Russian team in shock over doping
GANGNEUNG – Reuters
Russian athletes and sports officials voiced disbelief yesterday that one of their Winter Games medalists was being investigated for suspected doping, a scandal that could imperil Russia’s efforts to regain full Olympic status.
Alexander Krushelnitsky, who competes in curling, one of the Games’ least physically taxing sports, is suspected of testing positive for meldonium, a banned substance that increases blood flow and improves exercise capacity.
“It’s stupid, but Alexander is not stupid, so I don’t believe it,” Russian women’s curling coach Sergei Belanov said.
He echoed a general bewilderment among curling athletes who could not fathom why anyone would use drugs that aid endurance in a sport that is a kind of chess on ice, needing steady hands and concentration rather than physical fitness.
Krushelnitsky, who won bronze with his wife Anastasia Bryzgalova in mixed-doubles curling in Pyeongchang, has not responded to a request for comment.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has launched a doping procedure against him, but no hearing date has been fixed.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call in Moscow that it was too early to draw conclusions about the ongoing probe.
Russian delegation spokesman Konstantin Vybornov told Reuters that Krushelnitsky had surrendered his Games accreditation and left the Olympic village while awaiting the result of a second sample.
The suspected doping violation has come at a delicate time for Russia which is trying to draw a line under years of drug-cheating scandals and is competing at Pyeongchang as neutral athletes, unable to use their own flag or national symbols.