MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s new athletics head said his priority was to ensure Russian sportsmen and women compete at the 2016 Olympics as the sport tries to tackle rampant doping.
“This is not an easy time for Russia, it is not an easy time for athletics,” said Dmitry Shlyakhtin, who was elected as the new president of the Russian Athletics Federation (VFLA) on Saturday. “Going to the Olympic Games is task number one.”
Russia was suspended from world athletics last year following allegations of widespread and state-sponsored doping in a report by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), igniting the country’s biggest sporting scandal in several decades.
Senior officials at the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) were also involved in conspiracies to cover up the extent of the doping and blackmail athletes, a second part of the WADA report revealed on Thursday.
Shlyakhtin, who is sports minister of Russia’s Samara region, was elected unanimously by over 100 VFLA officials at the federation’s conference in Moscow.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said Shlyakhtin was an experienced organiser who could grapple with the challenges facing Russian sport.
“I hope he will be the candidate who can manage the task of restoring the lost position of our athletics,” he was quoted as saying by Tass news agency.
(Reporting by Jack Stubbs and Dmitry Rogovitskiy; Editing by Dominic Evans)