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New Russian athletics president vows to rebuild

MOSCOW (AP) — The Russian Athletics Federation elected a state aircraft executive as president on Friday with the goal of getting the national team reinstated in time for the Tokyo Olympics. Yevgeny Yurchenko, who has little experience in sports management, was the only candidate in the race — three others withdrew from the election this month — and vowed to rebuild Russia’s track and field body.

“We are positive that all of our future work will be dedicated to ensuring this doesn't happen again, reinstating (the federation's) status and participating in the Olympic Games,” Yurchenko said. This month, the federation’s entire board stepped down after a meeting with Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin, citing its failure to resolve the country's long-running difficulties with World Athletics.

The federation — known as RusAF — has been suspended by the world governing body since 2015 because of widespread doping, but the crisis has deepened in recent months. In November, the federation's then-president, Dmitry Shlyakhtin, was among seven people charged with obstructing an anti-doping investigation using fake documents. The case led World Athletics to freeze a program allowing top Russians to compete internationally as neutral athletes. That had been a stepping stone to forming a Russia team for the Tokyo Olympics.

The board decided to resign “taking into account that the actions of RusAF had not brought about reinstatement by World Athletics, acting in the interests of clean Russian athletes to ensure their participation in international and Russian competitions, and also with the aim of keeping athletics united,” the federation said in a statement.

The 51-year-old Yurchenko formerly worked as a deputy governor of Russia’s central Voronezh region. He is on the board of directors of a state aircraft construction company, and previously ran Russia’s state telecom conglomerate.

In an interview with the TASS news agency this week, Yurchenko called the 2016 Olympic ban on the country's athletics “a true tragedy that Russian athletes are still processing,” and said one of his top priorities would be to give the athletes an opportunity to “proudly represent our country in international competitions.”

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