By Nick Butler

The investigation followed a failed test by world and Olympic champion, Elena Lashmanova ©AFP/Getty ImagesViktor Kolesnikov, Director of Russia's Centre for Race Walking in Saransk, has been banned for four years following an investigation into systematic doping after a surfeit of failed drugs tests by athletes under his charge.

At least 17 leading race walkers at the facility have served bans, including the reigning Olympic and world champion and world record holder, Elena Lashmanova, who was suspended for two years in July for taking banned substance GW1516.

In a statement, the Russian Ministry of Sport revealed the Russian Anti Doping Agency (RUSADA) decided to suspend the official for "violating anti-doping rules".

No specific reason for the ban was provided in the statement, though in a similar message on the RUSADA website, it is explained that the ban started on August 21 this year, and was due to a violation of paragraphs 9.2., 9.6. and 9.10 of the All-Russian anti-doping rules.

These relate to use of prohibited substances and prohibited methods and being part of a "doping plan or scheme".

Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko insisted afterwards how "Russia plays an active role in the fight against doping, and will continue to use all available means and methods to teach the society about zero tolerance for doping".

Vitaly Mutko insists Russia has a zero tolerance approach to doping ©AFP/Getty ImagesVitaly Mutko insists Russia has a zero tolerance approach to doping ©AFP/Getty Images

No ban has yet been awarded to the Centre's controversial coach, Viktor Chegin, and, although he was dropped from the Russian team for August's European Championships in connection with the anti-doping probe, he has continued to train athletes.

According to R-Sport, Russian athletics chief Valentin Balakhnichev revealed investigations were "continuing," when asked about Chegin.

Five Russians were banned in 2008 prior to the Beijing Olympics after testing positive for Erythropoietin (EPO), including men's 20 kilometre world record holder Vladimir Kanaykin, who returned to competition to win silver at the 2011 World Championships.

Valeriy Borchin won gold at Beijing 2008 after serving a one-year ban for taking banned stimulant ephedrine. while 2001 and 2005 world champion and Athens 2004 Olympic silver medallist Olimpiada Ivanova had previously served a two-year ban after failing for stanozolol.

The investigation was also a strong example of athlete-power after Australian race-walking star Jared Tallent founded an online campaign lobbying the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to ban Russian officials for repeated failures.

Jared Tallent has particularly called for Russian coach Viktor Chegin to be banned after the 17 failures experienced by athletes he coaches ©Getty ImagesJared Tallent has particularly called for Russian coach Viktor Chegin to be banned after the 17 failures experienced by athletes he coaches ©Getty Images

This campaign was praised on Twitter by IAAF vice-president, Sergey Bubka, who promised to raise the issue at an IAAF Council Meeting. 

Tallent won a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games, beaten only by Sergey Kirdyapkin, another Russian who trains at the Centre, although he has never been directly implicated in a failed test. 

But the incident is further evidence of a doping culture in Russian sport that saw 32 cases in athletics alone in 2013, as well as many others across Summer and Winter Olympic disciplines. 

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