Athletics: Russia probes former federation officials over doping

8th June 2016, Comments 0 comments

Russian investigators said on Wednesday they have launched a criminal case against former officials of the country's scandal-ridden athletics federation, which has been suspended over allegations of state-sponsored doping and corruption.

The powerful Investigative Committee said in a statement it had opened a "criminal case against individuals who held management roles at the All-Russian Athletic Federation (ARAF) between 2009 and 2013 on the grounds of abuse of power, which led to the suspension of athletes on Russia's national athletics teams".

"If it is determined that a crime has taken place, the guilty individuals undoubtedly will receive a criminal punishment to the fullest extent of the law," the statement said.

Under Russian law, individuals convicted of abuse of power can face up to five years in prison.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) suspended ARAF in November over allegations of state-enabled doping and mass corruption.

The former president of ARAF, Valentin Balakhnichev, was banned for life in January by the IAAF ethics commission for allegedly taking bribes to cover up doping by Russian athletes.

Balakhnichev has defended his actions as president of ARAF from 1991 to 2015, saying he did everything in his power to curb cheating by track and field athletes.

He could not be reached for comment by AFP.

A report by an World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) independent commission, which led to Russia's suspension, claimed Balakhnichev was "linked to several highly questionable acts", including the extortion of money from female athletes to cover-up positive doping tests.

The report also said Balakhnichev was "ultimately responsible" for the wrongdoings that occurred when he was president of ARAF.

Moscow is heavily lobbying to overturn the ban against its athletics federation, announcing earlier this week a series of measures -- including the introduction of compulsory anti-doping classes in schools -- to reform attitudes toward the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

The IAAF is set to decide on June 17 whether to reinstate ARAF in time for Russian athletes to compete at the Rio Olympics.

© 2016 AFP

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