Russia bans four athletes for doping

 26 Jan 2016 - 0:00

Russia bans four athletes for doping
Russia's Irina Maracheva during the Athletics European Championships in Helsinki, Finland. (file photo)


Moscow: Russia's Olympic Committee (ROC) has banned four athletes for doping, as the country struggles to overturn a suspension on its track and field team that could see it miss the Rio Olympics.

The Olympic Committee said Irina Maracheva, an 800-metres silver medalist at the 2012 European championships, had been banned for two years, along with race walker Anna Lukyanova, for doping violations based on documents handed over by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

Officials also confirmed a four-year ban for the runners Yelena Nikulina and Maria Nikolayeva.

Russian athletics is currently mired in scandal following a bombshell report by a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) independent commission alleging state-sponsored doping and mass corruption in the sport.

The IAAF provisionally suspended the Russian athletics federation (ARAF) in November, meaning that the track and field team cannot compete in international competitions.

Russia's Olympic Committee took control of the sport after the IAAF provisionally suspended the federation.

The Russian federation said in a statement published on its website on Monday that 31-year-old Maracheva, along with Nikolayeva and Lukyanova, were disqualified due to abnormally high blood readings in their biological passport.

Nikulina was meanwhile banned after testing positive for the banned drug turanabol in July 2015, the statement said.

Maracheva actually finished third in the 800 metres at the 2012 European Championships but was awarded the silver medal after first-placed Russian Yelena Arzhakova had her gold medal taken away from her for doping.

The bans on the four athletes are the first imposed by the Russian Olympic Committee since it slapped a 30-month suspension on long-distance runner Alena Kudashkina in December.

- IAAF meets new athletics head -

Russia is scrambling to get the suspension on its track and field team overturned in time for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro later this year.

An IAAF inspection team was in town Monday to meet Russia's new athletics chief Dmitry Shlyakhtin in Moscow.

Shlyakhtin was elected as head of the federation earlier this month as an "anti-crisis" manager and charged with the mammoth task of cleaning up its act.

A spokeswoman for the Russian athletics federation said the visit by the IAAF taskforce would be a "low-key meeting behind closed doors".

The taskforce -- which is meant to oversee reforms in Russia's athletics federation -- visited Moscow just prior to Shlyakhtin's election for its first round of meetings with Russian sports officials.

The head of the inspection team said that Russia "recognised" it needs to show a "determination to effect real and lasting change in Russian athletics," but the task ahead remains daunting.

The IAAF said Russia could only be reinstated if it fulfilled strict criteria, including compliance with all WADA and IAAF anti-doping rules and requirements.

Shlyakhtin admitted last week that Russia's track and field squad only has a fifty-fifty chance of competing at the Olympic Games.