Lashmanova and Kanishkina, two 'cheaters' who will be coaches. GETTY IMAGES

Russia, embroiled in a long-running dispute with the world's major sporting institutions, has just appointed three former athletes banned for doping, Yelena Lashmanova, Sergei Kirdyapkin and Olga Kanishkina, as coaches of the national team.

Russia has been at loggerheads with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) ever since it topped the medals table at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and the subsequent confessions of Grigory Rodchenkov (the former head of the Moscow Central Laboratory, which was suspended the following year) led to an investigation that engulfed Russian sport.

WADA has handled this matter with the utmost professionalism and has tried to leave no loose ends, something that was perhaps lacking in the "Balco Laboratories" and "Nike Oregon Project" scandals, both in the United States.

In this dynamic of constant confrontation, marked by the multimillion-dollar payment demanded by WADA from the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA), Russia has taken action with a challenging decision by appointing three former athletes, all under the shadow of doping, as coaches of the national athletics team: Yelena Lashmanova, Sergei Kirdyapkin and Olga Kanishkina.

Lashmanova, 31, who was born in Saransk (the temple of Russian race walking), excelled in the youth categories and won two 20km gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2013 Moscow World Championships, before testing positive for GW1516 or Endurobol (a modification of the EPO) in an out-of-competition test carried out in January 2014.

Kirdyapkin, 43, who was born in the small town of Insar in Mordovia, was also Olympic champion in the 50km walk at London 2012 and twice world champion, in Helsinki in 2005 and Berlin in 2009, with what was then the second-best mark in history, which he later lost due to irregularities in his biological passport with some unacceptable values. 

Sergei Kirdyapkin's past is tainted by doping. GETTY IMAGES
Sergei Kirdyapkin's past is tainted by doping. GETTY IMAGES

Kanishkina, 38, from Napolnaya Tavla in Mordovia, won gold in the 20km race walking at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a year earlier at the 2007 World Championships in Osaka, as well as silver at the 2006 European Championships in Gothenburg. However, she was stripped of her gold medals at the 2009 Berlin and 2011 Daegu World Championships for doping.

The three former athletes were then triaged by Viktor Chegin, who was banned for life by WADA after it was revealed that he had created a parallel doping universe at his headquarters in Saransk, Mordovia, Russia, with around 30 athletes banned for doping, including the aforementioned three, but also Valery Borchin, Viktor Burayev, Stanislav Emelyanov, Olimpiada Ivanova, Vladimir Kanaykin and many others.

According to the Russian agency TASS, citing alleged official documents, Lashmanova, Kirdyapkin and Kanishkina will join the national team in 2024 as endurance coaches. This is undoubtedly a decision that could raise eyebrows within WADA and perhaps the IOC, although Russia has every right to appoint the coaches it sees fit.

Insidethegames contacted WADA, who said: "They have all served a period of ineligibility following their respective anti-doping rule violations. As such, they are free to return under the terms of the World Anti-Doping Code. The decision to appoint them as coaches within Russian athletics is therefore entirely a matter for the Russian authorities".