David Howman has called for a Russian suspension from Pyeongchang 2018 ©Getty Images

David Howman, the former director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), has called for Russia to be banned from the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang unless they provide "some sort of acknowledgement" of state-sponsored doping in the country. 

The New Zealander claimed this would be a "real kick in the face" for the world's largest country.

He also called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to "take a strong stance and be really strong" after they supposedly failed to "measure-up" by opting not to issue a blanket Russian ban before Rio 2016.

Howman, replaced by Olivier Niggli last June after 13 years in his WADA role, spoke after the McLaren Report documented evidence that around 1,000 Russian athletes have been implicated in a cover-up scheme between 2011 and 2015, at events including the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.

The IOC have now opened disciplinary proceedings against 28 athletes from the country whose urine samples at the Games contained evidence of being tampered with.

But the evidence stretches across a range of other events spanning Summer and Winter Olympic, non-Olympic and Paralympic sport.

"The Russian thing is bigger than Ben Hur," Howman told Stuff New Zealand.

"I don't think everybody really understands the full extent."

Russian officials have admitted that some sort of doping programme existed.

They have repeatedly denied, however, that there was any state involvement from the Sports Ministry or security services, as is alleged by McLaren.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has led fierce denials of state sponsored doping ©Getty Images
Russian President Vladimir Putin has led fierce denials of state sponsored doping ©Getty Images

They have instead attempted to pin the blame on lone figures like Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the WADA-accredited laboratory in Moscow, who has since defected to the United States and provided much of the evidence which formed the basis for McLaren's investigation. 

Howman, speaking after being awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year's Honours, drew a comparison with disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner who was stripped of his titles after admitting to doping.

"All those things were so big it's just staggering,"he claimed.

"And there are now 600 athletes that are going to be sanctioned as a result.

"You can draw a comparison between Armstrong and Russia. 

"Armstrong was contrite and Russia is not conceding an inch...the Western plot. 

"That's the way they act on the international stage."

David Howman claimed that Lance Armstrong has shown contrition, unlike Russian officials ©Getty Images
David Howman claimed that Lance Armstrong has shown contrition, unlike Russian officials ©Getty Images

Blanket Russian suspensions were handed-out by the International Paralympic Committee, International Association of Athletics Federations and the International Weightlifting Federation at Rio 2016.

But, despite a recommendation for a blanket ban from WADA, the IOC instead opted to ratify eligibility decisions made by individual International Federations on a sport-by-sport basis.

Howman has repeatedly attacked this decision and claimed, at one stage, that the IOC should be considered for WADA non-compliance due to going against the recommendations.

IOC officials have, in turn, criticised Howman and claimed he, as director general, should have done more to spot the problems in Russia before allegations emerged in the press.

"You have to have the IOC in behind you," Howman said.

"They didn't measure up before Rio - that was regrettable.

"But they now have to take a stance and be really strong. 

"WADA has to take a position that allows Russia to comeback but only after they measure up fully and the starting point is having some form of acknowledgement of what they were doing.

"The Russians target the Winter Olympics so being banned from that would be a real kick in the face. 

"Unless they've measured up they ought to be banned."

IOC President Thomas Bach has expressed a hope that all Russians implicated in the McLaren Report will be banned from Pyeongchang 2018, but a blanket suspension currently seems unlikely.