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Former Russian athletics chief calls IAAF ban politicized, discrediting sport

January 08, 1:14 UTC+3
Earlier on Thursday, Balakhnichev was banned from athletics for life amid the recent doping scandal
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© Yuri Mashkov/TASS

MOSCOW, January 7. /TASS/. Former head of Russian athletics Valentin Balakhnichev has told TASS the decision of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ethics commission to ban him for life is politicized and is aimed at discrediting the entire Russian sport.

Earlier on Thursday, Balakhnichev, the former president of the All-Russia Athletics Federation (ARAF), and also former chief ARAF coach for long distance walkers and runners Aleksei Melnikov and Papa Massata Diack, former marketing consultant to the IAAF, were banned from athletics for life amid the recent doping scandal.

"I was chosen as a particular target, and the main goal is to discredit the whole Russian sport," Balakhnichev said in an interview with TASS.

"This looks like a clearly politicized decision. Some forces have decided to increase pressure on the Russian sport by taking such a radical decision," he added.

Balakhnichev said the IAAF had failed to listen to his arguments and brought fabricated and contradictory charges against him. "The arguments given by the opposite side are farfetched and inconsistent," he said.

Under the IAAF rules, Balakhnichev may lodge an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), headquartered in Switzerland’s Lausanne. "I have 21 days to think over this decision," he said.

Balakhnichev, who headed the ARAF since 1991, resigned in February 2015 following a series of doping scandals involving titled Russian athletes.

The doping scandal erupted in December 2014 after Germany’s TV Channel ARD aired a documentary on alleged doping abuse in Russian sports. The ARD’s two-part documentary, entitled Geheimsache Doping (Secret Doping Case), claimed that Russian athletes systematically took banned substances on instructions from their coaches.

The WADA Independent Commission published on November 9 the results of its probe into the activity of the All-Russia Athletics Federation (ARAF), the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, the RUSADA and the Russian Sports Ministry.

The commission accused certain athletes and sports officials of doping abuse and involvement in other activities related to violations of international regulations on performance enhancing substances.

On November 13, the IAAF Council said that a report prepared by the All-Russian Athletics Federation (ARAF) on the struggle against doping was unsatisfactory and decided by a majority of votes to suspend Russia’s membership in the international athletics association.

The WADA Independent Commission was set up to assess the ARAF reforming. The first visit of the commission to Russia is scheduled for January 10-11.

Shobukhova case

Lilya Shobukhova, a winner of Chicago and London marathons, was disqualified by the anti-doping commission of the All-Russia Athletics Federation (ARAF) from January 24, 2013 for the abuse of performance enhancing drugs.

The ethics commission said Balakhnichev has been charged with breaches of the IAAF Code of Ethics as he concealed information related to the athlete’s case. It says Balakhnichev "participated in an agreement with Alexei Melnikov, Papa Massata Diack and other persons that disciplinary action would not be taken against Lilya Shobukhova upon the payment by her of money."

The former athletics chief also "failed to report to the IAAF that Lilya Shobukhova had paid money to Alexei Melnikov to enable her to compete," the commission said.

No real facts in commission’s decision

Artem Patsev, the lawyer of Balakhnichev, said in an interview with TASS the ethics commission’s decision against his client is based on suggestions rather than real facts.

"Not a single fact was given in this decision and at the meeting of the ethics commission" Patsev said, adding: "No doubt, this decision is politicized."

The IAAF has used the same scheme to punish Balakhnichev as the world football governing body FIFA did against Joseph Blatter and Michel Platini, the lawyer said.

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