Russia’s efforts to lift its suspension from international track and field before next year’s Olympics suffered a damaging blow on Thursday when its top athletics officials were charged with trying to obstruct a doping investigation into a high jumper.
The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) confirmed it had charged and suspended the Russian Athletics Federation president, Dmitry Shlyakhtin, and the executive director, Alexander Parkin, for “serious breaches of anti-doping rules” – including forging documents in an attempt to explain “whereabouts” violations committed by the 2018 world indoor gold medallist Danil Lysenko.
The now 22-year-old was one of the Russians initially cleared to compete internationally by World Athletics but was then provisionally suspended in August 2018 for missing doping tests. A subsequent 15-month AIU investigation then found that Russian officials had given false explanations and forged documents in order to explain Lysenko’s missed tests.
The cover-up included fabricating documents to show Lysenko was too ill to provide his whereabouts. Those documents came from fake doctors operating from a bogus clinic based in Moscow, according to reports.
Five others associated with Russian Athletics, including Lysenko and his coach, have also been charged with “tampering and/or complicity under the anti-doping rules” and provisionally suspended. Russian Athletics, which has been suspended from the membership of World Athletics since November 2015, has also been issued with a notice of charge for failing to comply with its obligations as a member federation.
The news means the chances of Russian track and field stars being able to compete under their country’s flag at Tokyo 2020 look increasingly bleak.
The AIU said its investigation was based on 22 witness interviews and an extensive digital forensic analysis of more than six terabytes of electronic data. It also confirmed it had acquired 14 electronic storage devices – including mobile phones and computer hard drives – and had approximately 7,000 documents translated from Russian to English. Those charged will have until 12 December to respond. The president of the IAAF, Sebastian Coe, is likely to address the issue after its executive board has met in Monaco on Friday.
This latest charge will put wider pressure on Russia, which also faces the prospect of missing out on the Olympics and Euro 2020 football if the World Anti-Doping Agency finds doping samples were tampered with at the Moscow laboratory. Wada’s executive committee will meet on 9 December to assess the latest findings of its independent compliance review committee.