Unusual

Russian pranksters call heads of WADA, U.S. anti-doping agency

russia

MOSCOW: Russian media published on Friday calls by two comedians to the heads of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) pretending to be Ukrainian Sports Minister Ihor Zhdanov.

Pranskters Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov separately called WADA President Craig Reedie and USADA chief executive Travis Tygart, according to recordings published online by Sputnik, a Russian state-owned news agency.

Sputnik said the two callers “managed to trick” the two anti-doping officials “into revealing the truth behind the doping scandal”. They made the calls for a comedy show on Russia’s NTV channel, which was shown on Friday evening.

WADA said it was aware of the “scam”.

“The agency was targeted given the high profile of anti-doping just now,” a spokeswoman said in an email.

“It involved Russian phone pranksters impersonating Ukraine’s minister of sport and engaging the true WADA president [Reedie] on topics related to anti-doping and impersonating the WADA president and engaging Ukraine’s true minister of sport.”

There was no immediate response from USADA.

Publishing the calls ahead of the program, Sputnik said they had been made on May 28, before the results of a WADA-backed investigation into doping allegations were published.

Kuznetsov asked Reedie whether he thought the results of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics should be revised in light of the doping scandal. Reedie said that he didn’t yet see proof of Russia’s wrong-doing and advised the caller, believing him to be Zhdanov, to await the results of the investigation.

Stolyarov also asked Tygart whether Sochi biathlon results should be revised, resulting in Ukrainians gaining medals awarded to Russians. Tygart said that this could potentially happen, but also said this would depend on the investigation.

President Vladimir Putin and his allies have deftly deflected the blame for the scandal by passing it off as a western Cold War-style plot to sabotage Russia’s international comeback.

Kuznetsov and Stolyarov have a history of making embarrassing calls to celebrities, notably British singer Elton John, who spoke to them last September believing he was speaking to Putin.

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