For those of who don’t know of Victor Chegin, here’s a crash course in the man behind one of the most successful dynasties in track and field athletics. Chegin is the head coach at the Centre for Olympic Preparation in Saransk, a city of 300,000 in the Russian Republic of Mordovia. This is one of only two performance centres in the world dedicated to walking and regularly contributes more than half the Russian walkers at major championships. Backed by an annual budget believed to be more than 2 million dollars, Saransk has produced a production line of European, World and Olympic medallists since Irina Stankina won a world title in 1995 in Gothenburg.
Unfortunately there is a dark side to the Russian successes as 16, that’s right 16, of Chegin’s walkers have been banned or suspended for various doping infringements. You can also add a marathon runner to the list. The list as it stands is as follows:
A 17th walker (18th overall) joined the list of shame today
European champion over 20km in 2010 or so everyone thought. The IAAF have announced that, due to abnormalities on his biological passport, he has been suspended for 2 years and his results have been voided since the day before he won his European title in 2010.
The list of shame
2008 Olympian who served a suspension between Olympics. Returned to finish 5th at London 2012 but that result was voided when examination of his biological passport showed problems which eventually led to him being given a life ban.
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European U23 champion currently serving a ban for blood doping.
World Youth medallist who tested positive for Fenoterol.
2012 World junior champion currently serving a ban after testing positive for EPO.
2013 European U23 20km champion banned after bio passport problems.
World Youth medallist suspended after a positive test at this year’s Russian Championships. Awaiting a full hearing.
Briefly world champion in 1999 until the drug tests came back. Returned in 2003 to win World Championship silver. Died at the age of 45.
Olympic champion in 2008, World champion in 2009 and 2011. Served a 12 month ban between 2005 and 2006 and was then involved in a bizarre series of events before the Beijing Olympics.
Russian news agency All Sport reported in the week before the Games started that Borchin had failed an out of competition test for EPO. Borchin denied the allegation and the matter was never elaborated on by the Russian authorties.
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Morozov set a time at the 2011 Russian Championships that broke the existing 20 km world best though it was never ratified as a record due to a lack of post-race drug testing. He is currently serving a life ban after twice testing positive for EPO.
World record holder and World Championship medallist over 20 km. Missed Beijing Olympics after testing positive for EPO.
World Championship medallist over 20 km. Missed Beijing Olympics after testing positive for EPO.
Winner of medals at European Championships, World Championships and Olympic Games. Missed Beijing Olympics after testing positive for EPO
An 18 year old, one of the world’s top juniors, suspended after a positive test at this year’s Russian Championships. Awaiting a full hearing.
19 years old. Recently completed a ban for Fenoterol.
Currently serving a ban for Carphedon.
The undisputed star of women’s race walking at the current time. This weekend it was announced that the current world and Olympic champion had tested positive for the experimental drug GW501516. After promising results in medical tests research on GW1516 was abandoned after it was discovered to cause cancerous tumours in rodents.
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And the odd man out.
Not a walker but a marathon runner.
Marathon runner who competed at the 2009 World Championships. Another who was banned after analysis of his biological passport.
It has to be said that no evidence directly linking Chegin to any doping programme has ever been published although many top name coaches and competitors have expressed extreme distrust. Olympic medallist Jared Tallent of Australia has directly called on the IAAF to ban him and that feeling is by no means unique in the walking community. In theory the proposed changes in the WADA code for 2015 could make a suspension of a coach easier to happen but, of course, they have to prove that he is the mastermind behind the doping programme or at least neglectful in his duties to his athletes. Perhaps we’re being unfair to Chegin, maybe he’s not the cynical manipulator many believe to him to be but, at the very least, answers have to be given as to why so many of the charges have turned to the dark side of the sport.
With thanks to Jared Tallent and Steven Mils for alerting me to the rogues gallery.