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Russian curler faces scrutiny after doping tests return positive

by Yelena Dzhanova /

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A Russian athlete has failed a doping test at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang and now faces investigation by the group overseeing the Olympic Athletes from Russia.

Curler Alexander Krushelnitskiy tested positive for traces of meldonium, a medicine that increases circulation in the brain and aids with heart failure and chest pain, The New York Times reported Sunday. The World Anti-Doping Agency decided to ban the substance in September 2015, stating that it is classified as a performance-enhancing drug. The ban came into effect in January the following year.

The Times reported that the results of a routine urine sample showed traces of meldonium in his system, but a second test will be conducted to confirm the findings. Krushelnitskiy took home bronze with Anastasia Bryzgalova in mixed-doubles curling in Pyeongchang. The results could jeopardize their Olympic win.

In a statement, the IOC said the organization "cannot communicate on individual cases while the procedure is still ongoing," and that doping tests are separate from the IOC for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

In the same statement, the IOC said, "On the one hand it is extremely disappointing when prohibited substances might have been used, but on the other hand, it shows the effectiveness of the anti-doping system at the Games which protects the rights of all the clean athletes."

Any decisions regarding the Krushelnitskiy case will be decided by the Olympic Athletes from Russia Implementation Group, which will report outcomes to the IOC executive board, according to the statement.

Image: Anastasia Bryzgalova and Alexander Krushelnitskiy of Olympic Athletes of Russia in action in the mixed doubles bronze medal match between Norway and Olympic Athletes of Russia at the Gangneung Curling Center on Feb. 13, 2018.
Anastasia Bryzgalova and Alexander Krushelnitskiy of Olympic Athletes of Russia in action in the mixed doubles bronze medal match between Norway and Olympic Athletes of Russia at the Gangneung Curling Center on Feb. 13, 2018.Javier Etxezarreta / EPA

The International Olympic Committee suspended Russia from competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics due to widespread “systemic” doping at Sochi 2014. Russian athletes were still able to compete in Pyeongchang, but were prohibited from wearing their country’s uniform. They also had to pass strict tests determined by the IOC and other groups.

The IOC instead decided that Russian athletes who compete would be known as “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” or OAR, and they would be represented by the Olympics flag instead of the Russian flag. The Russian anthem would also be replaced by the Olympic anthem during athlete performances and medal ceremonies.

Krushelnitskiy and Bryzgalova, who are married, gained an edge over Norway’s Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten to win the match 8-4, securing the bronze medal. The couple then advanced to the semi-final, where they lost to Switzerland.

A representative from the World Curling Federation could not be reached for comment.

Related: International Olympic Committee bars Russia from 2018 Winter Games over doping

Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova has tested positive for traces of meldonium while in competition at the Australian Open in 2016, which led to her 15-month tennis suspension. Sharapova has been taking Mildronate since 2006, claiming she used it for low levels of magnesium and a family history of diabetes. Mildronate’s active ingredient is meldonium.

Recently a Japanese athlete also failed a doping test at Pyeongchang. Short-track speedskater Kei Saito tested positive for acetalozamide, which can be used as a “masking agent to disguise the use of other banned substances,” the Associated Press reported. In a statement, Saito denied taking a masking agent.

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