April 21, 2015

SOCHI, Russia (AP) Russia will not be barred from major athletics competitions because of allegations of systematic doping, IAAF President Lamine Diack said Tuesday.

Russia is being investigated by the IAAF ethics commission and the World Anti-Doping Agency over claims its officials ran a sophisticated doping program. Four Olympic track champions from Russia have been banned this year alone.

However, suggestions that Russia could be excluded from the world athletics championships or Olympics are ''a joke.''

''They are in. They are in,'' Diack said. ''It's a great nation of athletics.''

In December, a German TV program reported that doping is organized in Russian sports, and that almost all athletes used banned substances.

''We had a declaration in Russia, that they are 99 percent doped and so on. I said: `What?' It is exaggerated,'' Diack said. ''It is ridiculous.''

Diack compared Russia's doping problem to the scandals in the United States in the 1990s and said it should be solved in a similar way, with stricter enforcement by an independent agency.

Separately, new Russian athletics coach Yuri Borzakovsky defended controversial race walking coach Viktor Chegin, who has trained several Olympic champions but also seen more than 20 of his athletes banned for doping.

He is currently under investigation by the IAAF as part of its probe into Russian doping, but has not been suspended.

''He's a professional in his field, even though people are slandering him with doping scandals,'' Borzakovsky said, praising Chegin's record in producing medal winners. ''I have a lot of respect for any coach with that kind of experience.''

With the world championships coming up this year in Beijing and the Olympics next year in Rio de Janeiro, Borzakovsky said Chegin will remain on the Russian team ''until there's an official piece of paper saying he's accused of something or other.''

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