MOSCOW (REUTERS, AFP) – The Russian Anti-doping Agency (Rusada) said it was temporarily halting all testing in response to government measures aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

Russia has reported 1,036 cases of the virus and has stepped up measures to prevent it from spreading further, including declaring next week a non-working week and ordering shut all Moscow cafes, restaurants and shops apart from those providing vital services, such as food and medicine.

In a video posted Saturday (March 28) on its website, Rusada director Yuri Ganus said the agency was continuing its work during the coronavirus outbreak but was suspending testing to comply with government measures.

“We of course are following the regime that has been established by the leadership of Russia and at this time we have suspended testing,” he said, adding that the agency would announce the resumption of testing at a later date.

Margarita Pakhnotskaya, Rusada’s deputy director, told Reuters the suspension of testing would remain in place until April 6.

A day earlier, the Athletics Integrity Unit said four Russian athletes, including two former Olympic champions, had been charged with doping based on evidence from the bombshell McLaren report.

Andrey Silnov, the 2008 Olympic high jump champion, and 2012 Olympic 400m hurdles champion Natalia Antyukh will have to face a decision from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The same fate awaits 1,500m runner Yelena Soboleva, the silver medallist at the 2007 world championships, and hammer thrower Oksana Kondratyeva.

The report of Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren, which was commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) in 2016, exposed wide-scale, institutionalised doping in Russia.

Silnov became vice-president of the Russian athletics federation after his competitive career ended and ran for the presidency of the body in 2016.

Rusada was suspended in 2015 after Wada found evidence of mass doping in Russian athletics.

The agency was conditionally reinstated in September 2018, but was declared non-compliant late last year after Wada found Moscow had provided it with doctored laboratory data.

Russia is in the process of appealing against a four-year ban on its athletes competing at major international sporting events under their flag as punishment for that alteration of laboratory data.

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