Athletics: Russian athletics boss ready to resign amid spate of dope cases

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russian Athletics Federation chief Valentin Balakhnichev has said he is ready to step down from his post following a string of doping scandals, local media reported on Wednesday.

"My resignation may be necessary based on the needs of the athletics federation," he was quoted as saying by R-Sport news agency.

"I'd like to fulfil my obligations and to stay in charge until the end of all these scandals and investigations, but if the higher authorities decide that my resignation is required I'll definitely step down," he later told Itar-Tass agency.

On Tuesday, three Russian Olympic champions in race walking - Sergei Kirdyapkin, Valery Borchin and Olga Kaniskina - were all banned by the country's anti-doping agency Rusada for abnormal indexes of haematological profiles in their biological passports.

The same punishment was meted out to 2011 50km world champion Sergei Bakulin.

With these cases, the number of banned athletes, who have been training in the race walking centre in Saransk, the capital of Russia's republic of Mordovia, has reached 20.

The bans for Russian race walking Olympic champions caused has angered the country's sports minister Vitaly Mutko, who announced his intention to purge the Russian athletics federation.

"This is very upsetting news for sport in Russia," he told Itar-Tass.

"And after such great scandals we have no other choice but to make serious organisational and personnel changes inside the (athletics) federation and Saransk walking centre."

Last month, a 60-minute documentary Secret Doping Dossier: How Russia Produces its Winners" aired by Germany's state broadcaster ARD, pointed the finger at Russian athletics boss Balakhnichev among 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.

The agency reacted immediately, announcing its decision to open an investigation into these accusations just two days after the documentary was broadcasted.

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.

The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) released a statement, saying: "An investigation by the IAAF ethics commission is already ongoing with respect to some of the allegations made in the documentary."

Balakhnichev, who is also the IAAF treasurer, has temporarily stepped down while the allegations are investigated.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) added that it had been in contact with the IAAF and were ready to act if necessary.