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Top tier of Russian anti-doping agency resigns after doping row

other sports Updated: Dec 17, 2015 23:57 IST

A view through a fence, decorated with the Olympic rings, shows the head office of the Russian Federal Research Centre of Physical Culture and Sports (VNIIFK), on the territory of which a laboratory accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is located, in Moscow, Russia.(Reuters Photo)

The top tier of Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA has resigned following President Vladimir Putin’s pledge to crack down on athletes, trainers and officials involved in doping, an agency spokeswoman said on Thursday.

It is the latest in a string of events that unravelled following scandalous allegations of state-sanctioned doping in Russian athletics, as officials are trying to keep up hopes of track and field stars competing at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“All four leaders of RUSADA, including (acting director) Nikita Kamayev, have resigned,” a RUSADA spokeswoman told AFP. “Anna Antseliovich has been named interim general director.”

RUSADA came under fire in a report published in November by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) independent commission that alleged the Russian agency “routinely” violated international testing standards and allowed suspended athletes to compete.

RUSADA’s announcement came shortly after President Vladimir Putin called for Russian officials, trainers and athletes to take responsibility for engaging in or abetting doping.

“Responsibility should always be personal, if it is proved,” Putin said at his annual press conference. “Those who are guilty - a coach, an organiser, an athlete - they have to answer (for their actions).”

“I will demand that all bureaucrats of all levels from all departments work openly with international structures, that they not camouflage or hide anything,” Putin added.

RUSADA’s general director, Ramil Khabriev, had resigned earlier this month as a team of experts from WADA began work in Moscow to help Russia clean up its act.

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) provisionally suspended Russia in November, and both RUSADA and Moscow’s anti-doping laboratory were suspended over the bombshell report.

Russian officials have vowed to reinstate the national athletics federation in time for track and field athletes to compete in next summer’s Olympic Games and to fight the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport.

“We are against any kind of doping, first of all because doping destroys people’s health,” Putin said on Thursday. “Those who resort to doping, of course, must be punished accordingly.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual end-of-year news conference in Moscow. (Reuters Photo)

Although Russia has fully accepted its suspension by the IAAF, Putin, top sports officials and track and field stars have deplored that the ban violates clean athletes’ right to compete on the international stage.

“Those who have nothing to do with this (doping) should not have to answer for those who violate (rules),” Putin said. “This is nonsense. It is unfair and wrong.”

Putin, a judo enthusiast who occasionally plays pick-up hockey with government officials and former NHL stars, assured that he stayed in shape “absolutely without doping”.

After Russian officials initially dismissed WADA’s claims as “groundless” in November, Putin said that Russia must “do everything” to eradicate doping.

RUSADA -- which WADA claimed provided advance notice to athletes about out-of-competition testing -- has said it is already addressing the “deficiencies” identified in the WADA report and was committed to combatting doping.

Former Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) president and IAAF treasurer Valentin Balakhnichev, as well as ARAF’s former long-distance athletics coach Alexei Melnikov, are among the four officials charged with breaching the IAAF code of ethics and could face lifetime bans.

A decision on their fate is expected to be announced in January.

The charges against them stem from claims by Russian long-distance runner Liliya Shobukhova, a former London marathon winner, who paid 450,000 euros ($487,000) to ARAF officials to have her doping violations covered up, according to the report.

Shobukhova received a 38-month suspension reduced by seven months after she agreed to testify to WADA.

The IAAF said earlier this month the Russian athletics federation could only be reinstated if it “cleaned house” by demonstrating that none of its directors, officers and staff “has any past involvement in doping”, among other strict reinstatement terms.

RUSADA’s interim general director, Anna Antseliovich, has headed its result management and investigation department, the agency’s website said.

Kamayev, who had served as the RUSADA’s acting director since 2011, could not be reached for comment on Thursday evening.