Russian anti-doping officials have for the first time acknowledged a massive doping conspiracy in their country that has rocked world sport, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
"It was an institutional conspiracy," Anna Antseliovich, the acting director general of Russia's national anti-doping agency, told the newspaper in an article datelined from Moscow.
However, Antseliovich and others interviewed continued to reject the characterization of the doping scheme as "state-sponsored," telling the Times that top government officials were not involved.
Investigator Richard McLaren said in a new report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) this month that more than 1,000 Russian athletes in some 30 sports took part in a plan for Moscow sports ministry officials to use banned drugs at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the 2012 London Summer Games and other global events.
Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told TASS news agency on December 9, when the report was released, that claims of an "institutional conspiracy" had not been proved.
The allegations dealt the latest body blow to Russian sport, which was still trying to shrug off the damage from McLaren's initial report and the exclusion of its track and field athletes from international competition.
The affair reverberated through the 2016 Rio Olympics and has continued to be felt as winter sports events such as biathlon and speed skating World Cup stops have been withdrawn from the country.