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Russian chief wants doping to be criminal offence

Russia's Athletics Federation (VFLA) president Valentin Balakhnichev (pictured) wants doping to become a criminal offence in his country.

"We need to treat doping as a class A drug," the 65-year-old Balakhnichev, who will leave his post this month, said yesterday.

Russian athletics has recently been rocked by a number of doping revelations. Three Olympic walk champions, Olga Kaniskina, Valery Borchin and Sergei Kirdyapkin, were found guilty of doping offences and handed long bans in January. This led to the head coach of the Russian athletics team, Valentin Maslakov, resigning on Jan. 23 while Balakhnichev will step down on Feb. 17 having been president since 1990.

Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA suspended a number of athletes in January, including Kaniskina, Borchin and Kirdyapkin.

A German television documentary, broadcast by ZDF/ARD in December, alleged systematic doping in Russian sport. It featured an undercover video of what it said were athletes and coaches admitting covering up positive drug tests. The allegations have not been verified and Balakhnichev has previously denounced them as "a pack of lies".

But he conceded that the last two months had been the hardest of his 25 years as federation president but defended his record.

Balakhnichev has previously failed in his bid to make doping a criminal offence. "I said that this should be done quite a few years ago to make the punishment a lot more serious than just a two-year disqualification," he said.