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IAAF suspends 7 Russian athletes

The International Association of Athletics Federations has provisionally suspended seven Russian female athletes, including 1,500-metre indoor world-record holder Yelena Soboleva, for tampering with urine samples.

The International Association of Athletics Federations has provisionally suspended seven Russian female athletes, including 1,500-metre indoor world-record holder Yelena Soboleva, for tampering with urine samples.

Five of the athletes were members of the Russian team bound for the Beijing Olympics, which begin Aug. 8.

As part of a clandestine investigation lasting over a year, the IAAF compared the DNA in the athletes' samples collected at different competitions and found discrepencies. The track and field governing body concluded that the athletes had substituted someone else's urine for their own, a violation of IAAF rules prohibiting tampering with testing procedures.

The athletes named Thursday are runners Yulia Fomenko (1,500 metres), Yelena Soboleva (800m and 1,500m)  Tatyana Tomashova (1,500m), Svetlana Cherkasova (800m) and Olga Yegorova (1,500m), along with Gulfiya Khanafeyeva (hammer throw) and Darya Pishchalnikova (discus).

All but Cherkasova and Yegorova had been named to the Russian team headed to Beijing.

The athletes have up to 14 days to request a hearing.

Soboleva won the 1,500m at this year's world indoor championships in Valencia, Spain in a world-record time of 3:57.71. Fomenko was second in that race, and both were expected to be medal favourites in Beijing.

Tomashova won both the 2003 and 2005 world championships at 1,500m, and was a silver medalist at the 2004 Olympics.

Yegorova won the 5,000m at the 2001 worlds in Edmonton under controversial circumstances. She had been suspended by the IAAF for the use of the blood booster EPO but was reinstated when the validity of the test was questioned. She later captured silver in the 5,000m at the 2005 worlds.