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Putin calls on Russia to play by doping rules for Olympics

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends his meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Moscow, Russia, on March 26, 2019. (Maxim Shemetov/Pool Photo via AP)

MOSCOW (AP) -- Vladimir Putin wants Russian athletes and officials to play by anti-doping rules ahead of next year's Olympics.

In televised comments on Wednesday, the Russian president said efforts should be made "so that we don't give any pretext to those who use sport for political ends, to act against Russia's interests."

Russia's team was barred from last year's Winter Olympics for repeated doping violations, but 168 competitors from the country were allowed to compete as "Olympic Athletes from Russia."

Of those, two were later disqualified for doping, more than any other country.

The International Olympic Committee lifted its suspension of Russia immediately after the Pyeongchang Games. Putin said there should be no similar "restrictions" on any member of the Russian team at next year's Tokyo Olympics.

Putin didn't specify what potential restrictions he had in mind, though the Russian track federation remains suspended.

If that sanction isn't lifted by the IAAF, then only athletes who have been vetted and approved by a panel which examines their history of drug testing would be able to compete in Tokyo.

That's currently keeping some top Russians like the former Olympic walk champion Elena Lashmanova and Olympic high jump champion Anna Chicherova restricted to national competitions only. Both have served doping bans.

Putin added that Russia had finished restructuring its anti-doping systems after World Anti-Doping Agency investigations revealed widespread doping and alleged government complicity, something Putin denies.

"Russia has met all requirements in the area of perfecting the fight against doping," Putin said. "Constructive cooperation with the relevant international structures is under way. We need to finally resolve the remaining issues."

WADA reinstated the Russian anti-doping agency last year, but could reverse that ruling if the country stops cooperating with efforts to examine past offenses.

Russia has so far turned over data from the Moscow laboratory at the center of the allegations, and must provide stored samples for retesting by June 30.

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