The spate of doping cases among top Russian athletes shows the “robustness” of the sport’s drug-testing programme at a time when track and field is reeling from a string of scandals, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said yesterday.
So far this year, doping bans have been handed to seven Russian track-and-field medallists from major championships, including four Olympic champions.
Suspensions were imposed Friday on Olympic 3,000-metre steeplechase champion Yulia Zaripova and former heptathlon World champion Tatyana Chernova.
The IAAF said in a statement yesterday the two cases are “the latest illustration of the robustness of the IAAF anti-doping programme”.
The IAAF said more than 40 “elite athletes” have been sanctioned based on abnormal biological passport profiles.
The programme, started in 2009, tracks an athlete’s blood parameters for signs of doping. Last month, the IAAF said 23 of 37 biological passport bans had been given to Russian athletes. The organisation declined to specify yesterday which particular cases had caused the total to rise to more than 40 since then.
Zaripova was among those sanctioned for a biological passport violation and now faces the possibility of being stripped of her gold medal from the 2012 Olympics. Chernova was caught in a retesting of drug samples from the 2009 World Championship. She was banned for two years and had two more years of her results annulled.
Previously, five Russian race-walkers – three of them Olympic gold medalists – received suspensions ranging from three years and two months, to a life ban. They also stand to be stripped of a total of five World Championship gold medals.
The IAAF said it would not comment on the sanctions handed down to Zaripova, Chernova and the five race-walkers until it has received the full details from the Russian anti-doping agency.
The IAAF will have 45 days to appeal if it determines the sanctions are not in compliance with its rules and those of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
The Monaco-based governing body was caught up in allegations in a documentary broadcast on German television in December that some IAAF staff may have had links to doping cases in Russia.
IAAF President Lamine Diack’s son, marketing consultant Papa Massata Diack, and Russian athletics federation head Valentin Balakhnichev, who served as the IAAF’s treasurer, have both stepped down from their posts while an investigation takes place.
The fallout from the recent scandals has been widespread. The Russian athletics federation’s head coach, Valentin Maslakov, has resigned, and president Balakhnichev announced he will offer his resignation on February 17.
The favourite to succeed Maslakov as head coach is 2004 Olympic 800-metre champion Yuri Borzakovsky, who has positioned himself as a reformer. Maslakov said a crackdown on doping would not mean fewer medals for Russia.
“I don’t think there will be a fall in results,” he said at a Russian meet Sunday. “I think you can compete clean, too.
“There’s an example for that,” the former champion added, pointing to himself.
Borzakovsky said he would concentrate particularly on fighting doping in Russia’s Olympic development teams, which are dominated by young athletes.
Borzakovsky has received the endorsement of Balakhnichev and Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.