A Russian sports official said on Monday,that a Russian Olympic medalist has left the Pyeongchang Winter Games on suspicion of doping, in a case that could jeopardize the nation’s efforts to draw a line under a year-long drug-cheating scandal.
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.
He is awaiting the results of analysis of his B sample, expected later on Monday, before a violation can be confirmed, a source familiar with the matter has said.
Asked for an update on Krushelnitsky’s case, Russian Olympic delegation spokesman Konstantin Vybornov said he had surrendered his Games accreditation pending B sample results.
Krushelnitsky won bronze with his wife in mixed-doubles curling at Pyeongchang. Suspicions of a doping violation have shocked the Russian team and also the sport of curling, where steady hands and sharp eyes outweigh physical fitness.
Russian Curling Federation president Dmitry Svishchev said Russian curlers had been tested on Jan. 22 before flying out to South Korea and the tests were negative.
Meldonium was banned in 2016 and led to Russian tennis player and former world number one Maria Sharapova being barred from competition for 15 months.
Russia has been accused of running a state-backed, systematic doping programme for years, an allegation Moscow denies. As a result, its athletes are competing at Pyeongchang as neutral “Olympic Athletes from Russia” (OAR).
The Russians had been hoping that a clean record at Pyeongchang would persuade the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow them to march at the Games closing ceremony on Feb. 25 with the Russian flag and in national uniform.