Comments by former Arsenal midfielder Andrei Arshavin suggesting all athletes competing in certain Olympic sports use banned performance-enhancing drugs rattled Russia’s media on Wednesday as the country remains embroiled in doping scandals.
Arshavin, in an interview with a Kazakh news site published late Tuesday, said athletic success in “cyclic sports”, which require repetitive movements, was “simply impossible without doping.”
His comments come as Russia is entangled in a series of doping scandals that saw nearly its whole athletics team sidelined from the Rio Games and a handful of other competitors suspended.
“It’s simply impossible without doping,” Arshavin told Prosport in Kazakhstan, where the 35-year-old is playing for Kairat Almaty.
“That means swimming, skiing, cycling. I think everyone dopes.”
The former captain of the Russian national team said that football and hockey, sports his country takes deep pride in, are relatively unaffected by doping. He added that politics was behind the ban against some Russian athletes from Rio. “Russia is paying for its political decisions, including in sport,” he said in comments widely picked up by Russian media.
“Is it fair or unfair? Life isn’t fair.”
Russian officials deny any state involvement in doping cover-ups and dismissed the accusations in a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report that the sports ministry and the Russian secret service manipulated samples at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.
The country narrowly escaped a blanket ban from the Rio Olympics last month when the International Olympic Committee left it up to international sports federations to determine which Russians were eligible to compete while granting itself a final say.
Russia is now contesting a ban against its Paralympic Committee that could see all Russian competitors miss the Paralympic Games in Rio next month.
Arshavin — who began his career with Zenit Saint Petersburg — won three Russian titles, two Russian Cups, the 2008 UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup with the club. He signed with Kairat earlier this year, but his new club crashed out of the Europa League at the qualification stages last month after a 3-2 aggregate defeat to Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv.