Russian walkers’ doping on par with Armstrong

Russia’s anti-doping chief has cited evidence of systematic doping among the country’s Olympic champion race-walkers, comparing the case to that of Lance Armstrong.

Of the 22 Russians who originally won track and field medals at the 2012 Olympics, six have since been banned for doping, including Sergey Kirdyapkin – who beat Australia’s Jared Tallent to gold in the 50km walk.

Tallent has been angered by the news that Kirdyapkin will retain his medal, despite having most of his results from specific periods between 2009 and 2012 annulled, and with the support of Athletics Australia has pushed for it to be stripped.

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Five Russian walkers, including three Olympic champions, were banned for doping last month, and five world championship gold medals from 2009 and 2011 look set to be re-awarded.

Russian anti-doping agency chief executive Nikita Kamaev said the walkers’ biological data shows clear links between the “methods” and “approaches” used to dope.

“The structure of the offences and the systematic nature of the offences were obvious,” he said in comments reported by the R-Sport agency.

Kamaev said further bans could follow but that the case was complex, adding that “the Armstrong case took more than two-and-a-half years. Our case is no simpler.”

Armstrong was banned for life in 2012 for doping offences and stripped of his seven Tour de France wins.

Russia’s investigation focuses on the national race-walking training centre in Saransk. At least 20 athletes who trained there under the oversight of head coach Viktor Chegin have been banned for doping in recent years.

The centre’s longtime director, Viktor Kolesnikov, was banned last year for four years for possessing substances outlawed under anti-doping rules.

He was briefly replaced by Olympic champion Olga Kaniskina, who resigned last month when she became one of the five walkers banned for doping.

The IAAF is investigating various other allegations related to the centre, including that athletes were allowed to compete while banned and that the centre employed a coach who had been banned from athletics for life.

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