Russia’s doping suspension from international track and field could be extended as top athletes face accusations they continued to work with a banned coach.
Russia was suspended from international competition in 2015 for widespread doping and had been nearing reinstatement. That process could be disrupted after the Russian anti-doping agency said athletes were training at a remote training base in Kyrgyzstan with Viktor Chegin, who has been linked to more than 30 doping cases and is banned for life.
“If it is confirmed that Russian race walkers are still working with Viktor Chegin, despite them having been specifically warned not to do so following his life ban from the sport, then it would appear that there has been no real change in culture in Russian track and field,” the IAAF’s Russia taskforce said in a statement Monday.
“It is hard to see how these athletes could be permitted to return to international competition without threatening the integrity of that competition.”
The taskforce adds it expects Russian track officials’ “full cooperation in bringing disciplinary proceedings against any athlete who has knowingly associated with a banned coach.”
In order to be reinstated, the IAAF has previously said Russia must show it is “establishing a strong anti-doping culture.”
Under anti-doping rules, athletes who knowingly work with a banned coach could face sanctions ranging from a reprimand to a ban from competition.
The IAAF has allowed dozens of Russian athletes, including six walkers, to return to international competition as neutrals after providing evidence they were clean.
Some of those athletes appear to have been photographed earlier this month in the same remote town in Kyrgyzstan where the Russian anti-doping agency said it found Chegin coaching athletes. The agency didn’t name which athletes it found working with Chegin.
Their permission to compete could now be withdrawn if they are found to have worked with Chegin, according to the IAAF’s doping review board, which granted them the neutral status.
“The matter reported over the weekend constitutes new information of which the DRB was unaware when they granted Neutral Athlete status to a number of Russian race walkers earlier this year and it will be reviewed by the DRB as a matter of priority,” the board said.
That could affect Russians competing in this weekend’s world team championship.
A photograph published on an Instagram account in the name of Russian national team walker Olga Shargina and dated April 19 seems to show several members of the team in Karakol, where Chegin was supposedly coaching.
Sergei Shirobokov, who won the world championship silver medal in the 20-kilometer walk last year, appears to be among those shown. He has been allowed to compete internationally by the IAAF. The photograph, which does not show Chegin, could not immediately be authenticated by The Associated Press.
Chegin ran Russia’s national race walking training center in the city of Saransk for 20 years until he was suspended in 2015 and banned for life a year later.
Chegin is the former coach of Sergei Kirdyapkin, Olga Kaniskina and Elena Lashmanova, all of whom won Olympic gold medals but later served doping suspensions.
The World Anti-Doping Agency declined to comment on an ongoing case.
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