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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian athletics chief Valentin Balakhnichyov said he expected more doping cases involving Russian athletes to be revealed in the future because the country conducted more drugs tests than any other nation.
"Don't be surprised if you hear about a few more suspensions coming our way," the president of the Russian athletics federation (VFLA) told Reuters on Monday following an inspection visit by top officials from the sport's governing body IAAF.
With Moscow hosting the world athletics championships in August, Russian authorities have been forced to step up their fight against doping after nearly two dozen of the country's leading athletes failed drugs tests in the past 12 months.
Last week, the VFLA handed two-year bans to three Russian female athletes, including former world and Olympic champions Olga Kuzenkova and Svetlana Krivelyova, for failing drugs tests after their samples were re-examined.
Kuzenkova, 2004 Olympic champion in the women's hammer, tested positive at the 2005 world championships in Helsinki, where she also finished first.
Krivelyova, who won the women's shot put gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and the 2003 world championships in Paris, failed a test at the 2004 Athens Games.
They were the latest high-profile Russian athletes to fall foul of the doping rules and Balakhnichyov said he feared the worst.
"It's simple arithmetic - the more you test, the more people are likely be caught," he said.
"Together with the Russian anti-doping agency (RUSADA) we do more drugs tests than any other country in the world.
"Some nations only do 500 tests a year. On the other hand, last year we conducted 3,500 tests and this year we plan to do over 4,000 tests in and out of competition," he added.
"We also do more advanced testing, not only urine but blood testing as well so those numbers (suspensions) don't surprise me at all. On the contrary - I expect more of them in the future."
Former world youth race-walking champion Sergey Morozov was banned for life by the VFLA in December for committing a second doping offence.
"You can't fight doping without a serious punishment, long-term bans. The guilty people must pay the price - it's the most effective tool in the fight against doping," Balakhnichyov said.
However, Balakhnichyov said he did not know if more Russians might be caught cheating after re-testing of their samples which have been stored from previous competitions.
"The re-testing is done by the (World Anti-Doping Agency) WADA together with the IAAF. The information is confidential. I'm a high-ranking IAAF official and even I don't know all the details," said Balakhnichyov, who serves as IAAF treasurer.
"I can only talk about tests which are done by the VFLA and RUSADA. We're quite open about doping cases in Russia because we're trying to tackle this problem head-on."
Reporting By Gennady Fyodorov, editing by Justin Palmer