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Sochi 2014 bobsled champion disqualified over doping

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has today (Friday) sanctioned a further four Russian athletes, including Sochi 2014 double-gold medallist Alexandr Zubkov, for their part in a state-backed doping program at Russia’s home winter Olympic Games.

Zubkov (pictured), who won gold in both the two-man and four-man bobsled events at the Sochi 2014 Games and carried the Russian flag during the opening ceremony, has been disqualified from his events, as has Olga Fatkulina, who won a silver medal in the 500m speed skating contest.

Bobsledder Olga Stulneva and speed skater Aleksandr Rumyantsev have also been disqualified after they were found to have committed anti-doping rule violations. In addition, all four athletes have been declared ineligible to be accredited in any capacity for all future Olympic Games.

Today’s announcement represents the fourth set of sanctions issued to Russian athletes this month as the result of an ongoing investigation into the doping scheme, which has already led to a host of disqualifications and bans.

This week, Alexander Tretyakov, who won Russia’s first-ever gold in the skeleton discipline at Sochi 2014, was handed a life ban. Elena Nikitina, Maria Orlova and Olga Potylitsyna, who also competed in the skeleton, were issued with life bans.

Earlier this month, Maxim Vylegzhanin, a three-time silver medallist at the 2014 winter Olympics, was given a life ban alongside three other cross-country skiers: Yuliia Ivanova, Alexey Petukhov, and Evgenia Shapovalova.

The first sanctions saw the IOC hand life bans from the Olympics to two Russian athletes. Cross-country skier Alexander Legkov, who won an individual gold medal and relay silver at Sochi 2014, was disqualified from all his events at the Games. Evgeniy Belov, also a cross-country skier, was disqualified.

The verdicts were the first conclusions from the Oswald Commission hearings, which are being conducted in the context of the Sochi 2014 forensic and analytic doping investigations. They are the first cases from Sochi 2014 to be judged without positive doping samples, but instead relying on evidence initially gathered by World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) investigator Richard McLaren.

A July 2016 report by Wada in the wake of revelations from Grigory Rodchenkov, former director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory that led drug testing at Sochi 2014, found that Russia had operated a state-sponsored doping system that included widespread cheating and manipulation of tests by athletes and officials at the 2014 winter Olympics and was in place as far back as 2011.

The Wada independent commission report, headed up by Canadian law professor and sports lawyer McLaren, was unveiled following initial allegations back in May relating to Russia’s hosting of Sochi 2014.

McLaren was tasked with investigating the allegations made in relation to Sochi 2014, which were published by US broadcaster CBS and the New York Times newspaper. Rodchenkov had told the Times that dozens of Russians used performance-enhancing drugs in Sochi with approval from national sports authorities. Rodchenkov claimed that up to 15 Russian medal winners at Sochi 2014 were part of a program in which tainted urine samples were switched for clean ones.

McLaren termed the program the “disappearing positive methodology” and stated that it resulted in at least 312 falsified results from 2011 through to at least the 2015 World Aquatic Championships, which took place in Kazan.

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (Rusada) remains non-compliant with Wada’s anti-doping code, while the IOC is set to rule next month on whether Russian athletes will be able to compete at next year’s winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

The IOC opened proceedings against 28 Russian athletes and intends to complete its hearings for active athletes who could qualify for Pyeongchang 2018 by the end of November.