Athletics: Russian runners facing lifetime bans to sue over doping claims

Russian runner Kristina Ugarova speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, on Nov 20, 2015. She is one of several athletes who plan to sue whistleblowers in Russia's doping scandal.
Russian runner Kristina Ugarova speaks during a news conference in Moscow, Russia, on Nov 20, 2015. She is one of several athletes who plan to sue whistleblowers in Russia's doping scandal.PHOTO: REUTERS

Moscow (AFP) - Two of the five Russian athletes the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) recommended be suspended for life for doping said on Friday (Nov 20) they were victims of slanderous claims, vowing to sue the whistleblower and the German TV channel that aired incriminating evidence against them.

A bombshell report published last week by a WADA independent commission found evidence of state-sponsored doping and large-scale corruption in Russian track and field, and recommended that Russia's athletics federation be suspended and that five athletes be handed lifetime bans.

Two of these athletes, Kristina Ugarova and Tatyana Myazina, were caught discussing their use of banned performance enhancing drugs in secret recordings made by fellow runner Yulia Stepanova and her husband Vitaly Stepanov, a former doping control officer at RUSADA, who leaked the tapes to German television channel ARD.

In spite of the incriminating recordings - aired in an ARD documentary last December - both runners maintained that they had not doped.

"I can say that I didn't take any banned substances," 800-metre runner Myazina told reporters on Friday. "No one from WADA or RUSADA has ever approached me."

Ugarova meanwhile said her recorded conversations with Stepanova had not addressed doping, calling her former teammate's claims about her "slanderous".

The athletes' lawyer, Alexander Karabanov, said that his clients were poised to sue Stepanova - who has also previously been banned over doping - and ARD for defamation and libel in a Russian court of law.

Karabanov also told Russian media he suspected Stepanova had been recruited by "foreign special services" to work against Russia's athletic interests.

The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) last week followed WADA's recommendation and provisionally suspended Russia, raising the possibility that Russian track and fields stars could be sidelined from next summer's Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Both Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA and the Moscow anti-doping laboratory were also suspended over the report.

In the ARD documentary, Ugarova was recorded as saying her coach had provided her with steroids.

The secret tapes also revealed that Ugarova had paid 50,000 rubles (S$1,092) to cover up her positive test results.

Ugarova's husband, marathon runner Viktor Ugarov, is meanwhile facing a ban of up to four years for having snubbed the IAAF suspension to compete in a marathon in Japan's Kanazawa marathon last Saturday.

Ugarov won the marathon, but his result was subsequently cancelled by the IAAF.

Ugarova maintains that her husband was not aware Russia had been suspended when he took part in the race.

Russian athletes are set to miss next March's World Indoor Championships because an investigation team into doping practices in Russian athletics is only expected to report back to IAAF later that month.

The three other athletes WADA recommended be banned for life are Olympic champion 800-metre runner Maria Savinov, Olympic silver medalist Ekaterina Poistogova and 23-year-old runner Anastasia Bazdyreva.

WADA recommended similar bans for four coaches and one doctor.