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Country seeking to repair tarnished image following succession of doping scandals

Russia is to introduce anti-doping lessons for schoolchildren from next year as the country seeks to prove it has cleaned up its act following a succession of doping scandals involving its athletes.

In their PE lessons, pupils will also be taught about the need to compete fairly without cheating through using performance enhancing drugs, reports BT Sport.

Last year, a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report laid bare the extent of use of performance enhancing drugs by sportsmen and women in the country that finished fourth in the medal table at the London 2012 Olympics.

As a result, Russia’s track and field athletes may not appear at Rio this summer after the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) banned them in the wake of the WADA report. A final decision is due next week.

More recently, dozens of the country’s athletes, the highest profile being tennis star Maria Sharapova, have tested positive for the drug meldonium, which WADA added to its prohibited list from 1 January this year.

Moscow initially condemned the WADA report claiming that the country was being singled out for political purposes but has since softened its rhetoric and made sweeping changes to personnel at national anti-doping agency Rusada.

The country hopes that actions such as criminalising doping and the introduction of anti-doping lessons at schools will enable its track and field athletes to compete in Brazil this summer.

Natalia Zhelanova, the anti-doping adviser to Russia’s minister of sport, said: "We are working tirelessly to ensure that sport in our country is clean and fair, and educating the next generation of athletes is essential to spreading the clean sport message.

"We recognise that to create real change we must inform athletes from the very beginning of their careers. It is about instilling the right values from the outset but we hope this initiative will be supported by wider society as this is a change that all Russians must embrace.

"That's why we are launching this new initiative to help our future stars make the right choices, invest in fair play, and win the fight against doping," she added.

Anna Antseliovich, who is acting head of Rusada commented: "We welcome these significant moves by the government to address the country's problem with doping.

"Our job of eradicating doping from sport will be considerably helped by teaching children from an early age that this is not acceptable in our society."

Rusada’s former director Nikita Kamayev died unexpectedly of an undiagnosed heart condition while cross-country skiing in February.

According to the Guardian, shortly beforehand he had been in touch with a UK newspaper about giving his version of the story.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.