Russian track and field president steps down as federation faces expulsion threat
Dmitry Shlyakhtin already suspended, pending hearing, on charges from integrity unit
The president of the Russian track and field federation resigned on Saturday, two days after he was accused of obstructing an anti-doping investigation involving fake medical documents.
Eight months before the Olympics in Tokyo, Russia is facing a double threat on doping-linked charges, including another case centred on alleged tampering with lab data provided to the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Track federation president Dmitry Shlyakhtin stepped down at an emergency federation conference in Moscow. He was already provisionally suspended pending a hearing on the charges from the Athletics Integrity Unit.
Runner-turned-businesswoman Yulia Tarasenko has been appointed acting president. However, she immediately faced a backlash from Russia's most decorated active athlete, the three-time world high jump champion Mariya Lasitskene.
"Tarasenko is Shlyakhtin's stooge and should get out of the federation immediately, following her super-professional boss," Lasitskene told state news agency Tass.
Lasitskene sarcastically congratulated the board members who voted in Tarasenko. "Well done, the operation to liquidate Russian athletics is nearly complete," she said.
Olympic banishment possible
That could lead to Russia being banned from the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Russia's track team was reduced to a single athlete in 2016 amid earlier doping revelations.
Russia's head track coach Yuri Borzakovsky indicated one path could be for Russia to compete at the Olympics as an officially neutral team, as it did at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
"The main task is that the athletes and their coaches don't suffer in the current situation, so that the guys can keep training for the Olympics and compete there," he said. "In what status they compete, that's another question."
A politically well-connected regional sports minister, Shlyakhtin took office in January 2016 pledging to overturn Russia's suspension from international track events due to widespread doping.
7 people charged
Nearly four years later, the suspension is still in place. World Athletics, formerly known as the IAAF, said Friday that Russia could be expelled altogether following the new charges against Shlyakhtin and senior officials.
AIU investigators allege officials helped Lysenko draw up the fake documents so he could avoid punishment.
World Athletics could also end a scheme which allows top Russian athletes such as Lasitskene to compete internationally as neutrals.
World Athletics' "statements are beyond comprehension," Tarasenko said. She didn't elaborate on how, or if, the federation intended to fight the charges.
"We're not feeling very joyful, put it that way," said Tarasenko, who was a sprinter in the 1990s and is now CEO of a company laying running tracks at stadiums. "We think there's still some chance to keep fighting for the federation."