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.
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Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.
August 26, 2009 at 4:06 pm
All at once it’s much easier for a Russian skier to earn a spot on one of the WC teams.
With regard to the Russians, or perhaps skiing in general, only reference made is “EPO”, whereas in cycling, we get to hear exactly which variant was found. This can make it sound like the Russians have been caught for using the same type of EPO that’s been traceable for a good decade now. Any country can have foul players, but surely they wouldn’t be so stupid (or desperate)?
August 26, 2009 at 5:12 pm
If the type of EPO had been public information, I would have included it in the article. There were a number of outlets that were reporting that the Russians were caught using “recombinant” EPO, but one of the Russian sport officials said that the letter he’d received from authorities indicated only that the athletes had used “r-epo,” and that he didn’t know what the “r” stood for.
August 26, 2009 at 7:55 pm
I don’t know much about how FIS handles doping scandals, but I know in cycling the UCI has recently been not just banning competitors but also they will take away their accomplishments (especially the accomplishments of Americans-like Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, while blatant European cheaters like Marco Pantani and Jan Ulrich get away scott free). Anyway, I was wondering if FIS will do the same thing to cheaters and dopers, or will these russians get to keep their medals?
August 26, 2009 at 11:14 pm
Why are Pantani and Ullrich blatant? So just because Tyler and Floyd are American we say, ‘oh poor Tyler and Floyd got cheated by the French.’ Yeah right, this and an article written a couple of months ago about how doped up Europeans stole medals from the Americans are in my opinion a bit hypocritical. It’s sort of like the French and the Tour de France, if they aren’t winning, they blame it on the doping of the Foreigners, Americans included. I am pretty neutral so arguments on both sides of issues like these have some validity and some not so much. I have all the respect in the world for American skiing and the passion of the people involved trying to bring it to the top, but some of the so called ‘fans’ and believers that Americans are losing out to the doped up Europeans talk like five year olds, not impressed by it at all. Let’s start training smarter, working harder, believing in ourselves and our coaches and let our legs do the talking. For goodnes sakes, lay off the doping talk and the whining. The dopers are only lying to themselves, they don’t believe in themselves or their training.
August 27, 2009 at 1:21 am
Hmm, one thing doping does do, is give more people a “chance” to win. Without it, you would see the one athlete with the better genes AND the better training regime, win every race (s)he takes part in. I could say Lance, or I could say Ole. Certainly no way to beat them by training harder, or wanting it more. Smarter training, maybe. But then you have to overcome their off the charts genetics. I’ve said it more than once, sports is not fair. But that doesn’t mean cheating is OK in any way.
Without dope, the lists of even Russian National winners would be shorter than their doped-out world champioons list…
Would people reading me now, agree that perhaps Tchoudov is one of the most talented Russian skiers? He didn’t show up in Ian’s list, and he often impresses me with his skiing and racing spirit.
August 27, 2009 at 2:21 am
I don’t know what sort of training Ole does, or do I care really, he’s as selfish as an athlete gets. Doesn’t really train with a team, and prefers to live alone. Talk about team spirit. I have lost a lot of respect for professional cycling. Ullrich, Armstrong, Basso, have been great freaks of nature when it comes to pure talent in recent years, but we know why that was for two of them. Armstrong, I really respect him for the cancer research he has done and all of his charities, but he has been suspicous since day one, so no comment there. Plus cycling’s recent history (or is it all of history) has been plagued by doping cases. Whether you like it or not, even Lance is (was) on something. You don’t ride a bloc for three weeks, 4-7 hours a day and not show any emotion on any part of any stage. Lance isn’t (wasn’t) the only one, so I am not singling him out. I’ve mentioned Tyler and Floyd in my previous post. I do feel sorry for those guys, really good, respectful riders who worked their asses of for Lance and they get busted, while Lance just walks, hmm…