"It was an institutional conspiracy," Anna Antseliovich, acting head of Russia's anti-doping agency, admits to the New York Times, marking the first time Moscow has come clean about an elaborate doping scheme that has marred its Olympics competitions. But all is not utter contrition, notes the BBC, which reports her agency later said her wording had been "distorted" and emphasized that the state was not involved in a cover-up. World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren has issued two extensive reports this year that allege Russian athletes downed steroid cocktails and that urine samples were tampered with or swapped. His recent findings spurred the IOC to begin disciplinary proceedings for upward of two dozen more Russian athletes. "From my point of view … we made a lot of mistakes," says Vitaly Smirnov, a former sports minister appointed by Vladimir Putin to lead the country's anti-doping reforms, though, like Antseliovich, Smirnov denies the doping was state sponsored.
That's not to say, however, that Smirnov and the others are feeling especially apologetic, despite accepting the probe's core findings. "Russia never had the opportunities that were given to other countries," he says, citing hacked medical records that showed Western athletes like Serena and Venus Williams were given the OK to take banned drugs for therapeutic reasons. And the owner of the company that makes the Russians' Olympic uniforms says time shouldn't be wasted assigning individual blame and punishing future athletes, noting, "Even during Stalin's times there was a saying: 'The son is not responsible for his father's sins.'" The Times speculates Russia may have come around to confessional mode because it doesn't want to lose out on hosting future Olympics and other events, which regulators had said wouldn't happen if it doesn't cop to the doping. McLaren, for his part, says he's glad Russia is finally conceding, though he also calls it "damage control."