By Ken Ferris
LONDON (Reuters) - The number of Russian doping cases in athletics is a major concern, especially in race walking, the governing IAAF said on Wednesday after five walkers were banned by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA).
"As a result of these five new cases, a total of 23 elite Russian athletes have now been sanctioned under the IAAF Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) program launched in 2009," the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) said.
This compares to 37 athletes from all nations sanctioned in that period under the ABP program, the IAAF added.
On Tuesday, Olympic walk champions Valery Borchin, Sergei Kirdyapkin and Olga Kaniskina were suspended for doping. Russia's 2011 world champion Sergei Bakulin and silver medalist Vladimir Kanaykin were also banned for failing doping tests.
The IAAF said it was investigating doping allegations in Russian athletics with the World Anti-Doping Agency's support.
"All athletes were caught under the IAAF ABP program although, as per IAAF Rules, the cases are sent to the Russian Federation (ARAF) for adjudication," the IAAF said.
"The IAAF is satisfied that we have found aggravating circumstances in all cases, as we requested when referring the case to the Russian authorities.
"As a result of these cases, major international titles will be redistributed, but not until the IAAF has received, and carefully analyzed, the full reasoned decision from ARAF to ensure they are in strict compliance with IAAF Rules," it added.
Russia's Minister for Sport Vitaly Mutko was furious after the latest bans, with 25 Russian walkers banned for doping offences in the last six years according to local media.
Borchin, 28, was suspended for eight years backdated to Oct. 15 2012, although he had already retired from competition.
Kaniskina, 30, who had also finished competing, and 35-year-old Kirdyapkin, were banned for three years and two months from Oct. 15 2012, while Bakulin got the same ban from Dec. 24 2012.
Kanaykin, 29, received a life ban from Dec. 17 2012.
Kirdyapkin won gold in the men's 50km walk at the 2012 London Games, while Kaniskina took silver in the women's 20km race following the gold she claimed in Beijing in 2008.
The length of Kirdyapkin's ban means he will be eligible to defend his title at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Borchin, who won the men's 20km walk in Beijing, had previously been banned for a doping offence. In 2005, he tested positive for ephedrine and was suspended for one year.
Bakulin, 28, won the men's 50km walk at the 2011 worlds while the 29-year-old Kanaykin, who was banned for two years in 2008 for taking a banned substance, won silver in the 20km.
(Writing by Ken Ferris; additional reporting by Dimitriy Rogovitskiy; Editing by Alan Baldwin)