February 10, 2015

MOSCOW (AP) Russia's anti-doping chief cited evidence Tuesday of systematic doping among the country's Olympic champion race-walkers and compared the case to that of Lance Armstrong.

Five Russian walkers, including three Olympic champions, were banned for doping last month. Five world championship gold medals from 2009 and 2011 look set to be re-awarded.

Russian anti-doping agency chief executive Nikita Kamaev said the walkers' biological data shows clear links between the ''methods'' and ''approaches'' used to dope.

''The structure of the offenses and the systematic nature of the offenses were obvious,'' he said in comments reported by the R-Sport agency.

Kamaev said further bans could follow but that the case was complex, adding that ''the Armstrong case took more than 2 1/2 years. Our case is no simpler.''

Armstrong was banned for life in 2012 for doping offenses and stripped of his seven Tour de France wins.

Russia's investigation focuses on the national race-walking training center in Saransk. At least 20 athletes who trained there under the oversight of head coach Viktor Chegin have been banned for doping in recent years.

The center's longtime director, Viktor Kolesnikov, was banned last year for four years for possessing substances outlawed under anti-doping rules. He was briefly replaced by Olympic champion Olga Kaniskina, who resigned last month when she became one of the five walkers banned for doping.

The IAAF is investigating various other allegations related to the center, including that athletes were allowed to compete while banned and that the center employed a coach who had been banned from athletics for life.

The IAAF and World Anti-Doping Agency are also investigating accusations made in a German TV documentary in December. The program alleged that doping was organized by leading Russian athletics coaches and that Kamaev's anti-doping agency covered up positive tests by top Russians from several other sports.

Speaking Tuesday, Kamaev continued to deny any wrongdoing by his agency.

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