Troubled Russian athletics elects businessman as president

Yevgeny Yurchenko (AFP)
Yevgeny Yurchenko (AFP)

Moscow - Russia's athletics federation (RUSAF) on Friday elected a businessman as its new president with the organisation racing to win places for its athletes at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics after a doping ban.

Businessman and politician Yevgeny Yurchenko was voted to helm an organisation embroiled in a doping scandal, winning 53 out of a possible 63 votes, RUSAF said in a statement carried by agencies.

Yurchenko's bid for the top spot was all but guaranteed, with Russia media reporting ahead of the ballot that the 51-year-old had won the support of the Kremlin.

Hours before the vote, on Thursday evening, RUSAF said the former vice governor was the only candidate, without giving details.

Yurchenko, who was briefly vice-governor of the Voronezh region south of Moscow, won notoriety in 2011 when he purchased a historic Vostok space capsule launched in the early 1960s for $2.9 million.

He now faces the considerable task of convincing World Athletics to allow Russian athletes who test clean to compete under a neutral banner at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Russia has been suspended by World Athletics - then known as the IAAF - since 2015 over repeated doping scandals and has been fighting for readmission.

Ahead of voting on Friday, Yurchenko promised to overhaul the Federation and to recognise RUSAF's previous doping "errors".

Yet some Russian athletes were not convinced he or any of the candidates were capable of cleaning up the Athletics organisation.

"Unfortunately today, those who would like to preside over the federation are people I don't trust," veteran high jumper Mariya Lasitskene told AFP last month.

Yurchenko is taking over from Dmitry Shlyakhtin who resigned in November after being accused by World Athletics of obstructing a probe into Russian high jumper Danil Lysenko.

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