World high jump champ blasts Russian track officials

Mariya-Lasitskene

Gold medalist Mariya Lasitskene, who participates as a neutral athlete, poses during the medal ceremony for the women's high jump at the World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. (Nariman El-Mofty/AP Photo)

MOSCOW — Three-time world high jump champion Mariya Lasitskene assailed Russian track leaders Friday after they were charged with using fake medical documents during an investigation, saying they have made a "doping nightmare" even worse.

Lasitskene called for swift and radical reforms, and the removal of officials appointed by track federation president Dmitry Shlyakhtin. He was one of seven Russians charged and suspended Thursday by the Athletics Integrity Unit.

Shlyakhtin took office shortly after the federation was suspended from international competition for widespread doping. The suspension remains in place four years later.

"The new team, whose task was to take us out of this doping nightmare, has turned out no better than the old one. And in some ways worse," Lasitskene wrote on Instagram.

"Shlyakhtin and his team must quit their posts immediately and never come back. And I will make sure this happens."

Lasitskene has won two of her three world titles as a neutral athlete as a result of Russia’s suspension, which also caused her to miss the 2016 Olympics.

"Our track and field is in its death throes and we can’t procrastinate anymore," she wrote. "We’ve lost four years already. Clean athletes are still defenceless and not sure they’ll be able to compete tomorrow."

Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov expressed concern about the "emergency situation" and referred the federation to a ministry commission which could officially withdraw its government recognition.

"The future fate of the track and field federation will be examined," Kolobkov said Friday in a video statement. "For us now, the main thing is that the training process isn’t interrupted. That means all of the athletes will get the help they need to continue the training and competition process."

Shlyakhtin and four other senior officials are accused of obstructing the investigation into 2017 world championship silver medallist Danil Lysenko, who was facing a ban last year for failing to make himself available for drug testing.

Lysenko allegedly provided fake medical documents as an alibi with help from the officials. His coach has also been suspended.

Earlier, the Kremlin said the charges against Shlyakhtin and others won’t derail the country’s preparations to compete in next year’s Olympics.

"Undoubtedly, this (situation) requires attention from the sports authorities, and I’m sure they’re dealing with it," said Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin. "But I don’t see a direct connection with Russia’s participation in the Olympics here."

With Shlyakhtin suspended, the federation is set to select an interim president at a board meeting on Saturday.

Russia is also facing a World Anti-Doping Agency ruling next month on whether it manipulated data from a lab in Moscow.

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