Russia’s top athletics coach resigns amid doping scandals
Russia’s top athletics coach resigned Friday amid a series of doping scandals in the country.
Valentin Maslakov, 70, had overseen the training of all Russian national team athletes since 2007 as part of a coaching career spanning more than 40 years.
The head of the Russian athletics federation, Valentin Balakhnichev, told the R-Sport agency on Friday that Maslakov took a "dignified decision" to step down. He did not explicitly link Maslakov’s resignation to the doping scandals.
"We spoke with him for a long time on this topic," Balakhnichev said. "He didn’t take the decision to resign on his own, obviously. He consulted us. But you have to understand that in a public organization, everyone shares responsibility. He took a dignified decision."
Maslakov’s departure comes as the Russian federation faces a World Anti-Doping Agency investigation into claims of systematic drug use and cover-ups and three days after five Russian race-walkers, including three Olympic champions, received doping bans.
"I think there will be other resignations," Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told R-Sport, adding that he had not yet decided on any "clear candidates" to leave their jobs.
As head coach, Maslakov’s role was largely administrative. The former sprinter, who competed at the 1968 Olympics, spent recent years organizing the work of the various coaches in different disciplines and was a figurehead for the national team at major championships.
Balakhnichev said Wednesday he was considering resigning, but would only do so once the doping scandals were resolved and he had managed to "reform" the national team.
Before the latest scandals broke, Balakhnichev had already said he did not plan to seek another term as president next year, when he will be 67.
Balakhnichev stepped down last month as treasurer of the International Association of Athletics Federations pending its own investigation into claims of organized doping in Russia.
Last month, German TV channel ARD claimed he was linked to an alleged $450,000 payment made by Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhov to avoid a doping ban.
Balakhnichev has said the federation intends to sue the program makers for defamation.