Rus­sians haunted by pos­i­tive tests

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Moscow

The World Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships, which open this week­end, are the first of a se­ries of high-pro­file in­ter­na­tional sports events to be held in Rus­sia in the com­ing years and the big­gest com­pe­ti­tion in Moscow since the 1980 Olympics.

In Fe­bru­ary the Black Sea re­sort of Sochi will host the Win­ter Olympics, while the most-watched sports event in the world — the soc­cer World Cup — comes to Rus­sia in 2018.

Moscow has al­ready held the in­door ver­sion of the World Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships in 2006.

Rus­sia is tout­ing its abil­ity to host top sport­ing events af­ter it or­ga­nized the Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow in June and world stu­dent games in Kazan in July.

But in­ter­na­tional ath­let­ics’ bi­en­nial show­piece at Moscow’s Luzh­niki Sta­dium has al­ready been clouded by a se­ries of dop­ing scan­dals in Rus­sia’s track and field dis­ci­plines in re­cent times.

About 40 Rus­sian ath­letes have been banned for dop­ing vi­o­la­tions in re­cent months, a de­vel­op­ment which led many to ques­tion the coun­try’s suit­abil­ity to stage the world event.

Rus­sian ath­letes found to have doped in­clude 2004 Olympic ham­mer cham­pion Olga Kuzenkova and 2012 sil­ver medal­ist in women’s dis­cus, Daria Pishchal­nikova. They have both been banned, with Pishchal­nikova handed a 10-year sus­pen­sion for a sec­ond dop­ing of­fense.

How­ever, Rus­sian ath­let­ics fed­er­a­tion chief Valentin Balakhnichev said the coun­try had dra­mat­i­cally changed its ap­proach in the fight against dop­ing and as a re­sult more cheats were be­ing ex­posed.

“Three years ago the national anti-dop­ing agency, RUSADA, was cre­ated to keep the use of drugs in sports un­der con­trol,” Balakhnichev said.

Rus­sia’s ath­let­ics national squad man­ager, Valentin Maslakov, said he was ex­pect­ing at least six gold medals at the world show­piece.

“The Rus­sian ath­let­ics cham­pi­onships, which has re­cently took place in Luzh­niki, showed that we can ex­pect some of our ath­letes to show world- class re­sults at the world cham­pi­onships,” he said.

“We hope to win at least six gold medals at the event as six of our ath­letes lead the sea­son in their dis­ci­plines. But we will be happy if some of our ath­letes sur­pass our ex­pec­ta­tions.”

Rus­sian race walk­ers, who tra­di­tion­ally dom­i­nate both men’s and women’s dis­ci­plines, are fa­vorites in their events.

Both men’s and women’s high jumpers are also among the coun­try’s gold medal hopes af­ter Ivan Ukhov and Anna Chicherova struck gold at the Lon­don Olympics last year.

Re­sults in the men’s javelin, women’s ham­mer throw and some of the run­ning dis­ci­plines at the Rus­sian national cham­pi­onships in July also made the coun­try’s ath­let­ics chiefs feel op­ti­mistic.

Pole vault queen Ye­lena Is­in­bayeva has an­nounced the world cham­pi­onships in Moscow will draw the cur­tain on her ca­reer, adding she was set to make her fi­nal com­pe­ti­tion mem­o­rable event for her fans.

“Ev­ery­thing is per­fect here: the great arena, ex­cel­lent sur­face... I’m look­ing for­ward to a classy per­for­mance here at the world cham­pi­onships,” she said.

SA­MUEL KUBANI / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Ye­lena Is­in­bayeva com­petes in the pole vault at the IAAF Grand Prix meet in Os­trava, Czech Repub­lic, on June 27.

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