Athletics: New chief named for Russian federation to clean up mess

Russia's Athletics Federation (ARAF) president Dmitry Shlyakhtin attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia, on Jan 16, 2016.
Russia's Athletics Federation (ARAF) president Dmitry Shlyakhtin attends a news conference in Moscow, Russia, on Jan 16, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia's embattled athletics body on Saturday elected a new "anti-crisis" president, regional sports bureaucrat Dmitry Shlyakhtin, who now faces the challenge of rescuing its reputation from doping claims ahead of the Rio Olympics.

Shlyakhtin, who has served as a regional sports official, was backed by Russia's Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko and elected unanimously to head the All-Russian Athletics Federation (Araf) after two other candidates withdrew themselves from the vote.

He will serve as an "anti-crisis" head of the body for the next several months, through the Olympic Games in Rio, before another vote in September or October, Mr Mutko told journalists ahead of the decision.

Virtually unknown outside of Russia, Shlyakhtin has been sports minister of the Samara region on the Volga river for the last three years. Before that he headed the CSKA athletics club.

Russia is facing an uphill battle after a World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) independent commission alleged widespread state-sanctioned corruption and doping in the country's athletics.

Over four thousand Russian athletes have been banned from international competition and sports authorities are launching reforms and making promises to get the ban lifted in time for Rio.

The IAAF provisionally suspended Araf in November and outlined strict reinstatement criteria last month, including severing ties with Russian athletics officials, officers or staff with any past involvement in doping.

Mr Mutko said on Saturday that he hopes to "reinstate all the powers of our athletics federation in March".