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Russian athletes appeal to Putin over coach banned for life

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MOSCOW (AP) Russian Olympic athletes have appealed to President Vladimir Putin to help a coach who was banned for life over doping.

Four Olympic medalists, two of whom have been stripped of medals as part of doping bans, are among signatories on an open letter calling on the Russian president to ''restore the good name'' of coach Viktor Chegin whose ban was announced Friday.

Russian anti-doping authorities ruled Chegin helped run ''a scheme of using banned substances'' at his training center, which fielded a world-beating team of race walkers but also saw more than two dozen failed doping tests.

The letter to Putin, released by a Russian sports fund, portrays Chegin as ''a real professional and true patriot of Great Russia'' whose ban was due to political pressure from the West.