MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin called on government officials Wednesday to step up the country's efforts against doping in sports.
Putin's comments in a cabinet meeting came as Russia reels from revelations that athletes including Maria Sharapova tested positive for meldonium, a substance that increases blood flow and was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency from January 1.
The spate of positives follow the decision in November to suspend Russia's track and field athletes from international competition after a WADA panel detailed systematic corruption and doping cover-ups in the country.
"It's obvious that our national anti-doping legislation needs serious improvement," Putin said, according to the Tass agency. "I am asking the government to work on the question of raising the effectiveness of the national fight against doping."
When the doping scandal broke in November, some Russian officials rejected the allegations and news media suggested it could be a Western conspiracy to deny the traditionally strong track and field athletes a place at the Rio Olympics in August.
But Putin told the cabinet that "it's not necessary to politicize anything or advance any conspiracy theory."
Instead, he said "Our sports leadership demonstrated a lack of understanding of the relevance of these issues, did not update on time the relevant lists [of banned substances] that were presented ... did not inform athletes and coaches in time about the decision of the World Anti-Doping Agency to ban several substances."