Wednesday 12 December 2018

Russian husband and wife stripped of Winter Olympics bronze medal after he fails ‘unexplainable’ drugs test

Anastasia Bryzgalova (left) and Alexander Krushelnitsky have been stripped of their Olympic bronze medals Getty
Anastasia Bryzgalova (left) and Alexander Krushelnitsky have been stripped of their Olympic bronze medals Getty

Jack de Menezes

Russian curler Alexander Krushelnitsky’s B sample has tested positive for the banned substance Meldonium, the Olympic Athletes of Russia [OAR] have announced, but a criminal investigation has been launched in an attempt to discover how the drug entered his body.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport’s [Cas] anti-doping division [ADD] begun proceedings against Krushelnitsky on Monday after he tested positive for the banned substance Meldonium, a drug commonly used on Eastern Europe to treat heart and cardiovascular diseases, which also has performance-enhancing effects on endurance.

As a result of the B sample confirmation, Krushelnitsky and his partner, wife Anastasia Bryzgalova, will be stripped of the bronze medal that they won in the mixed doubles curling event last week, with the Norwegian pairing of Magnus Nedregotten and Kristin Skaslien inheriting third place.

After Krushelnitsky’s B sample was analysed on Monday, the OAR delegation issued a statement to confirm the positive test, but have cast doubt on whether the athlete took the drug knowingly after he was unable to explain how it entered his system.

Krushelnitsky has not publicly spoken about the positive test or responded to requests for comments, but it’s understood that he has told Russian officials that he fears a teammate who was not selected for the 2018 Winter Olympics may have spiked his drink during a pre-Games training camp.

Confirming that a criminal investigation was underway, the OAR statement added that “the circumstances of the case do not provide any answers to the questions as to how and when Meldonium could have gotten into the athlete’s body”.

The reason for the investigation is due to Krushelnitsky providing a ‘clean’ sample on 22 January – two weeks before the 2018 Winter Olympics started – and the fact that Meldonium needs to be taken over a prolonged period of time in order to take effect suggests that Krushelnitsky may have only had Meldonium in his system on just one occasion.

“According to the unbiased results of laboratory analysis of Alexander Krushelnitsky’s samples detected concentration of the substance can be indicative of taking it once, which is not applied in medical practice and is absolutely useless and ineffective in the context of enhancing physical performance or sports results,” the statement added.

“No evidence of the systematic usage of Meldonium is available in this particular case.

“Therefore, the ROC has initiated a comprehensive investigation of the circumstances which also includes the criminal investigation under the RF (Russian Federation) criminal law to establish the facts of the case in detail.”

The incident is particularly embarrassing for Russia given that its Olympic Association is attempting to rebuild its reputation following the International Olympic Committee-enforced ban on their participation in Pyeongchang due to systemic doping offences. The IOC is considering lifting Russia’s ban at the end of the Games and allowing the 168 athletes – minus Krushelnitsky – to march under the Russian flag at the closing ceremony this weekend.

Meldonium was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency [Wada] at the start of 2016, with its most high-profile case involving Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova, who served a 15-month ban from the sport after she did not know it had been outlawed in the new regulations. Sharapova claimed that she had taken prescription Meldonium for 10 years due to a heart defect.

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