Russia picks new athletics chief as doping crisis deepens

London Athletics track (AFP Photo)
London Athletics track (AFP Photo)

Moscow - Yulia Tarasenko was appointed as interim president of Russia's athletics body on Saturday following the suspension of previous head Dmitry Shlyakhtin by World Athletics.

Tarasenko, the RUSAF sports director and head of the athletics federation of St. Petersburg, immediately saught to reassure Russian athletes she would fight their corner.

"We're not in a very joyful mood, the situation is very difficult in the federation, but we think there is a chance to fight for the federation," she said.

"We represent athletes and they should not suffer," the new acting president Tarasenko told journalists.

Tarasenko was picked from three candidates after Dmitry Shlyakhtin resigned from the post of RUSAF president.

Russian athletics' crisis deepened following Thursday's ruling by the Athletics Integrity Unit of global governing body World Athletics, which suspended Russia's reinstatement process and accused RUSAF of obstructing a probe into high-jumper Danil Lysenko.

It is now considering expelling RUSAF and suspending the provision allowing Russian to compete as neutral athletes, but for the moment awaits a decision by the world anti-doping agency on December 9 on whether to label Russia non-compliant.

Head coach of Russia's athletics Yury Borzakovsky said Saturday that RUSAF's main goal is to "protect the athletes and their coaches, so that they keep preparing for the Olympic Games and compete there."

"In what status is a different issue," he said.

Some vocal Russian athletes have expressed frustration with the federation and accused authorities of hurting clean athletes by feet-dragging on needed reforms.

"Our athletics is in agony. We have lost four years. Clean athletes are still vulnerable and unsure whether they will get a chance to compete," three-time high-jump world champion Maria Lasitskene wrote in a ripping Instagram appeal to the Russian sports minister Friday.

Lasitskene, who has called on Shlyakhtin to step down repeatedly over the past months, told TASS agency on Saturday that the new athletics chief Tarasenko is not a solution.

"Shlyakhtin was changed to Shlyakhtin," she said. "Tarasenko is Shlyakhtin's appointee and should immediately quit the federation."

Lasitskene said Saturday's decision would only deepen the crisis and the federation should have instead picked a new face with a clear anti-doping stance and no connection to previous management.

"Congratulations to all who pushed for this appointment. Great job guys, the operation to liquidate Russian athletics is almost finished."

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