Russian athletics federation board resigns amid doping stalemate

Newly appointed sports minister Oleg Matytsin said the ‘crisis in Russian athletics has gone on for five years and it has gone on too long.’ (AP)
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Updated 04 February 2020

Russian athletics federation board resigns amid doping stalemate

  • Russia has been suspended since 2015 over a doping scandal
  • Time is running out for Russia’s athletes, who risk missing their second Olympic Games since 2016

MOSCOW: The entire board of Russia’s athletics federation has resigned as the government attempts to find a way out of the country’s deepening doping crisis before this year’s Olympic Games.
The federation (RUSAF) and the Russian sports ministry announced late Monday that the board was handing over its powers to a working group within the Russian Olympic Committee as all of its members resign.
The decision has been made “as RUSAF activities have not led to the reinstatement of the federation in World Athletics,” and to “ensure participation of clean Russian athletes in international and Russian competition,” the joint statement said.
“It’s clear that the crisis in Russian athletics has gone on for five years and it has gone on too long,” Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin, who was appointed last month, was quoted as saying.
Russia has been suspended since 2015 over a doping scandal and was fighting for readmission to the global athletics body.
But the readmission process was suspended last year as Russia was accused of obstructing a probe into high jumper Danil Lysenko.
World Athletics also stopped reviewing which Russians can compete as neutrals with less than six months to go before Tokyo 2020.
Both RUSAF and the former sports minister denied any wrongdoing.
Frustration with RUSAF reached boiling point after the Athletics Integrity Union last week accused Russia of serious violations and recommended “severest possible consequence” but the federation once again protested total innocence.
Under new minister Matytsin, Russia has to provide World Athletics with an answer on the Lysenko probe by February 10, TASS agency reported.
On Tuesday a commission of athletes in RUSAF, including world champions high jumper Maria Lasitskene and hurdler Sergei Shubenkov, said disbanding the board was “the only right decision and crucial to return Russian athletics into the global sports community.”
Time is running out for Russia’s athletes, who risk missing their second Olympic Games since 2016.


Tottenham look to seize on Chelsea’s Premier League slump

Updated 21 February 2020

Tottenham look to seize on Chelsea’s Premier League slump

LONDON: Jose Mourinho had almost reached the end of his lament about the current situation facing his weary Tottenham players when he turned his attention to their next Premier League game against a team he knows so well.

“The Chelsea players were watching this game on TV,” Mourinho said after Tottenham’s 1-0 home loss to Leipzig in the Champions League, “with nice sparkling water, with lemons and biscuits, enjoying the game.”

If only the outlook at Chelsea were so rosy.

Indeed, recent results suggest the predicament of Mourinho’s old club is more concerning than Tottenham’s.

Chelsea, somehow, find themselves still holding onto fourth place in the league heading into Saturday’s London derby against their nearest rivals in the race for Champions League qualification. That’s despite collecting only 15 points from its last 14 games, a dire run stretching back to the end of November.

At that time, Chelsea were on a six-match winning streak — its best since the team’s title-winning season of 2016-17 — and wasn’t too far behind Liverpool, the current runaway leader. Youngsters like Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount and Fikayo Tomori were regular starters, given their opportunity by an up-and-coming manager in Frank Lampard who is eager to promote youth. US winger Christian Pulisic was in his best form since his move from
Borussia Dortmund.

Fast forward three months and injuries are starting to bite, the kids are starting to feel the pace in a grueling season, and Lampard — a bright, eloquent and engaging manager — has been grumbling about the club’s failure to add numbers to the squad in January and his players’
wastefulness in front of goal.

“I must sound like a broken record,” a clearly frustrated Lampard said after seeing Chelsea get picked off in a 2-0 home loss to Manchester United on Monday.

Lampard’s main gripe is the team’s inability to finish off chances, which has become more pronounced with Abraham — a scorer of 13 league goals this season — currently out injured.

With Callum Hudson-Odoi and Pulisic also missing against United, Lampard played a front three of Willian, Michy Batshuayi and Pedro Rodriguez — a throwback to a few years ago and an era Chelsea fans probably thought they’d seen the back of.

Key midfielder N’Golo Kante joined Abraham on the injury list after going off early against United, while Lampard is still playing 38-year-old Willy Caballero in goal after dropping Kepa Arrizabalaga — signed in 2018 as the world’s most expensive goalkeeper.

It’s an uncertain period for Lampard, who is still a rookie in managerial terms, and Chelsea’s recent slump has seen as many as seven teams move within seven points or closer in the standings.

In that three-month period, Tottenham have won 29 points — a haul second only to Liverpool. That coincided exactly with Mourinho taking over as manager from Mauricio Pochettino.

The issue, now, is whether Spurs can keep it up, and Mourinho clearly has his doubts. With attackers Son Heung-min and Harry Kane out potentially for the rest of the season, Mourinho likened his team to someone “going to fight with a gun without bullets.”

Amid a hectic schedule that has seen his team play two FA Cup replays since the turn of the year, Mourinho said he has been forced to start with the same group of players for matches every three of four days. Erik Lamela and Tanguy Ndombele came off the bench against Leipzig having barely trained.

“I try to manage the pieces that we had,” he said.

Throw in the fact that Tottenham has a tight turnaround after the Leipzig match — Wednesday night to Saturday lunchtime — and Mourinho will feel he has genuine cause for grievance.

Yet, he is managing to scramble together results and a win at Stamford Bridge, where he previously enjoyed two separate trophy-winning spells as coach and was once revered, would see Tottenham climb above Chelsea.

Outmanoeuvring Mourinho, his former coach, in a 2-0 win at Tottenham in December was one of the few bright spots for Lampard in recent months. 

Doing so again would give him and Chelsea some much-needed breathing space in what is suddenly a bunched chase for Champions League qualification.