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Athletics Integrity Unit hits Russian federation with multiple charges

Danil Lysenko competes at the 2018 World Indoor Championships (by Stephen Pond/Getty Images for IAAF)

Russia is facing renewed questions over its status in world sport after the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) charged the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF), senior officials and high-jumper Danil Lysenko with serious breaches of anti-doping rules.

The charges, including a failure to co-operate with an investigation and obstructing an investigation, relate to the conduct of senior RusAF officials during an investigation into ‘whereabouts’ violations committed by Lysenko.

A number of senior federation officials, including president, Dmitry Shlyakhtin, and executive director, Alexander Parkin, the athlete and his coach, Evgeny Zagorulko, have also been charged with tampering and/or complicity and have been provisionally suspended.

This follows a 15-month AIU investigation, in co-operation with the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada), which concluded that RusAF officials had been involved in the provision of false explanations and forged documents to the AIU in order to explain whereabouts failures by Lysenko, who allegedly put forward fake medical records after being accused of failing to make himself available for testing.

RusAF has been suspended from the membership of World Athletics since November 2015, a status that was upheld by the sport’s world governing body ahead of Doha’s World Championships in September. It has been issued a notice of charge for failing to comply with its obligations as a member federation. RusAF has until December 12 to respond to the notice following which the AIU Board may refer the matter to the World Athletics Council.

Lysenko, a high jump silver medallist from the 2017 World Athletics Championships, was authorised by World Athletics as a neutral athlete to compete in international competition following the suspension of RusAF. The AIU notified the 22-year-old of his third ‘whereabouts’ failure on June 25, 2018. Any combination of three missed tests and/or filing failures within a 12-month period is considered a violation of the anti-doping rules. A Notice of Charge was issued against Lysenko and provisional suspension imposed on August 3, 2018.

The AIU said it investigated the veracity of the explanations provided by Lysenko to explain his whereabouts failures and concluded that these were “false and supported by forged documents”. The focus of the AIU’s investigation then became whether RusAF officials were involved in any way in the provision of the false information.

In response to the AIU’s announcement, Shylakhtin told Russian state news agency Tass that he will step down as RusAF president while the investigation takes place. He said: “It is important to understand the circumstances of these accusations, and it will be possible only after consulting lawyers.

“Resignation? Let’s wait for the presidium session which will be held in the nearest future, and everything will be sorted out there. Of course, I will temporarily leave the post for the time of provisional suspension, and I will defend my name in court as well.”

RusAF’s Natalya Yukhareva added yesterday (Thursday): “We have received the documents today, at the moment the lawyers are studying the factual background and the charges brought against them. We are speaking about temporary suspension. An investigation is underway, its details are confidential.”

The latest news comes amid concerted reports that Russia could be banned from the 2020 summer Olympic Games, along with other major sporting events, as the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) prepares to rule in its ongoing compliance procedure against Rusada.

Earlier this week, Wada said its independent Compliance Review Committee (CRC) met to consider a report from the Agency’s Intelligence and Investigations Department (I&I) and independent forensic experts.

It said the CRC will now bring a formal recommendation to the Wada Executive Committee, under the chairmanship of president Sir Craig Reedie, whose term of office runs until December 31. The ExCo is scheduled to meet on December 9 to discuss the recommendation.

Wada last month said it had received further responses from Russian authorities to a list of detailed and technical questions, including follow-up questions, raised by its I&I and the independent forensic experts concerning the data retrieved from the Moscow Laboratory in January.

Rusada and the Russian Ministry of Sport have been granted the opportunity to explain a number of inconsistencies, as part of Wada’s September decision to open a formal compliance procedure against Rusada.