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Sochi 2014 skeleton champion amongst latest Russian athletes banned by IOC

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has today issued life bans to a further four Russian athletes, including Sochi 2014 gold medallist Alexander Tretyakov, as part of the latest set of sanctions surrounding doping at Russia’s home winter Olympic Games.

The four athletes – Tretyakov (pictured), Elena Nikitina, Maria Orlova and Olga Potylitsyna – all competed in the skeleton, with Nikitina having also claimed a bronze medal. The four have been found to have committed anti-doping rule violations and have been disqualified from the events in which they participated. 

In addition, the four athletes have been declared ineligible to be accredited in any capacity for all future Olympic Games. Tretyakov, now 32, claimed Russia’s first gold medal in skeleton at Sochi 2014.

Today’s (Wednesday’s) announcement represents the third set of sanctions issued to Russian athletes this month. Maxim Vylegzhanin, a three-time silver medallist at the 2014 winter Olympics, has been handed a life ban alongside three other cross-country skiers.

Vylegzhanin was disqualified from his events at Sochi 2014, alongside Yuliia Ivanova, Alexey Petukhov, and Evgenia Shapovalova. The latter three athletes did not win medals, but Vylegzhanin claimed silver in 50km freestyle, 4 x 10km relay and the team event.

The first sanctions saw the IOC issue life bans from the Olympics to two Russian athletes, including a gold medallist at Sochi 2014. Cross-country skier Alexander Legkov, who won an individual gold medal and relay silver, was disqualified from all his events in Sochi. A second Russian cross-country skier, Evgeniy Belov, was also disqualified. He did not win any medals at the Games.

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 issued by Wada in the wake of revelations from Grigory Rodchenkov, former director of the Moscow anti-doping laboratory that oversaw drug testing at Sochi 2014, detailed that Russia 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, which was led 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.