The Russian rosters for January competition will include two names not seen in a while: Irina Starykh and Alexander Loginov. Both are returning to international competition after serving suspensions for using the blood-doping drug erythropoietin (EPO).
Irina Starykh Makes a Fast Return
Starykh has been named to the IBU Cup team. The next stage of competitions are in Martell, Italy, starting on January 5, 2017.
Starykh was initially suspended in January, 2014, in the run-up to the 2014 Olympics. At the time, she was the top Russian woman on the World Cup and had just notched an individual podium. She was also a key member of the Russian relay team. Starykh failed an out-of-competition test in December 2013 month along with teammate Ekaterina Iourieva.
2013-2014 had been a breakout season for her so far. When asked how she had improved so much by a Russian news service, Sports.ru, she replied in December 2013, “When I found out that I was [named to train] in [Vladimir] Korolkevich’s group- I decided to fully trust the coach… he was building my training and I believed that I would approach the winter season in good condition.”
Korolkevich coached several other athletes who have been implicated in doping. That includes Iourieva – who has now been caught three different times and is banned until 2021 – and Olga Vilukhina, expected to be one of the two athletes under investigation by the International Olympic Committee for doping violations in Sochi.
Starykh initially received a two-year ban. When the International Biathlon Union (IBU) re-tested some old samples a few months later, however, they found additional evidence of EPO use. The IBU extended her ban to three years.
Starykh returned to national-level competitions in December, finishing fifth and sixth in Russian Cup races. A Russian sports website noted, however, that these results did not actually qualify her for the IBU Cup team according to objective criteria.
Loginov Immediately Back to Top Results
Loginov competed in the IBU Cup competitions in Obertilliach, Austria, in December, finishing fourth in the 20 k individual. That’s the same venue where he won the individual race at World Junior Championships in 2013.
Loginov was caught in the same re-testing scheme that earned Starykh her extra year of suspension. His sample from November, 2013, tested positive for EPO when a new method was used several months later. The suspension was announced in November, 2014, and was for two years, plus retroactive disqualification of results between November 2013 and 2014.
Loginov said at his anti-doping hearing that the drug had been included in a medication he took to treat prostatitis. But the IBU’s hearing panel rejected this claim on multiple grounds.
The press release from the Russian Biathlon Union announcing the men’s team for international competition in January did not specify whether he would compete on the World Cup or the IBU Cup.
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.