PRAGUE (Reuters) - Russian athletics, in the dock after recent allegations about widespread doping among their elite performers, was back on top of the medal table at the European Indoor Championships on Sunday.
In the first major international athletics event since the scandal emerged last year, Russia finished the three-day championships at the O2 Arena in Prague with six golds — twice as many as any other country — and two silvers.
France were the next best with three golds.
Russians topped the podium three times on Sunday, with Daniyil Tsyplakov winning the high jump with a 2.31m leap, Ilya Shkurenyov taking the heptathlon title with 6,353 points and Yekaterina Koneva leaping 14.69m in the triple jump.
World indoor champion Koneva, who started out as a sprint and long jump specialist, came back from a two-year doping ban in 2009, having failed an in-competition doping test in 2007.
It was alleged in a German television documentary that Russia had been funding a comprehensive state-backed doping program for athletes that had been covered up at national and international level.
Last month, the International Association of Athletics Federations said Russian athletes involved in the scandal would face disciplinary proceedings. IAAF President Lamine Diack called it “a difficult crisis”.
Among the highlights of the final day in Prague was Richard Kilty’s triumph in the 60m. The British sprinter, whose victory in the world indoor championships last year was considered a major shock, felt he had proved a point as he comfortably despatched his opposition to win in 6.51sec.
“A few people have called me a one-hit wonder and counted me out yet again,” said Kilty.
“I don’t think they should do that again because I’ve come out here and proved I’m a fearless competitor.”
The path was cleared for Kilty after his main rival, British team mate Chijindu Ujah was left distraught following disqualification for a false start.
Dafne Schippers, the brilliant multi-eventer who has become the outstanding talent in European women’s sprinting, added the 60m title to the 100m and 200m titles she won at the equivalent outdoor championships in Zurich.
The 22-year-old Dutchwoman won in the world’s best time this year, 7.05 seconds, overhauling the teenage Briton Dina Asher-Smith (a national record-equaling 7.08sec) in the final few meters.
The highlight for the home crowd came when their favorite, Jakub Holusa, edged out Kenyan-born Turkish miler, Ilham Tanui Ozbilen, by 0.06 seconds to take 1500m gold in 3minutes 37.68 seconds.
Writing by Ian Chadband; editing by MARTYN HERMAN