Two Russian athletes who refused to undergo drug tests earlier this year are among four more competitors from the country to have been sanctioned for doping.
The Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) confirmed in a statement posted on their website that hurdlers Andrei Gapon and Denis Chernyaev have each been sanctioned with four-year suspensions, backdated to February 20, for “evading doping testing”.
According to Sports Integrity Initiative, the duo refused to be tested at the Russian Under-23 Championships in Saint Petersburg.
Javelin thrower Igor Nikolaev has also been handed a four-year ban, backdated to November 28, while fellow javelin athlete Alexei Tolokonnikov has been ruled ineligible for two years from January 31.
Both athletes failed tests but the nature of the respective substances has not been revealed.
None of the four athletes are among Russia’s leading track and field stars.
But, while the action by RusAF shows a desire for change, the lingering instances of athletes evading tests also brings cause for concern.
In January, 36 competitors suddenly withdrew from the Siberian Indoor Championships in Irkutsk, either due to an unspecified “illness” or for no given reason, when drug testers paid a surprise visit.
Earlier this month, the International Association of Athletics Federations also threatened to extend RusAF’s suspension after it emerged that top race-walkers from the country are still working with disgraced coach Viktor Chegin.
Chegin, linked to more than 30 race-walkers implicated in doping cases, has been banned from any involvement in the sport for life.
The IAAF warned RusAF their exclusion from the governing body could become permanent if they do not address the remaining problems.
Russian athletes are still eligible to apply to compete as “Authorised Neutral Athletes (ANA)” while the suspension remains in place.
RusAF announced that sprinters Irina Boldyreva and Viktoria Gorlova, long jumper Maria Privalova, discus thrower Natalia Shirobokova, high jumper Adelina Khalikova and pole vaulter Georgy Gorokhov are the latest to have made such requests this week.
But five race walkers have had their ANA status revoked by the IAAF for training with Chegin.