Athletics: Russian athletics chief Balakhnichev resigns in wake of doping problems

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian Athletics Federation chief Valentin Balakhnichev confirmed his resignation from the post on Tuesday following a string of doping scandals.

The 65-year-old Balakhnichev, who has presided over athletics in the country since 1991, announced earlier this month that he would step down and confirmed his resignation at the federation's executive board meeting.

"I decided to resign," he said. "I failed to confront in full the rise of doping problems in Russia. And I understand that as the (athletics) federation president I'm personally responsible for it. That was the reason of my decision.

"I hand the federation into my followers' hands in good condition, free of debts. Currently we have only one serious problem - it's the doping problem."

Balakhnichev has named his deputy Vadim Zelichenok as the athletics federation's acting supremo until elections are held to decide who his permanent successor will be.

Last month, Olympic steeplechase champion Yulia Zaripova and three Olympic champions in race walking - Sergei Kirdyapkin, Olga Kaniskina and Valery Borchin - were all banned by the country's Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) for having abnormal indexes of haematological profiles in their biological passports.

Russian heptathlete Tatiana Chernova, a bronze medallist at the London Olympics, and the 2011 world champion in the 50km walk, Sergei Bakulin, were also banned along with Vladimir Kanaikin, who was banned for life for a repeated doping offence after serving a two-year ban from 2008 to 10.

A 60-minute documentary Secret Doping Dossier: How Russia Produces Its Winners, aired by German broadcaster ARD in December, pointed the finger at Balakhnichev amongst others.

The documentary featured hard-hitting accusations by 800m runner Yulia Stepanova, who has also been banned for a doping violation, and her husband Vitaly Stepanov, who had worked for Rusada between 2008 and 2011.

Meanwhile, the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) has also appointed an independent commission led by Richard Pound, a former head of the agency, to investigate the case.

Balakhnichev, who is also the treasurer for world athletics ruling body the IAAF, has temporarily stepped down from that position while the allegations are investigated.