March 25, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) Russian race walking coach Viktor Chegin has been banned for life for his involvement in doping.

The Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA) said Friday that Chegin was found guilty of two charges related to helping athletes to dope, following an investigation lasting more than 18 months.

Chegin turned Russia's race walkers into a world-beating team, including medals at the last three Olympics, and was rewarded with near-total control of a state-funded training center named in his honor.

However, his success was undermined in recent years by more than 30 failed tests and doping cases by Russian walkers, most of them linked to his center. They include several Olympic and world champions who had been coached by him personally.

Leading race walkers from other countries had long accused Chegin of being the ringleader in a doping program at the center in the central Russian city of Saransk, and organized a ''Ban Chegin'' social media campaign.

He was recommended for a lifetime ban in November by a World Anti-Doping Agency commission which said there was ''an institutionalized and systematic approach to doping among Russian race walkers'' which ''shows no sign of stopping.''

RUSADA said that its investigation included interviews with athletes and staff at Chegin's center as well as analysis of blood data from athletes. The agency said it ''was able to prove the involvement of Viktor Chegin in a scheme of using banned substances and methods at the center.''

Chegin is now banned from any role in sport, whether as a coach, official or agent. The Russian track and field federation said that it and the Russian Olympic Committee had approved the ban.

On Thursday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport retroactively disqualified five of Chegin's walkers from events including the Olympics and world championships, meaning Russia stands to lose two Olympic medals.

Chegin stepped down from his post in July last year while facing a doping investigation and shortly after six walkers at his center failed drug tests.

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