According to media reports, three Russian cross-country skiers have tested positive for EPO.
Two of the skiers were stars—Julia Tchepalova and Yevgeni Dementiev both have Olympic golds. According to Reuters, both of them had written to the president of the Russian cross country skiing federation announcing their retirement.
The third skier, Nina Rysina, was requesting that her b-sample be analyzed. She is the reigning U-23 world champion in the sprint. Media outlets were reporting that Rysina was good friends with former Russian skier Natalia Matveeva, who also tested positive for EPO at last year’s World Cup in Whistler.
All three positives came in January, Reuters reported—Tchepalova and Dementiev at the Tour de Ski during the Val de Fiemme stage, and Rysina at the U-23 championships in Praz de Lys, France.
FIS would not comment on the doping cases, referring FasterSkier to previously published media reports.
As for why it might take more than six months to report a positive test, FIS Anti-Doping Administrator Sarah Fussek told FasterSkier that “unless the internal doping panel has confirmed that there is a doping violation, there is nothing that they can communicate.”
The athletes are the latest in a string of Russians caught doping. In addition to Matveeva, three high-profile biathletes—Dmitri Yaroshenko, Yekaterina Iourieva, and Albina Akhatova—were suspended just before this year’s world championships in Pyeongchang, Korea.
Russian sport officials responded predictably.
“We will not defend, we will not support it,” Russian Olympic Committee President Leonid Tyagachev told RIA Novosti, a Russian news organization. He added that the national team had nothing to do with the positive tests, and that it was more likely personal trainers or coaches who had helped the athletes acquire doping products.
According to the vice president of Russia’s skiing federation, both Dementiev and Tchepalova had already announced their retirement a few weeks ago, on “health grounds,” before they had received news of the positive tests.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.