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Canadian doping investigator Richard McLaren hits back at critics

Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren addresses the assembly during the WADA Annual Symposium on March 13, 2017 in Lausanne.

FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

Doping investigator Richard McLaren has defended his report into orchestrated Russian doping from what he called "nitpicking."

Recent comments by sports bodies, including the IOC, refer to inadequate translations of Russian documents, and the likelihood some disciplinary cases will fail among athletes implicated in the investigation.

"If you can't attack the base then let's go and attack the periphery," McLaren told The Associated Press in an interview on Monday.

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"Much of the comments that are being made are nitpicking about the small parts," the Canadian lawyer said on the sidelines of a World Anti-Doping Agency conference. "The substance of the merits of what I had to deal with have not really been challenged."

McLaren detailed an orchestrated program of cheating that involved the Russian ministry of sport, FSB security service and national sports and anti-doping bodies, including to help the home team win medals at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and 2013 track and field world championships in Moscow.

Issues raised in recent weeks over the quality of translations by McLaren's Russian-speaking staff were "a complete red herring to obfuscate and disguise what is going on," he said.

McLaren said his task on being appointed by WADA last year was to verify claims by former Moscow laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov, who led the Sochi Olympic lab, and not to prove doping cases against more than 1,000 Russian athletes.

"What is happening now is trying to turn the mandate into something it never was," McLaren said. "You can't turn an examination of a system into a whole lot of individual cases."

Earlier at the WADA event, McLaren attended a speech by Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov.

Kolobkov reiterated Russian denials that the doping program was state-controlled – a claim he said Monday that even McLaren had withdrawn.

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A description in McLaren's interim report last July of a "state-dictated failsafe system" to cover up doping cases became an "institutionalized" conspiracy in his final report published in December.

McLaren said he and Kolobkov had previously spoken about changing the language at Russia's request because it implied a plot that implicated state president Vladimir Putin "and his inner circle."

"I decided that I would accept their view," McLaren told the AP. "It is not necessarily the view I would have or that others might have of what is 'state-sponsored."' Still, McLaren insisted the change of words should not undermine their impact.

"The facts were the same," he said. "There were more facts by December. No facts were changed. No facts were proven to be wrong."

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