MONTE CARLO, Monaco &
Seven Russian female athletes, including an indoor world record holder and a two-time world champion, were provisionally suspended today by the IAAF on doping-related charges.
Yelena Soboleva, who set an indoor world record in the 1,500-meters at this year's world championships, was among those accused of doping eight days before the opening of the Beijing Olympics "for a fraudulent substitution of urine which is both a prohibited method and also a form of tampering with the doping control process."
Two-time world 1,500 champion Tatyana Tomashova also was suspended, along with middle-distance runners Yulia Fomenko, Svetlana Cherkasova and Olga Yegorova. Hammer thrower Gulfiya Khanafeyeva and discus thrower Darya Pishchalnikova also were charged.
Soboleva, Tomashova, Fomenko, Khanafeyeva and Pishchalnikova have all qualified for the Beijing Olympics.
"This shows we are willing to do anything to stop doping," IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said. "The IAAF is ready to take on an investigative approach on these issues if it needs to."
The IAAF said the matter would be turned over to the All Russia Athletics Federation. It was unclear when the supposed tampering took place.
"These rule violations were established following the deliberate storage of samples by the IAAF and reanalysis using comparative DNA techniques, and were the result of a specific investigation which was instigated and carried out by the IAAF for more than a year," the IAAF said in a statement.
Russian officials were displeased with the timing of the track body's announcement.
"The IAAF could do nothing better ahead of the games in Beijing," The All Russia Athletics Federation president Valentin Balakhnichev said. "It's not a civilized approach."
According to IAAF rules, athletes have up to 14 days to request a hearing with their national federation. If a hearing is requested, it must be held within two months.
Fomenko was second to Soboleva when she set the world record of — minutes, 57.71 seconds on March 9 in Valencia, Spain, breaking her previous mark of 3:58.05.
Tomashova won world titles at the 2003 and '05 championships, and won silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics, while Yegorova won the 5,000 at the 2001 Edmonton worlds and took silver in the 1,500 at the 2005 Helsinki worlds and gold in the 3,000 at the 2001 indoor worlds.
Pishchalnikova won the silver medal in the discus at the 2007 worlds and gold at the 2006 European championships, and Khanafeyeva won silver in the hammer throw at the 2006 Europeans and set a world record in her event in 2006.
"This is all about the clear favorites," Russian Olympic Committee anti-doping chief Nikolay Durmanov said. "There are many questions. The first is: What in fact happened? There will be a special inquiry.
"A less important question but a more pertinent one is: Why is the issue of last year's tests emerging just a week ahead of the games? Couldn't this question have been discussed with us in May, June or March?"
Both Yegorova and Khanafeyeva have been embroiled in doping scandals before.
Yegorova tested positive for EPO in 2001, but the result was thrown out because the French lab conducting the test did not follow the proper procedure. Khanafeyeva tested positive for an unspecified stimulant at the World Military Games in India in 2007, but the case was later dismissed.
Also Thursday, Romanian middle-distance runners Elena Antoci and Cristina Vasiloiu tested positive for the blood booster EPO and could be dropped from the country's Olympic team pending a second test, an official said.
7 Russian athletes, world record holder, suspended for doping by IAAF
MONTE CARLO, Monaco &