2 May 2018

IAAF warns race walkers over Viktor Chegin reports

The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has warned Russian race walkers granted neutral athlete status that their accreditation to compete in international events could be revoked, if they are found to have worked with banned coach Viktor Chegin (pictured). ‘The IAAF’s Doping Review Board (DRB) routinely reserves the right to review its decisions to grant Neutral Athlete status where it is appropriate to do so, including upon the receipt of new information about the athletes concerned’, read an emailed statement from an IAAF spokesperson. ‘The matter reported over the weekend constitutes new information of which the DRB was unaware when they granted Neutral Athlete status to a number of Russian race walkers earlier this year and it will be reviewed by the DRB as a matter of priority. As for potential breaches of Article 2.10 (Prohibited Association), that is something for the AIU to investigate separately to any DRB decision on ANA status.’

Following an investigation, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) established that Chegin was working with the Russian race walking team at a training camp in Karakol Stadium, Kyrgyzstan. ‘On 25 April 2018, the Russian Athletics Federation received a request from RUSADA to provide an explanation as soon as possible’, read a statement. ‘RUSADA notified the Ministry of Sport of the Russian Federation on the same day. The matter is being investigated.’

The reason that the matter is pressing is because the IAAF has cleared seven Russians to compete as Authorised Neutral Athletes (ANAs) in the IAAF World Race Walking Team Championships, which take place in Taicang, China, on 5-6 May. Some of these athletes were juniors when Chegin was the Russian Athletics Federation’s (RusAF) race walking coach.

Viktor Chegin was sanctioned with a lifetime ban by RusAF in March 2016. Over 20 athletes trained by the race-walking coach between 2005 and 2015 are understood to have been disqualified for doping. Chegin was provisionally suspended by RUSADA on 25 August 2014, yet it did not launch an official investigation until 15 July 2015. RusAF did not remove him as Russia’s race walking coach until 16 July 2015.

Chegin was spotted coaching athletes at the 2014 European Athletics Championships in Zurich in August 2014, whilst provisionally suspended by RUSADA. Several of Chegin’s suspended athletes – including Sergey Baulkin, Elena Lashmanova and Ekaterina Medvedeva – were spotted (here and here) competing at the Mordovian race walking championships in December 2014. RusAF attempted to claim that the photos were from a 2012 event, however detective work by Canadian race walker Evan Dunfee uncovered that the shoes and uniforms worn in the photos were not available in 2012.

Chegin was also filmed training Russian athletes on 27 April 2016 in the town of Adler, just 10km from Sochi. Olga Kaniskina, Sergey Kirdyapkin and Elena Lashmanova, who all signed an extraordinary letter of support for Chegin earlier that month, were pictured at the training session. In March 2016, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld an IAAF appeal against the ‘selective’ disqualification of some of Chegin’s walkers, which allowed them to keep their medals. 

“RusAF does a great job of reforming Russian athletics, and emphasis is being placed on anti-doping issues”, said RusAF President Dmitry Shlyakhtin in a statement. “All this activity is aimed at one thing – the restoration of RusAF and the lifting of the ban from international competitions placed on our athletes. We work, we achieve success, but from time to time we come across such cases. I want to note that whilst our coaches and athletes will not change their mentality, this will be the result, no matter how much work RusAF puts in. I appeal to everyone that we need to think again – we cannot step on the rake.”

The IAAF Taskforce overseeing the reinstatement of RusAF said that it will be following up the situation with RusAF, and will expect its cooperation in bringing forward disciplinary proceedings against any athlete that has associated with Chegin. ‘It is a specific condition of reinstatement that RusAF must demonstrate it is ready, willing and able to prevent Russian coaches who have been banned for doping their athletes from continuing to work with those athletes during that ban’, wrote a spokesperson in an email. ‘The IAAF Taskforce, overseeing the reinstatement of RusAF, has reported in previous updates to the IAAF Council that this has been a recurring problem even after the suspension of RusAF in December 2015. If it is confirmed that Russian racewalkers are still working with Viktor Chegin, despite them having been specifically warned not to do so following his life ban from the sport, then it would appear that there has been no real change in culture in Russian track and field, and it is hard to see how these athletes could be permitted to return to international competition without threatening the integrity of that competition’.

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