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Sports

IAAF orders life bans over Russia doping

Russia's chances of competing in Rio are looking more and more unlikely after news of further corruption and blackmail on Thursday. The IAAF has acted confidently by issuing a number of lifetime bans.

Judges of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) issued lifetime bans on Thursday to former Russia athletics chief Valentin Balakhnichev, the son of former world body president Lamine Diack and former Russian walking coach Alexei Melnikov over the blackmailing of athletes who failed doping tests. Former world body anti-doping doctor Gabriel Dolle was also suspended, but for five years.

The bans came in the wake of allegations made by Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova - first made public on German television in December 2014 - that she paid 450,000 euros ($480,000) to avoid a doping ban before the 2012 London Olympics. Shobukhova was eventually banned for doping.

"The IAAF has already introduced corrective measures to make sure this sort of interference can't happen again," said a federation statement.

Rio participation in great danger

"The life bans announced today could not send a stronger message that those who attempt to corrupt or subvert the sport of athletics will be brought to justice. We continue to work with the French authorities' investigation and the WADA's Independent Commission," said IAAF president Sebastian Coe.

The panel found that the four "conspired to extort what were in substance bribes from the athlete by acts of blackmail." Papa Massata Diack, Balakhnichev and Melnikov also face fines up to 23,000 euros.

"Certain forces are trying to increase the pressure on Russian sport by taking such a radical decision," Balakhnichev told Russia's state-run TASS news agency.

Papa Massata Diack and his father Lamine Diack, who stepped down as IAAF president in August, and Balakhnichev are all under investigation by French police over hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to cover up doping offences. Lamine Diack is alleged to have received one million euros ($1.1 million) alone. His son acted as a marketing consultant to the IAAF until forced to stand down over the scandals.

Russian athletics must undergo major changes if it is to compete at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August. An IAAF task force is set to visit Russia next week to inspect the country's response to the scandal. A second WADA commission report is also set for next week.

jh/dv (dpa, AP)

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