Russia looks to curb doping before 2014

ACAPULCO, Mexico -- Russia plans to clamp down on doping in the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, vowing "zero tolerance" in its fight to clean up its programs that have been tainted by use of performance enhancers.

Russia's reputation for doping among skiers and biathletes prompted a warning from the International Ski Federation (FIS) in June to eradicate the problem or risk a ban on its athletes for their home games.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge had raised the doping issue with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev earlier this year.

"We don't want excellence at any price," deputy prime minister Alexander Zhukov said Saturday. "The fight against doping is a major priority. Sochi 2014 has given Russia a strong determination to show zero tolerance."

Zhukov, who also is president of the Russian Olympic Committee, is part of a Russian delegation in Mexico to update a meeting of Olympic associations on Sochi's preparations for the 2014 Games.

The Russian Ski Federation has fired at least eight cross-country coaches and support staff who worked with athletes caught using the banned blood-booster EPO since the warning from skiing's governing body in June.

Three-time Olympic cross-country ski champion Julia Chepalova is among several Russians serving a two-year suspension.

In June, the FIS ordered her coach and father, Anatoly Chepalov, to be removed from any position of authority and banned from contact with athletes in the Russian ski body.

It also fined Russia $183,000 and demanded improvements in how it educated athletes and worked with the national anti-doping agency.

The FIS warned that its rules allowed for countries with serious doping issues to be suspended from competition for four years -- which could have excluded Russian skiers in all disciplines at the Sochi Games.

Following Zhukov's speech, Rogge called on all governments to work with sports bodies to root out doping networks.

Rogge said doping was a serious threat to public health and tackling the problem required cooperation between governments and sports authorities.

"We have made great strides, but we need even more help from government," Rogge said. "By working together we can dismantle doping operations and punish those involved."