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Russian Track Head Resigns Amid Scandal


Dmitry Shlyakhtin has announced his resignation.
Dmitry Shlyakhtin has announced his resignation.

The president of the Russian track-and-field federation resigned on November 23, two days after he was accused of obstructing an anti-doping investigation involving fake medical documents.

Dmitry Shlyakhtin told an emergency federation conference in Moscow that he was stepping down. He was already provisionally suspended pending a full hearing on the charges from the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU).

Yulia Tarasenko, a former runner and now businesswoman, has been appointed acting president.

The resignation comes a day after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said a key panel had recommended Russia be declared noncompliant for allegedly tampering with lab data in a separate case.

That could lead to Russia being banned from the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Russia’s track team was reduced to a single athlete in 2016 amid earlier doping revelations.

Russia’s head track coach Yuri Borzakovsky suggested Russia could compete at the Olympics as an officially neutral team, as it did at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

“The main task is that the athletes and their coaches don’t suffer in the current situation, so that the guys can keep training for the Olympics and compete there,” he said. “In what status they compete, that’s another question.”

Shlyakhtin took office in January 2016 pledging to overturn Russia’s suspension from international track events due to widespread doping.

Nearly four years later, the suspension is still in place. World Athletics, formerly known as the IAAF, said November 22 that Russia could be expelled altogether following the new charges against Shlyakhtin and senior officials.

World Athletics’ “statements are beyond comprehension,” Tarasenko said. She didn’t elaborate on how.

“We’re not feeling very joyful, put it that way,” said Tarasenko, who was a sprinter in the 1990s and is now CEO of a company laying tracks. “We think there’s still some chance to keep fighting for the federation.”

WADA on November 22 said its Compliance Review Committee (CRC) had sent a recommendation that RUSADA once again be suspended when the global anti-doping watchdog's executive committee meets on December 9 in Paris.

If ruled noncompliant by the executive committee, Russia could be excluded from next year's Summer Olympics in Tokyo, along with facing other sanctions.

Under rules set in place following the Russian doping scandal that marred the Sochi Olympics in 2014, the Russians could appeal any penalty to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

RUSADA chief Yuri Ganus told the TASS state news agency on November 23 that he expects WADA to agree with the recommendation because "this is juridical logic."

"According to legal logic, that's how everything was supposed to be," Ganus said.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is required to abide by the decisions from WADA or the court -- although IOC President Thomas Bach said this week he was not in favor of a total ban.

Rules state that in the case of a “critical” violation by a country, “The athletes...representing that country...will be excluded from participation in or attendance at the Olympic Games...for the next edition of that event, or until reinstatement (whichever is longer).”

At the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games in South Korea, Russia was barred from competing as a country, but the IOC permitted nearly 170 Russian athletes to participate as independents, and it remains possible a similar arrangement could be made for the Tokyo Olympics, which begin July 24.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency, which has been sharply critical of RUSADA, called for a lengthy ban following the announcement.

"Anything less than a four-year sanction for this critical violation that includes aggravating circumstances following years of denial and deceit would be another injustice in a long line of many for clean athletes," USADA chief Travis Tygart told AFP.

The world watchdog in September reopened compliance proceedings after it said it found inconsistencies in the massive bank of historical testing data finally handed over in January.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa, TASS, and Interfax
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