Russia aims to hit dopers in the pocket



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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia wants to hit dopers where it hurts — in their bank accounts.

In a push to restore Russia's sporting reputation after numerous doping scandals, the government has approved a plan to reclaim prize money and government grants from athletes who are found to be cheating.

Several Russian athletes have been able to hold onto large sums, despite being caught doping.

In a package of anti-doping measures signed Monday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev ordered the Russian Sports Ministry and national sports federations to develop a scheme for "confiscating income and property from athletes, coaches, doctors and other specialists" involved in doping cases.

It wasn't specified how this would be achieved. The Sports Ministry has previously faced allegations from World Anti-Doping Agency investigators that its own staff covered up doping.

Besides prize money from competitions, Russian athletes often get lavish rewards from the state, and many keep them even if banned as drug cheats.

Gold medalists from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, for example, received 4 million rubles ($70,000) from a public-private fund, plus a white BMW SUV in a ceremony at the Kremlin. Regional governments also handed out apartments, cars and, in one case, even a horse.

Organizers of many international sports events require athletes to pay back prize money if they're later disqualified over a failed drug test. However, enforcing these rules is difficult. The threat of further sporting sanctions is meaningless for an athlete who has retired or is banned for life.

An Associated Press investigation last year found one Russian athlete, the former Olympic race-walking champion Olga Kaniskina, was liable to repay $135,000 in prize money from events where she was later disqualified.

Foreign athletes who have been upgraded to track and field titles as a result of doping disqualifications for Russians have complained of having to wait years for their prize money. International track and field events typically insist dopers must pay back the prize money in full before anything is paid to the new medalists.

The package of measures signed Monday also includes plans to stop those who commit doping offenses from taking jobs as coaches or state sports officials, a common occurrence in Russia.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

James Ellingworth

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