Russian anti-doping agency’s chief may sue German journalist for defamation

Moscow, March 10 (IANS) Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) Acting Director General Anna Antseliovich has said she is considering filing a business defamation lawsuit against German journalist Hajo Seppelt, who, in his films on doping in Russian track and field athletics, keeps accusing it without grounds of involvement in violations in the anti-doping sphere.

“I consider filing a lawsuit against Seppelt on protection of my reputation,” Antseliovich said on Wednesday, reports Tass.

“But at first I want specialists in that sphere of law to closely study all available materials and assess judicial prospects of a possible lawsuit. So I can’t say now exactly yet that the lawsuit will be filed,” she added.

German television channel ARD reporter Seppelt, in his third documentary Doping Top Secret: Russia’s Red Herrings, which was shown in the early hours of Monday, doubted that Russia had undertaken any major steps recently to fight doping use. He presented data, which in his view proves that Russian athletics had not launched fully the process of self-purification.

The film’s author also claimed Antseliovich notified athletes in advance when samples will be taken. Seppelt also claimed he has an audio recording of the current RUSADA chief’s conversation with a track and field athlete. Antseliovich’s voice in the film is not heard – the text is read by a female voice in German.

“Seppelt has no grounds to accuse RUSADA,” Antseliovich said. “All the more so as he already had information that the WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] commission long ago got comprehensive answers to all questions posed in a regular documentary. But he keeps discussing all that again, so we are considering the possibility to sue that journalist.”

She said the ARD journalist in his latest film cited information on RUSADA that he already familiarised viewers with in his first two films.

The information was attentively studied by the WADA Independent Commission back in the summer of 2015. Antseliovich said RUSADA had a letter from WADA that said the organization has no complaints about their Russian colleagues on that issue.

Antseliovich said: “We welcome media participation in the fight against doping, and journalistic investigations may also be very useful in that case.”

“We are always very attentive about all information appearing in the press. But we consider the latest investigation by Seppelt in the part regarding RUSADA non-objective,” she said.

Antseliovich said Seppelt uses in his film documents testifying to her working contacts with runner Yulia Stepanova, the future heroine of the films, with respect to her return to sports after serving the punishment term for violation of anti-doping regulations.

“I am also amazed at the fact that the German journalist uses in his new film facts that have already been checked by WADA,” she said. “And if no sanctions were imposed on us after the first and second films, it means the facts did not prove to be true.”

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