LONDON — Russia seems to be gearing up for another Olympic bid, according to Vladimir Putin.
The Russian president told Olympic historian David Miller in an exclusive interview that his country has plenty of candidates capable of hosting the Summer Games, not just Moscow.
"Apart from the capital of our country, we have a number of cities which could potentially host Summer Olympics. There is Sochi, of course, but also St. Petersburg and possibly Kazan," Putin said to Miller in written comments, which were made available to The Associated Press on Friday.
"We are not going to make any specific statements, yet. In 2014, our country successfully hosted the Winter Games in Sochi. However, I do not rule out the possibility that Russia will decide to enter in bidding process for the right to host another Olympics."
Putin also talked about the country’s doping situation, saying Russia has made "irreversible" steps to reform anti-doping procedures.
Besides Sochi in 2014, Moscow hosted the 1980 Olympics. Those games were blighted by an American-led boycott. The Soviet Union then led a boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
Later this year, the International Olympic Committee will vote on the host for the 2024 Games. Los Angeles and Paris are in the contest, and IOC President Thomas Bach — facing difficulties in getting cities to bid amid rising costs — has proposed the possibility of one city hosting in 2024 and the other in 2028.
Both candidate cities say they are bidding only for 2024, however, creating a possible opening for a Russian city to bid for 2028.
In regard to the upcoming bid for 2024, Putin wouldn’t give any indication about how he thought it was going.
"Regarding Los Angeles, it is not for us to estimate the city’s chances. This must be done by the IOC," Putin said. "USA is one of the leading sports countries in the world, and I believe had good chance of getting the honour of hosting the games. It is well known that LA hosted the games in 1984 and the USSR team unfortunately did not participate – just like the U.S. team which did not come to Moscow in 1980. No-one benefited from this."
Putin also answered questions about Russia’s doping scandal. The country, which has been accused of operating a state-sponsored doping program by a World Anti-Doping Agency investigation, had its track and field team banned from international competition, forcing it to miss last year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The entire Russian team was then barred from competing at the Paralympics.
The country could face a potential ban from next year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"I believe that positive processes which we have started, to reform anti-doping structures, are irreversible," Putin said. "We must listen to what WADA has to say, because we have to admit that we have several cases of proven doping violation. This is unacceptable. We will do everything to organize efficient and fruitful work with all our partners, including WADA and the IOC. I hope they have the same intentions."
Putin also reiterated his contention that the government was never behind the doping.
"Russia is ready for an open and consistent participation in work to establish an accomplished global anti-doping system," Putin said. "Once again, I would like to reiterate something that we have always stated: Russia never had, and I hope never will have, a state-backed system of doping support. On the contrary – we will fight doping."