International Athletics

Russian walker to lose Olympic gold

2016-03-24 18:35
Sergei Kirdyapkin (AP)

Moscow - A Russian race walker stands to lose his gold medal from the 2012 London Olympics after the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Thursday rejected the selective punishments imposed by Russian authorities in six doping cases.

The Switzerland-based court ruled that the Russian anti-doping agency, known as RUSADA, had wrongly imposed bans which were timed in a way that the six athletes' results were not annulled and allowed them to keep major titles.

Russia will also lose an Olympic silver medal and two world championship gold medals as a result of the CAS decision.

Sergei Kirdyapkin is set to be stripped of his Olympic gold medal in the 50km walk. The medal stands to go to Australia's Jared Tallent, subject to ratification by track and field's governing body and the International Olympic Committee.

"History has been rewritten tonight," Tallent said in a statement released by Athletics Australia. "I am the Olympic champion and justice has been served."

Athletics Australia said it would immediately contact the IAAF to ensure the result is officially changed.

China's Si Tianfeng would move up to silver, with bronze for Ireland's Rob Heffernan.

The six cases before CAS were based on the biological passport system, which tracks unusual blood values for signs of doping.

RUSADA had argued that its suspensions applied only to times when the athletes' blood values were extreme, but the IAAF appealed, saying that the timing of the bans was "selective."

In Kirdyapkin's case, RUSADA had allowed him a window of four months in 2012 which meant he kept an Olympic gold medal which he would otherwise have lost.

CAS, however, ruled that all of Kirdkyapkin's results from August 20, 2009, to October 15, 2012, were now disqualified. That covers the London Olympics, which took place in July-August 2012.

Also affected by the CAS ruling is Olga Kaniskina, who stands to lose her silver medal in the 20km walk from the London Olympics. China's Qiejang Shenjie would move up to silver.

Russia is also set to lose two gold medals from the 2011 world championships in Daegu, South Korea - Yulia Zaripova in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and Sergei Bakulin in the 50km walk. Zaripova's gold would go to Tunisia's Habiba Ghribi; Bakulin's medal to fellow Russian Denis Nizhegorodov.

CAS said reallocation of medals is up to the IAAF. CAS also imposed disqualifications on walkers Valery Borchin and Vladimir Kanaikin.

Russian reaction to the decision was muted. Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said the CAS ruling was "an issue from last year already, a closed issue" in comments to R-Sport.

Maxim Saushkin, a spokesperson for the Russian state-run training center where five of the six walkers were based, said there would be no comments from the athletes or their representatives until they received "the relevant documents" confirming the ruling.

RUSADA was suspended from conducting any testing in November 2015 after a World Anti-Doping Agency commission accused it of covering up doping among leading Russian athletes.

Of the six athletes in the case, four have since become eligible to compete again, and some say they want to compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August. However, Russia remains suspended from all international track and field, including the Olympics, after the WADA commission's report detailed state-sponsored, systematic drug use. Doping in race-walking is a particular concern for the IAAF, after more than 30 cases in Russia in recent years.

The six cases also have links to previous irregularities at the IAAF. The WADA commission said that the processing of the cases was deliberately delayed in 2013 by the then-head of the IAAF anti-doping department, Gabriel Dolle, with the apparent intent of allowing athletes to compete at the 2013 world championships in Moscow when they should have been suspended.

In the end, none of the six raced at the championships after the IAAF's then-legal counsel threatened to resign if they were allowed to compete. Dolle was banned for five years in January by the IAAF, while the then-head of the Russian track federation, Valentin Balakhnichev, received a life ban in connection with a separate extortion case.

Of the six, Kirdyapkin and Bakulin face possible further charges over allegations that they continued to race while they were supposed to be suspended. Kaniskina also worked as director of a major training center while serving a suspension.

Read more on:    russia  |  athletics

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