Russia to cancel contract between banned coach and state sports facility

By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber
President of Russia’s athletics federation, Shlyakhtin speaks during a meeting of the federation in Moscow

By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia will cancel a state contract between banned race walking coach Viktor Chegin and the athletics facility where he was formerly head coach after Reuters revealed his firm provided security there, Russia's athletics federation said on Thursday.

Reuters reported this month that Chegin had won three state contracts worth a combined 8.5 million roubles ($130,000) to provide security to the training facility in the city of Saransk since his life doping ban took effect in 2016.

Although Chegin's business activities are not prohibited under international anti-doping regulations, they show how Russia, which says it has reformed its practices following a 2015 doping scandal, has continued to back a high-profile coach serving a life ban.

Dmitry Shlyakhtin, the president of Russia's suspended athletics federation, said in a statement that the head of the Mordovia region, where the facility is located, had tasked the regional sports ministry with voiding Chegin's current contract with the facility in the near future.

"Formally Chegin's commercial activities do not constitute a violation of the terms of his ban, but we understand that security at the facility and access to athletes is a sensitive matter for anti-doping services," Shlyakhtin said in a statement.

Chegin did not respond to Reuters phone calls on Thursday.

The three state contracts, signed in 2016, 2017 and 2019, have allowed Chegin to remain close to the facility, located in Saransk, some 600km east of Moscow, and the athletes' training there.

According to WADA rules, athletes must not receive training, strategy, nutritional or medical advice from banned coaches and medical staff and can face sanctions if they do.

Vera Nacharkina, a former race walker who is the facility's director, told Reuters this month it was possible that Chegin visited the facility to monitor his firm's activities there.

A 2015 report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) found that there was a "systematic doping regime" under Chegin's influence at the sports venue where his firm now provides security.

The racewalkers in Chegin's charge regularly used blood transfusions, in violation of doping rules, and took banned substances, the report said.

Russia's athletics federation was suspended after the 2015 report found evidence of mass doping in the sport. The IAAF, the global governing body of athletics, this month decided not to lift Russia's suspension.

(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Ed Osmond)