- Associated Press - Thursday, July 16, 2015

Russia said Thursday it has withdrawn its world-beating team of race-walkers from all international competitions to avoid “disgrace” in the wake of a series of doping allegations.

More than 25 Russian walkers have been punished for doping in recent years, with at least 20 of them trained by coach Viktor Chegin, who is under investigation by athletics’ world governing body and the Russian anti-doping agency.

Since the start of last year, four Russian Olympic race-walking champions have received doping bans.

The Russian athletics federation said in a statement that it has withdrawn its walkers from competitions “to avoid causing damage to the image of Russian athletics and Russian sport as a whole.”

The team will not compete until the Russian anti-doping agency finishes its investigation into Chegin, which was announced Wednesday.

That is “99 percent” likely to mean no Russian walkers will compete at next month’s world athletics championships in Beijing, the federation’s acting president Vadim Zelichenok told Russia’s R-Sport agency. The only chance for them to compete will be if the investigation is concluded very swiftly, he added.

“At the moment, there is the suspicion that this discipline (of athletics) could bring us disgrace at the world championships,” Zelichenok said.

Russia won two of the three walk events at the 2013 world athletics championships. One of those gold medalists, Elena Lashmanova, was banned for doping a year later, but kept her world gold medal and the Olympic gold she won in 2012.

In January, three more Russian Olympic champion walkers were banned, leading to the resignation of the president of the Russian athletics federation as well as the head coach.

The federation also said Thursday that its athletes have been instructed not to work with Chegin or they could face sanctions. It was not immediately clear what this would mean for Russia’s national walking training center, which is named in Chegin’s honor and where he is the head coach. The federation, which does not directly oversee the center, said it had requested he be suspended from his job there.

Earlier in the day, Russia swept the podium in the women’s 10,000m walk at the European junior championships.

The Russian anti-doping agency said Wednesday that Chegin is suspected of possessing doping substances and either providing or attempting to provide them to unnamed athletes.

Both the World Anti-Doping Agency and track and field’s world governing body, the IAAF, are also investigating Russian athletics as a whole after a German TV documentary, broadcast in December, alleged doping was commonplace and organized by senior officials.

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