holding a biathlon World Cup event in Tyumen and junior world championships, while speed skating's governing body stripped it of a World Cup meet.
"The IOC is initiating disciplinary cases against all 28 athletes for whom there is evidence of manipulation of one or more of their urine samples that were collected at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014," an IOC statement said.
McLaren found that 28 of the 95 samples his team studied had signs of "manipulation", said the IOC.
The 28 samples are now being re-analysed at the Lausanne Anti-Doping Laboratory for signs of banned substances.
"This is the immediate follow-up to Professor McLaren's report," said IOC president Thomas Bach.
"The IOC will go beyond the findings of the (McLaren) report by re-analysing all the samples of all the Russian athletes who participated in the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 as well as all those who participated in the Olympic Games London 2012," he added.
All Russian samples from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games are also to be re-tested, the IOC said.
The Russian government has denied any official involvement in the doping. But former sports minister and current Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko was banned from attending the Rio Olympics this year because of the controversy.
The Russian President was again pressed on state involvement in the doping at his end of year press conference Friday before the IOC made its latest announcement.
"In Russia there never was -- it is simply impossible and we will do everything for this never to be the case -- a state doping system and support for doping," Putin said.
"We have, like any other country, problems with this and we need to recognise that. Recognising this, (we need) to do everything for there to be no doping. To that end we must closely cooperate with the International Olympic Committee, WADA and other international organisations. And we will do this," Putin declared.
"We need to rid sport as well as culture of politics because sport and culture are meant to unite people, not divide them," the Russian leader added.
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