Sat, Feb 24, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Russian doping case overshadows Zagitova’s gold

AFP, PYEONGCHANG, South Korea

Russia’s Alina Zagitova competes in the Winter Olympics women’s figure skating at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung, South Korea, yesterday.

Photo: AFP

A fresh Russian doping case yesterday overshadowed the team’s first gold medal at the Pyeongchang Winter Games and could lower the nation’s chances of an early return to the Olympic fold.

Russia’s bobsled federation said female pilot Nadezhda Sergeyeva had tested positive for a “heart medicine” which is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances.

Russia’s second doping case in Pyeongchang, after curler Alexander Krushelnitsky was stripped of his mixed doubles bronze medal, comes as Olympic officials consider whether to lift Russia’s suspension following a major drugs scandal.

“A doping test by the pilot of the Russian team Nadezhda Sergeyeva on 18 February gave a positive result for a heart medicine that is on the banned list,” a Russian bobsled federation statement said.

Sergeyeva placed 14th in the women’s bobsled on Wednesday, partnered by brakewoman Anastasia Kocherzhova.

She is among 168 Russians who passed extended vetting to compete as neutrals in Pyeongchang, after the Russian Olympic Committee was suspended over systemic doping culminating at the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.

Despite the extra screening by anti-doping experts, Russians have accounted for half of the drugs cases in Pyeongchang.

Japanese short-track speed skater Kei Saito and Slovenian ice hockey player Ziga Jeglic are the other two athletes to fail tests.

Sergeyeva’s case came to light shortly after 15-year-old Alina Zagitova led a Russian one-two in the women’s figure skating, securing the first gold for the neutrally flagged Olympic Athletes from Russia team.

Zagitova scored exactly the same, 156.65, as Evgenia Medvedeva in the free skate, but edged the 18-year-old two-time world champion by 1.31 points thanks to her sublime, world-record short program on Thursday.

“I can’t believe I’m the champion,” said Zagitova, who is still in her debut season. “It’ll take some time to sink in.”

The result appeared devastating for Medvedeva, who was so overcome she was unable to finish a TV interview.

An Olympic official followed her round with a box of tissues.

Sergeyeva’s positive test also came on a day when the Russians reached the men’s ice hockey final by beating the Czech Republic 3-0 — with goaltender Vasili Koshechkin making a game-winning 31 saves.

It gives them a chance to win their first Olympic title since 1992 when they face either Canada or Germany in tomorrow’s final.

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