Valentin Maslakov, the top athletics coach for the Russian Olympic team, announced he was stepping down from his post on Friday, the AP reports. A former athlete himself, Maslakov had competed in the men’s 200 meters at the 1968 Olympics. Beginning in 2007, he served as an administrator and organizer for the Russian team, working with coaches in a variety of disciplines.
The end of the 70-year-old’s coaching tenure comes at a time when the World Anti-Doping Agency has been conducting an investigation into claims of widespread doping among Russian competitors. Last Tuesday, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency announced the ban of five Russian race walkers, including three Olympic gold medalists. Maslakov has repeatedly described the investigation as a farce, even hinting that his athletes were the targets of a conspiracy among anti-doping officials.
“These are people who themselves do not have clean hands, who are themselves mixed up in doping cases,” Maslakov told R-Sport last July. “I have a suspicion that behind them are certain people who are urging them into these actions.”
Valentin Balakhnichev, the head of the Russian athletics federation, declined to say whether the recent bans or the ongoing investigation had an effect on Maslakov’s departure. He has, in the past, referred to allegations of doping with contempt and derision. In particular, he adamantly rejected claims in a German TV documentary in late 2014 that a network of corruption had developed to protect members of the Russian Olympic team, 99 percent of whom were doping. The documentary, released by German TV channel ARD, specifically claimed that Balakhnichev was implicit in a $450,000 payment made by Russian marathoner Liliya Shobukhov to avoid a doping ban.
“It is an unfair account,” Balakhnichev told the Guardian. “I can say that there are a pack of lies.”
Balakhnichev said Wednesday he was considering resigning but would only do so once significant progress had been made in policing doping among Russia’s top athletes.