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France 'Seeking Arrest' Of Two Russian Ex-Athletics Officials

Former Russian athletics federation head Valentin Balakhnichev is one of the men being sought by French authorities. (file photo)

France has issued arrest warrants for two former Russian athletics officials as part of an investigation into doping cover-ups, reports say.

Source were quoted as saying on March 19 that French judges were seeking Valentin Balakhnichev, a former president of the Russian athletics federation, and Aleksei Melnikov, an ex-coach of Russia's national long-distance-running team.

Both were banned for life in January 2016, about two months after a report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) outlined evidence of systematic, state-backed doping in Russian athletics.

Another report a year later documented more than 1,000 doping cases across dozens of sports, most notably at the Winter Olympics that Russia hosted in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in 2014.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) imposed a ban in November 2015 on Russia's athletics federation which remains in effect to this day.

Balakhnichev, who also has served as IAAF treasurer, said that he had not been notified of the decision by the French authorities.

The French investigation began in 2015 with ex-IAAF chief Lamine Diack being arrested over charges that he had received millions of dollars to cover up doping violations by Russian athletes.

French magistrates have also issued an arrest warrant for Diack’s son, Papa Massata Diack, whom the Senegalese government refuses to extradite to France.

Despite the ban on the Russian athletics federation, the country's athletes have been allowed to compete internationally as neutrals -- and not under their national flag -- if they demonstrate they meet strict criteria such as undergoing regular doping tests outside Russia.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and TASS