January 16, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) The Russian athletics federation elected a politically connected former coach as its new president Saturday as it tries to end the country's suspension from Olympic track and field.

Dmitry Shlyakhtin, a regional sports minister in the Samara region of central Russia, was elected unanimously after his main rival withdrew as part of a deal brokered by senior Russian officials.

Shlyakhtin said his ''task is simple, to return Russian athletics to the world level and to revive trust.''

Russia was suspended in November following the publication of a World Anti-Doping Agency report alleging a vast state-sponsored doping operation.

Russian athletes are banned from competing in international track and field competitions, including the Olympics, and Shlyakhtin pledged to follow the recommendations set by the IAAF, track's global governing body, for Russia's reinstatement.

Those recommendations include investigating past doping cases, cooperating with drug testing agencies and shutting out coaches and officials who were involved with doping.

Shlyakhtin will head an ''anti-crisis team'' of new Russian track officials, said Gennady Alyoshin, Russia's chief negotiator with WADA and the IAAF during its suspension.

Alyoshin said anyone involved in doping faced sporting sanctions and that any evidence of criminality would be reported.

''People who have allowed breaches of anti-doping law will be punished,'' he said. ''We have to do that.''

Shlyakhtin's victory in Saturday's vote was enabled by an agreement among senior officials not to re-elect any members of the former federation management. That ruled out Shlyakhtin's main rival Mikhail Butov, who had been federation general secretary since 2008, occupying a senior post during the time when WADA alleges doping was rife.

However, Butov will remain general secretary ''temporarily'' while the new management settles in, Alyoshin said. Butov told Russia's Tass agency he intended to stay until December.

Shlyakhtin was a military coach of track and rugby before he rose up the ranks, running the Defense Ministry's sports club and preparing Samara to host matches in soccer's 2018 World Cup.

His presidency could last as little as eight months, since new elections are scheduled for September after the Olympics.

Shlyakhtin succeeds Valentin Balakhnichev, who was banned for life by the IAAF last week over the alleged extortion of hundreds of thousands of dollars from a suspended marathon runner. Balakhnichev had stepped down from his federation role in February 2015 following a doping scandal, with his former assistant Vadim Zelichenok acting president until Saturday's elections.

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