NEWS
11/12/2015 08:31 EST | Updated 11/12/2016 00:12 EST

Russia rules out Olympic boycott as track team faces exclusion over doping scandal

MOSCOW — Russia has no intention of boycotting the Olympics.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, speaking to The Associated Press on Thursday in a telephone interview, said there will "not in any case ... never" be a boycott.

The governing body of track and field is expected to rule Friday on whether to suspend Russia from competition because of the country's doping scandal. That could be the first step in excluding Russia's track and field team from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"Russia is against a boycott. Russia is against political interference in sport," Mutko said. "Understand that Russia is a dependable partner of the international Olympic movement."

Three days after a report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency accused Russia of state-sponsored doping, Mutko also appealed for Russia's track team to be allowed to compete, arguing that a blanket ban would unfairly punish clean athletes.

"It will be painful for those athletes with clean consciences who could compete, that's the first thing. And the second thing is that it goes against the spirit of the WADA code," Mutko said. "The commission itself writes about it in its report. It's about protecting the athletes with clean consciences."

During the Cold War, the United States and allies boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics in protest at the Soviet Union. Four years later, there was a Soviet-led boycott of the Olympics in Los Angeles.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked Russian sports officials to carry out an internal investigation into the allegations made in the doping report. Mutko said Russia would provide constant updates about its investigation.

"Practically every day, at the end of the day, we release some kind of information message about the steps we're taking and we will continue to do that," Mutko said. "We're prepared to inform international society about the steps we're taking, the investigation, the decisions."

Also, Russian state-owned bank VTB said Thursday it would not extend its sponsorship contract with the IAAF, which expires this year, but denied it was because of the fallout from the doping report.

"We think that all the goals have been achieved regarding this. We have not planned to extend (the contract)," VTB first deputy president Vasily Titov told the RIA Novosti news agency. "No, it's not linked to the doping scandal in any way."

James Ellingworth, The Associated Press