Russia links new doping scandal to race for top athletics post

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's sports minister dismissed allegations that more than 400 Russian athletes were suspected of taking banned performance enhancing drugs, linking the media reports to upcoming elections for athletics' ruling body. Britain's Sunday Times newspaper and German broadcaster ARD/WDR said they were given access to the results of over 12,000 blood tests provided by more than 5,000 athletes over 11 years. The tests showed more than 800 athletes had given blood samples that were "highly suggestive" of doping or were abnormal. Of those, 415 were Russian athletes, the Sunday Times said. The World Anti-Doping Agency said it was alarmed by the size and extent of the allegations, which it said should be investigated. "This scandal has nothing to do with Russia, it is about the global system of athletics," Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko was quoted as saying by the ITAR-TASS news agency. "There are presidential elections in August, so just a common battle for power is taking place," he said, referring to the contest for the top job at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). Its Vice President Sergey Bubka, Ukrainian, is vying with Britain's Sebastian Coe to succeed Lamine Diack. "Russian athletes are being checked for doping the same way as athletes from other countries are," Mutko said. "Given that we are leaders in many disciplines, the checks are even more frequent. Everyone has issues with doping - Russia, and America, and France." Separately, Swiss authorities are investigating the award of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar respectively, as part of probes into bribery and corruption at FIFA, the governing body of world soccer. (Reporting by Katya Golubkova; Editing by Jon Boyle)