Former Russian athletics chief appeals against life ban

Moscow, Feb 2 (IANS) Former president of the All-Russia Athletic Federation (ARAF) Valentin Balakhnichev has filed an appeal before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against his life ban from involvement in sports.

The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) Ethics Committee suspended Balakhnichev on January 7 for life from all athletics activities. Also suspended were Papa Massata Diack, former marketing consultant to the IAAF, and Alexei Melnikov, the ARAF’s national team coach for long distance running and race walkers, reports Tass.

CAS said Balakhnichev, Melnikov and Diack filed “three appeals seeking to have their life bans from involvement in the sport of track and field annulled,” on Monday.

The Ethics Committee found Balakhnichev guilty of entering into a conspiracy with Diack and Melnikov against opening proceedings on doping abuse charges in regard to Russian athlete Lilia Shobukhova.

She later allegedly transferred money to the officials to avoid suspension after being caught using performance enhancing drugs.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Independent Commission was set up and began its work last November, following a series of German documentaries on the alleged mass use of performance enhancing drugs among Russia’s field and track athletes.

The Independent Commission published on November 9 the first part of the results of its probe into the activities of the ARAF, the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) and the Russian Sports Ministry.

The commission accused certain athletes and sports officials of doping abuse and involvement in other activities related to violations of international regulations on performance enhancing substances.

RUSADA and the Moscow anti-doping laboratory subsequently suspended their activities, while WADA’s Board of Founders approved the decision of the agency’s Independent Committee that RUSADA did not comply with the Code of the international anti-doping organisation.

In December 2014, German TV Channel ARD aired a series of documentaries on alleged doping abuse in Russian sports.

The ARD’s two-part documentary, entitled Geheimsache Doping (Secret Doping Case), claimed that Russian athletes systematically took banned substances on instructions from their coaches.

In August 2015, ARD released another documentary “Doping – Top Secret: The Shadowy World of Athletics.” The film claimed that ARD and British newspaper The Sunday Times had obtained a leaked database belonging to the International Association of Athletics Federations, which contained more than 12,000 blood tests from around 5,000 athletes in the years 2001 to 2012.

ARD further alleged that a third of medals (146, including 55 golds) in endurance events at the Olympics and World Championships between 2001 and 2012 were won by athletes who have recorded suspicious tests but none of these athletes have been stripped of their medals.

The Sunday Times also alleged that Russian athletes suspected of doping abuse had won 80 percent of medals for their country at the Olympic Games and World Championships between 2001 and 2012. Balakhnichev, who led the federation since 1991, had to quit amid numerous doping scandals.

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