Athletics: Russian athletics federation sues over German doping claims

MOSCOW (AFP) - The Russian Athletics Federation is suing German state broadcaster ARD over allegations of systematic doping in Russian athletics aired in a documentary in December.

The 60-minute programme Secret Doping Dossier: How Russia Produces Its Winners contained hard-hitting claims by Russian 800m runner Iuliya Stepanova, who served a doping ban, and her husband Vitali Stepanov, who has worked for Russia's Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada).

"We've launched a civil action demanding that they refute the false accusations, which tarnish the reputation of All-Russian Athletics Federation," lawyer Artem Patsev told RIA Novosti news agency on Wednesday.

Patsev said that the legal action targeted the documentary maker Hans-Joachim "Hajo" Seppelt, the ARD channel's editorial board and the Russian athletes and coaches who made the allegations against the federation's policy.

The programme pointed the finger of blame at among others Valentin Balakhnichev, who resigned as the federation's president on Tuesday.

The 65-year-old Balakhnichev, who has presided over athletics in the country since 1991, announced: "I decided to resign. 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."

Rusada launched an investigation into the documentary's allegations, while the World Anti-Doping Agency is conducting its own probe led by the agency's former Canadian chief Dick Pound.