Russia race walking chief banned over doping

November 18, 2014

MOSCOW (AP) The head of Russia's race walking center was banned for four years on Tuesday following an investigation into claims of systematic doping.

Viktor Kolesnikov was found in possession of ''banned substances and banned methods,'' the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) said.

Russia is the dominant power in world race walking, and has won six Olympic medals at the last two games.

However, its reputation has been tarnished by at least 17 doping bans for athletes from the national elite race walking center in Saransk.

Olympic and world women's champion Elena Lashmanova was banned in July for two years, sparking a RUSADA investigation into ''multiple disqualifications of athletes,'' which resulted in Kolesnikov's punishment.

His ban was backdated to Aug. 21. RUSADA did not specify what was found in his possession.

There was no word on possible punishment for Russia head coach Viktor Chegin, who trains all of Russia's top walkers at Saransk, whereas Kolesnikov was believed to have more of an administrative role.

Australian Olympic walking medalist Jared Tallent has founded an online campaign lobbying the IAAF to ban Chegin for repeated doping cases in his squad.

Chegin was dropped from the team for the European championships in August in connection with the anti-doping probe, but has continued to train athletes.

There were conflicting reports on Tuesday as to whether Chegin could yet face charges from the RUSADA investigation.

The Russian Sports Ministry said on Tuesday the doping probe into the Saransk center was finished, and mentioned no other suspects apart from Kolesnikov.

However, Russian athletics chief Valentin Balakhnichev said investigations were ''continuing,'' when asked about possible charges against Chegin, according to Russian news agency R-Sport.

The investigation has not stopped the flow of positive tests among Russian walkers. Andrei Ruzavin, who won World Cup bronze in July, was suspended after testing positive last month, while the Saransk center was under investigation.