ZURICH (Reuters) - Seven Russian athletes, including former 1,500 metres world champion Tatyana Tomashova, have been banned for two years and nine months each, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said on Wednesday.
Middle-distance runners Yelena Soboleva, Olga Yegorova, Yelena Fomenko and Svetlana Cherkasova, discus thrower Darya Pishchalnikova and former hammer world record holder Gulfia Khanafeyeva were also banned following an appeal by the International Athletics Federation (IAAF).
CAS said it had amended the starting dates of the original bans and that all would now run from July 31 2008 to April 30 2011.
It also annulled results obtained by the athletes since April or May 2007.
CAS said the bans related to an investigation begun by the IAAF in March 2007 into the possible manipulation of urine samples collected in an out-of-competition testing in Russia.
The investigation concluded that the seven appeared to have breached IAAF rules because of a fraudulent manipulation of urine samples, CAS said.
The Russian Athletics Federation (RAF) found the athletes guilty in October and suspended them for two years each.
The IAAF appealed, requesting that the bans be increased to four years.
“It was unacceptable to the IAAF that these athletes who had committed serious and deliberate breaches of our anti-doping Rules would receive an effective ban of approximately 9-10 months and see them eligible to compete again in the summer of 2009,” the IAAF said in a statement.
“The IAAF is pleased to note that the starting date of the sanctions has been amended and also the length of sanction increased over and above the minimum two years.
“It should provide a strong warning to any athletes who are considering doping that their samples will be stored and may be later re-analysed, meaning they are never safe from the detection of their cheating against their fellow athletes.”
Cherkasova called the decision unfair.
“I just talked to the girls, we’re all very disappointed,” she was quoted as saying by All Sport news agency.
“This is all very unfair. If someone takes banned substances unwittingly or even on purpose they get two-year bans.
“We haven’t committed any offence nor ever tested positive and still we were sentenced to four years if you take into account the date of the original test (March 2007),” she said.
Cherkasova, who finished sixth in the 800 metres at the 2007 world championships in Osaka and competed at the 2004 Athens Olympics, said she was still undecided if she would come back after her ban expires in April 2011.
“We would still have a chance to compete at the 2011 world championships and the 2012 Olympics in London, that’s a plus,” she said. “Maybe some of us will take a break from the sport to have kids.”
RAF president Valentin Balakhnichyov was pleased with the verdict, however.
“We are satisfied,” Balakhnichyov told Reuters.
“Just like IAAF, we too are fighting against doping so we have to be pleased. As for the athletes, the decision gives them a chance to make a comeback. That’s what important,” he added.
Additional reporting by Gennady Fyodorov in Moscow; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org