Russia turns to Burson-Marsteller amid doping scandal

The WPP firm's European arm is providing comms support to the country on issues related to its participation in the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Sochi Olympic Park during the 2014 Winter Games, By Atos International, CC BY-SA 2.0
Sochi Olympic Park during the 2014 Winter Games, By Atos International, CC BY-SA 2.0

NEW YORK: In the middle of a doping scandal that threatens to keep its team out of the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro this summer, Russia has brought on Burson-Marsteller for communications support.

The agency confirmed on Friday that its European arm is working on the issue on behalf of Russia. NPR reported on the relationship on Friday morning.  

"Burson-Marsteller Europe is advising on a range of communications and media issues relating to Russia’s participation at the Summer Olympic Games in Rio," the firm said in a statement.

Some have called for Russian athletes to be banned from the Rio games after the discovery of a sophisticated state-sponsored doping program by the country on behalf of its athletes. However, The Washington Post points out than an Olympic ban would be unprecedented and is unlikely.

A report released in November by the World Anti-Doping Agency claimed Russian athletes had used performance-enhancing drugs in three recent Olympic Games. The U.S. Justice Department opened an investigation into the allegations this week. Russia’s sports minister has acknowledged mistakes by the country on the issue, but Russian officials have also called for the U.S. Justice Department to open an inquiry into American athletes.

Ketchum and the Russian Federation parted ways last year amid escalating tensions between the country and Western governments over its role in hostilities in Ukraine. The firm represented the Kremlin through its hosting of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014. Ketchum was paid nearly $23 million by Russia from 2006 through mid-2012, according to ProPublica.   

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