Dmitry Shlyakhtin has been elected as the new President of the All-Russia Athletics Federation (ARAF) as the organisation looks to overturn its ban from competition in time for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
The Minister of Sport of the Samara Oblast region was elected unanimously at an ARAF conference in Moscow today and faces a monumental task due to the widespread allegations of state sponsored doping which have embroiled the country.
Maksim Karamashev, a former steeplechase athlete from Khakassia, was the only other candidate as two others, Mikhail Butov and 2010 European high jump champion Aleksandr Shustov, reportedly pulled out before the election.
Fifty-four-year-old Butov, the current general secretary of the ARAF and a member of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) ruling Council, had been favourite to win but he has announced that he would prefer to stay in his current role.
In theory, he could have been a key figure in the negotiations between the IAAF and ARAF as President.
“As you know, we are living in difficult times for our sport and our athletes and their very existence in the Olympic Games, the highlight of any athlete’s life, is in great danger,” said Butov.
“As General Secretary I am spending every hour of every day working closely with the IAAF Council, European Athletics, the Anti Doping and Russian Sports authorities, IAAF Task Force and Interim Coordination Committee of the Russian Olympic Committee.
“The importance of this mission cannot be underestimated and I take these tasks very seriously.
“Therefore, after a lot of thought and soul searching I have decided to withdraw my candidacy for the presidency of Russian Athletics Federation so I can put all my energies into being successful In these tasks and ensuring our athletes wear Russian vests in the Rio Olympics.”
Shlyakhtin will only serve for eight months before new elections are held after this summer’s Olympics.
Russia are in huge danger of missing track and field competition at the Games after they were suspended by the IAAF due to doping allegations and cover-ups revealed by the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Independent Commission.
The new man replaces Valentin Balakhnichev, who stood down in February when the reports of wrongdoing first emerged via German broadcaster ARD.
Balakhnichev has since been banned for life by the IAAF’s Ethics Commission for involvement in a blackmail plot, along with Papa Massata Diack, the son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack, and race-walking coach Alexei Melnikov.
The trio, alongside former IAAF anti-doping director Gabriel Dollé who was banned for five years, were charged in relation to payments of approximately £435,000 ($634,000/€583,000) made by Russia’s Liliya Shobukhova, a three-time Chicago Marathon winner, to cover up doping violations.
Balakhnichev was also the Soviet Union’s national athletics coach from 1978 to 1984.
He has hinted that the likelihood of him appealing his ban could depend on whether Russia’s athletes appear in Rio.
“I have time until January 28 to take a decision,” he told TASS.
“I am inclined to think that I must go further.
“I cannot take any decisions on my own because in this case the problem concerns the interests of Russian sports and track-and-field athletics in particular.
“If we reach an agreement that Russia’s national team is admitted to the Games in Rio there will be no point to plunge into this case because of me.”
Vadim Zelichenok took over the ARAF Presidency on a temporary basis following Balakhnichev’s resignation but was not among the candidates to fill the position permanently.
The IAAF Task Force, charged with overseeing Russia’s potential reinstatement to the international fold, arrived in Moscow on Monday (January 11).
The country has been given a list of criteria it must meet to be welcomed back, including a demonstration that drug-testing activities in Russia can be carried out “effectively and without interference”.
Another condition is that directors, officers or staff with past involvement in doping are released, with the IAAF demanding that Russia “cleans house”.
All of the pending disciplinary cases against Russian athletes and support personnel must be resolved quickly – generally within three months – while the cases involving international level athletes will be prosecuted by the IAAF before the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
IAAF President Sebastian Coe has claimed the criteria has “left no room for doubt” with Shlyakhtin now a major figure in the process.
The Task Force is due to report its findings at the IAAF Council meeting in Cardiff on March 27, with no lifting of Russia’s ban possible until after then.
That means that Russia will miss the World Indoor Championships in Portland, the United States, which start on March 17.
No time-frame has been set for possible reinstatement.
Meanwhile, Grigoriy Kabelskiy and Viktor Morgachev have been elected as ARAF vice-presidents from a shortlist of 16 initial candidates, from which Butov also withdrew.
Kabelskiy is the Minister of Physical Education and Sports in the Penza region, while Morgachev has worked as an athletics coach with the Russian team.
Those to miss out on roles on the Executive Committee included Russian Olympic champions Yelena Isinbayeva, the 33-year-old two-time pole vault winner who plans to stand for the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes Commission, and Athens 2004 long jump gold medallist Tatyana Lebedeva.
Russia’s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko had previously demanded an ARAF President who could “put the situation under control”.
“The ARAF needs an anti-crisis manager,” he told TASS.
- By Dan Palmer
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, www.insidethegames.biz