Russia athletics admits wrongdoing in fake documents case

Sports
Yevgeny Yurchenko

Yevgeny Yurchenko speaks during a news conference after being elected as the new President of the Russian Athletics Federation in Moscow, Russia, Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. The Russian track federation elected a state aircraft executive as president on Friday with the goal of getting the country’s national team reinstated in time for the Tokyo Olympics. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s track and field federation says it has admitted wrongdoing after being accused of supplying fake documents to give a top athlete an alibi for missing drug testing.

Ahead of the Olympics, the admission could help end a standoff between Russian track officials and their counterparts at World Athletics. A scheme allowing top Russians to compete internationally as neutral athletes is currently frozen, leaving them in limbo.

Russia has been suspended by World Athletics since 2015 over widespread doping, and was threatened with expulsion after the federation and seven individuals were charged over the documents in November.

The case relates to high jumper Danil Lysenko, who was charged by the Athletics Integrity Unit in 2018 with repeatedly failing to be available for drug testing. The federation, known as RusAF, allegedly helped him file forged documents purporting to be from a medical clinic.

New federation president Yevgeny Yurchenko said in a statement, “I have fully accepted the charges” against the federation “related to the actions of the previous leadership in the Lysenko case.”

Yurchenko said the federation apologizes for its conduct.

“I very much hope that, even belatedly, our actions make it possible to remove from the agenda the matter of expelling RusAF from World Athletics, and will make it possible to start the procedure of reinstating RusAF in World Athletics as a full member, and also to resume the process of issuing neutral status to our athletes,” he added.

Russians won six medals as neutral athletes at last year’s world championships. The status requires athletes to pass vetting of their drug-testing record and could be crucial if they’re to compete at the Olympics in Tokyo.

Former federation president Dmitry Shlyakhtin resigned in November after he and six others were handed various disciplinary charges by the AIU over the documents. He couldn’t immediately be reached for comment regarding Yurchenko’s statement on Monday.

State aircraft executive Yurchenko was little known in sports circles until he was elected unopposed to run RusAF on Friday. Three other candidates withdrew in the weeks leading up to the vote.

His announcement on Monday came hours after the Russian Sports Ministry lifted a suspension of the federation. It suspended official state recognition in January as a largely symbolic expression of disapproval at its failure to resolve long-running disputes related to drug testing.

“I hope that in the near future ways out of the crisis will be found,” Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin said in a statement on Monday.

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