Dmitry Shlyakhtin, President of Russia’s Athletics Federation. Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Over the weekend, 36 Russian athletes withdrew from a track-and-field competition in Siberia at the last minute following the unexpected arrival of drug testers. Many of those who chose not to participate cited illness, but an investigation is already underway and even Dmitry Shlyakhtin, the President of Russia’s Athletics Federation, doesn’t seem to be buying the mass-illness excuse. The state-run TASS quoted him saying he was not surprised.

“On the contrary, we ourselves went to this, prepared this situation, because we understand that we have a lot of problems at the bottom, stated that without the help of [Russian Anti-Doping Agency] we will not be able to improve this situation. “

The Russian national athletics team—which covers track-and-field events as well as road racing and speed walking—has been banned from international competitions, including the Summer Olympics in Rio, since 2015 and the IOC banned “Russia” (but not all Russians) from the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea.

And yet, Russian Athletics Federation Director Andrei Kruporushnikov said that the persistent and prevalent doping problem in Russian sports is contained to lower level competitions, like the one in Siberia, and that national team is, “the cleanest and most checked in the world.”