Russian track federation board resigns over doping impasse

MOSCOW (AP) — The entire board of the Russian Athletics Federation resigned on Monday as Russia faces another ban from Olympic track and field.

The federation, known as RusAF, said the board stepped down after a meeting with new Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin (pic below), citing its failure to resolve Russian track’s long-running difficulties with the world governing body.

The federation has been suspended by World Athletics since 2015 over widespread doping, but the crisis has deepened in recent months.

Last November, the federation’s then-president, Dmitry Shlyakhtin, was among seven people issued disciplinary charges of obstructing an anti-doping investigation using fake documents.

The case led World Athletics to freeze a programme allowing top Russians to compete internationally as neutral athletes. That had been a stepping stone to forming a Russian team for the Olympics in Tokyo.

The board decided to resign “taking into account that the actions of RusAF had not brought about reinstatement by World Athletics, acting in the interests of clean Russian athletes to ensure their participation in international and Russian competitions, and also with the aim of keeping athletics united,” the federation said in a statement.

The board voted to hand over all authority over the federation to a working group set up by the Russian Olympic Committee, which is due to include members representing the Sports Ministry, World Athletics, Russian athletes, and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency.

The ministry put extra pressure on RusAF by suspending its official state recognition last Friday.

“The board took an important and correct decision in resigning,” Matytsin told state sports broadcaster Match TV.

World Athletics said last week it could re-launch the “neutral athlete” system if Russian officials admit wrongdoing in the forgery case. If denials continued, it would pursue the charges at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“We can confirm that we have received a letter from the Russian Sports Ministry,” World Athletics said on Monday.

“We can also confirm that we have written to the Russian Sports Minister and to RusAF today, explaining our position.”

Russia was limited to entering just one athlete in Olympic athletics in 2016 after widespread drug use was revealed. It had been hoping to enter a team this year based around those already vetted as part of the “neutral” scheme. Russians with that status won six medals at last year’s world championships.

The federation is due to hold new elections on February 28.