3 April 2020

Russian athletes sanctioned for training with banned coach

Three of seven Russian athletes found to be working with banned coach Vladimir Kazarin (Владимиром Казариным) have been sanctioned with a one year ban, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) announced. The three were sanctioned with a one year ban under Article 2.10 of the All-Russian Anti-Doping Rules, which covers ‘prohibited association’. 

An earlier announcement from the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) confirms that the three athletes trained with Kazarin during 2018/19. They are:

• Rudolf Verkhovykh (Рудольф Верховых), who won a Bronze in the 400m and a Silver in the 4x400m at the 2019 Russian Indoors – banned until 16 June 2020;
• Andrew Isaichev (Андрей Исайчев), a middle distance runner – banned until 16 December 2020;
• Anna Knyazev-Shirokov (Анна Князева-Широкова) – banned until 16 December 2020.

Kazarin was sanctioned with a life ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on 7 April 2017. He coached Mariya Savinova (Мария Савинова), who was sanctioned with a four year ban by the CAS in February 2017, after her Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) revealed she had been doping for over three years. 

In a 2014 documentary produced by journalists for ARD, Savinova was recorded taking oxandrolone. A 2015 documentary produced by journalists for ARD featured footage of Savinova confessing to using human growth hormone (HGH) and Kazarin confessing to supplying athletes with drugs such as oxandrolone and erythropoietin (EPO) through ‘micro-dosing’ to avoid detection. 

As such, the first Independent Commission (IC) Report produced for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in November 2016 recommended that Kazarin be added to its Prohibited Association List. However WADA failed to update the List until 10 April 2017, as discovered by The Sports Integrity Initiative in March 2017.

In a 2017 documentary, athletes told journalists working for ARD that Kazarin was training athletes at a November 2016 camp in Kyrgyzstan. On 12 January 2017, he was pictured at a separate indoor training camp in Chelyabinsk with 400m runner Artyom Denmukhametov (Артем Денмухаметов) and 800m runner Natalia Danilova (Наталья Данилова). It was alleged that Kazarin was not listed as Denmukhametov’s coach when results are reported, in order to make it appear as if his is not involved.

At the time, under pressure from World Athletics (then the IAAF), RusAF said that it would provide evidence that it had provisionally suspended Kazarin. “If a suspended coach is still working, then they have organised that using their own money”, former RusAF President, Dmitry Shlyakhtin (Дмитрий Шляхтин), told TASS. “There is nothing to prevent him renting a hotel and he can train where he likes. If the IAAF Commission have any questions, then we have all the documents on the provisional suspension.”

However, in November last year, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) of World Athletics dismissed a charge of prohibited association against Denmukhametov. The AIU said that Denmukhametov had exercised his right for the Decision to be kept confidential. Shlyakhtin resigned from RusAF, also in November last year, after he was charged with involvement in forging documentation to assist high jumper Danil Lysenko to defend a ‘whereabouts’ failure charge.

It is not hard to hazard a guess at what line Denmukhametov’s defence may have taken. In January 2017, when Denmukhametov was pictured training with Kazarin, WADA had failed to add the coach to its Prohibited Association list. In addition, RusAF’s apparent forging of documentation casts doubt on any documentation produced as evidence that it had provisionally suspended the coach.

In June 2018, RusAF reminded athletes not to work with Kazarin. Yet in June 2019, RUSADA’s investigation found that seven athletes had worked with Kazarin at a training camp in the Kyrgyz Republic.

In June 2019, A Reuters reporter witnessed Vladimir Mokhnev (Владимир Мохнев), who was sanctioned with a ten year ban by the CAS in 2016, giving instructions to seven athletes and recording their times. An investigation by the news agency also found that Valery Volkov (Валерий Волков), sanctioned with a four year ban in August 2017, is also working with athletes. Reuters also found that Dr. Sergei Portugalov (Сергей Португалов), sanctioned with a lifetime ban in March 2017, had given advice on nutrition and training at a Moscow gym.

In a separate development, RusAF sanctioned long jumper Dmitry Bobkov (Дмитрий Бобков) with a two year ban after a prohibited substance was discovered in his sample. The statement also announced disqualification of Alexandra Stepanova’s (Александры Степановой) results from 15 November 2018. The runner had already been sanctioned with a four year ban for an ADRV involving oxandrolone. Her disqualification, from 6 May 2019 until 5 May 2023, runs from the date of her provisional suspension.

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