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THE Russian Curling Federation claimed today that their bronze medallist Alexander Krushelnitsky failed a doping test after being deliberately targeted by rival athletes or “Russia’s political enemies.”
Krushelnitsky partnered wife Anastasia Bryzgalova to bronze in the mixed doubles at the Winter Olympics last week, beating Norway for a place on the podium.
However, news broke over the weekend that the 25-year-old tested positively for meldonium, the substance for which Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova was suspended after testing positive at the Australian Open in 2016.
Before it was banned, many Russian athletes used the drug, which is designed for people with heart problems and some believe can help athletes increase stamina.
Russian Curling Federation president Dmitry Svishchev said that Krushelnitsky tested clean as recently as January 22, the day before he flew to a pre-Olympic training camp in Japan, and feels it is possible someone spiked Krushelnitsky’s food or drink.
“It can’t happen at the Olympic Village because everyone eats the same canteen food,” Svishchev said. “It could happen at training camp or in the intervening period. There’s a possibility of it being something within the team, that something happened during training camp or as a political means to achieve some goal.”
The positive sample is seen as a major blow to Russia’s chances of being reinstated before the close of the Pyeongchang Games, with athletes currently participating in South Korea as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended the Russian Olympic committee last year in connection with a massive doping scheme at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
However, the IOC allowed 168 athletes to compete at these Games under neutral uniforms and without the Russian national flag.
IOC spokesman Mark Adams says a failed doping test could keep Russia’s banned team from marching under the national flag at the closing ceremony, adding that it could have “consequences” in evaluating the behaviour of the Russian team, which was required to abide by restrictions, including bans against some medal favourites, and to undergo extra drug tests.
Krushelnitsky’s “A” sample tested positive though a second “B” sample will be tested and results could be announced within 24 hours.
The Norwegian team finished fourth and could get the bronze if the positive test is confirmed.
Adams says Russians at the games have undergone “rigorous testing” and points out that “Russians were tested to a significant level more than others.”
Russian women’s curling coach Sergei Belanov said he didn’t believe that a young and “clever man” would dope. “It’s stupid, but Aleksandr is not stupid, so I don’t believe it.”
For the rest of the curlers in Pyeonchang, the positive test has left many bemused.
“I think most people will laugh and ask: ‘What could you possibly need doping for?’ As I am thinking,” said Danish skip Madeleine Dupont. “I’m not even sure what use doping would be for in curling.
“There is probably something with strength, I’m not sure, it’s not down my alley.”
Norwegian skip and Olympic 2010 silver medallist Thomas Ulsrud said: “For me it’s tough to see doping in curling. Maybe as a brusher, but come on, hit the gym, you know.”
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