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Russian athletics federation board resigns amid doping stalemate

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AFP – The entire board of Russia’s athletics federation has resigned as the government attempts to find a way out of the country’s deepening doping crisis before this year’s Olympic Games.

The federation (RUSAF) and the Russian sports ministry announced  late Monday that the board was handing over its powers to a working group within the Russian Olympic Committee as all of its members resign.

The decision has been made “as RUSAF activities have not led to the reinstatement of the federation in World Athletics”, and to “ensure participation of clean Russian athletes in international and Russian competition”, the joint statement said.

“It’s clear that the crisis in Russian athletics has gone on for five years and it has gone on too long,” Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin, who was appointed last month, was quoted as saying.

Russia has been suspended since 2015 over a doping scandal and was fighting for readmission to the global athletics body.

But the readmission process was suspended last year as Russia was accused of obstructing a probe into high jumper Danil Lysenko.

World Athletics also stopped reviewing which Russians can compete as neutrals with less than six months to go before Tokyo 2020.

Both RUSAF and the former sports minister denied any wrongdoing.

Frustration with RUSAF reached boiling point after the Athletics Integrity Union last week accused Russia of serious violations and recommended “severest possible consequence” but the federation once again protested total innocence.

Under new minister Matytsin, Russia has to provide World Athletics with an answer on the Lysenko probe by February 10, TASS agency reported.

On Tuesday a commission of athletes in RUSAF, including world champions high jumper Maria Lasitskene and hurdler Sergei Shubenkov, said disbanding the board was “the only right decision and crucial to return Russian athletics into the global sports community”.

Time is running out for Russia’s athletes, who risk missing their second Olympic Games since 2016.

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