June 06, 2016

MOSCOW (AP) Six Russian weightlifters, including former world and European junior champions, have been banned for doping violations, the country's national anti-doping agency said Monday.

The agency said 2014 world junior champion Larisa Kobeleva received a four-year ban, while 2014 European junior champion Nadezhda Ovchinnikova was suspended for two years.

The four other weightlifters received sanctions of between four and eight years for doping offenses committed last year. The agency did not publish details of the offenses.

Russia's weightlifting team is already under pressure after four of its top athletes, including world record holder Alexei Lovchev, were banned for doping at November's world championships. Lovchev has appealed.

The agency also announced a four-year ban for Russian judo champion Pyotr Khachirov.

The latest bans come less than two weeks before a key vote by the IAAF on whether to allow Russia's track and field team to compete at the Olympics. The team was suspended in November after a World Anti-Doping Agency commission's report alleged drug use was systematic and sponsored by the Russian state.

Also Monday, the Russian Sports Ministry pledged to add anti-doping education to the curriculum in all schools. However, it maintained that doping had not been state sponsored.

Nataliya Zhelanova, anti-doping adviser to Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, wrote ''no'' during a question-and-answer session on Twitter when asked if the ministry's recent conciliatory tone toward WADA was matched by acceptance of the accusation that it had a role in doping.

''The state has taken a lead in doing everything to demonstrate we are reforming and have nothing to hide,'' she tweeted.

The ministry said there will be compulsory lessons for ''millions of children'' in schools across Russia and more specialized education addressed at young athletes aged 10 and over in more than 3,000 state sports academies.

''Our job of eradicating doping from sport will be considerably helped by teaching children from an early age that this is not acceptable in our society,'' the acting head of the Russian anti-doping agency, Anna Antseliovich, said in the ministry statement.

Antseliovich's agency is currently suspended from collecting samples after the WADA commission's report accused its employees of helping to cover up doping.

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