Earlier this month, Olympic Medalist Julia Tchepalova (RUS) was spotted skiing in Davos, Switzerland during the week leading up to the World Cup events there.
Tchepalova is currently prohibited from starting FIS sanctioned events due to doping violations, and a two-year ban is pending.
She was seen training on the Davos trails wearing a generic uniform, very similar to the Swiss National Suit. One report had her training with the Russian Team, though this was never confirmed.
FIS Cross-Country Race Director explained to FasterSkier that neither Tchepalova or the Russian team has done anything against the rules.
The FIS Anti-Doping handbook clearly states that an ineligible athlete may not participate in any event sanctioned by a National Governing Body – this would include practicing with the National Team.
10.10.1 Prohibition against Participation during Ineligibility
No Athlete or other Person who has been declared Ineligible may, during the period of Ineligibility, participate in any capacity in an Event or activity (other than authorised anti-doping education or rehabilitation programs) authorised or organised by FIS or any National Ski Association or a club or other member organisation of FIS or any National Ski Association, or in Competitions authorised or organised by any professional league or any international or national level Event Organisation.
Source: FIS Anti-Doping Rules 2009
However, Capol clarified that while Tchepalova is not start-authorized, her ban for doping violations is still pending. Therefore FIS has jurisdiction only over accredited areas, and Tchepalova may train with whomever she wants.
Tchepalova has vehemently stated her innocence, and wrote a letter to IOC President Jacques Rogge claiming a violation of her rights.
“It is not in my nature to give up, and I intend to actively continue to defend my legal rights by all possible methods including in court as high as the International Court of Justice,” Tchepalova told skisport.ru.
Her letter to Rogge read, in part,
“In the recent past, an unprecedented situation has arisen where WADA has not only broken the rules that regulate its activities, but has also infringed upon fundamental human rights. With its actions regarding athletes, WADA has absolutely ignored the principal of an athlete’s innocence until proven guilty as well as an athlete’s right for defense. My personal example clearly demonstrates the growing influence that WADA has on National Sports Federations…Without verifying the statements of WADA, without the desire to get to the bottom of the situation, the Russian Ski Federation chose to renounce me immediately upon the initial unconfirmed allegations of the WADA officials.”
Yet President of the Russian Olympic Committee, Leonid Vasilievich Tyagachev, does not support Tchepalova’s efforts.
“Tchepalova’s letter is subjective…the violation was recognized by the World Anti-Doping Agency. We can spend 100 years arguing this in court, but we are still not going to win ourselves any respect. In addition, these legal battles have a negative affect on the athletes who are trying to prepare for the Olympic Games. There is no need to address something that will lead to nothing. Why write to Jacques Rogge if there exists a World Anti-Doping Agency and a Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne whose competence is not in doubt? I personally do not agree with Tchepalova’s letter.”
Tchepalova did not respond to requests for comment.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.