One result of the McLaren report was that the International Ski Federation (FIS) provisionally suspended six Russian cross-country skiers while it investigates possible doping at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Among the six was Maxim Vylegzhanin, who won silver medals in the team sprint, relay and 50-kilometer mass start in Sochi.
Although Vylegzhanin has not been cleared by FIS, he competed in two regional championship races over the weekend, winning both. In the 15 k skate, for instance, he beat Evgeny Vakhrushev by 8.5 seconds to take the title, and bested third-place Dmitry Japarov — a teammate from the silver-medal Sochi relay — by 20 seconds. Results of the competition are available from Skirun.ru.
What’s Allowed During a Suspension?
In the McLaren report evidence packet, a urine-sample bottle associated with Vylegzhanin’s athlete ID number were shown to have marks on them associated with tampering. That sample, #2868240, even had fibers inside the lid of the bottle.
In addition, emails from anti-doping staff showed that Vylegzhanin tested positive for the anabolic agent trimetazidine on Jan. 5, 2014. The positive test was never reported to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), instead given a “save” order. In the emails, one staff member is told to “PERSONALLY warn as soon as possible.”
This is one of the cases the International Olympic Committee is investigating, which triggered the suspension by FIS.
FIS has not lifted Vylegzhanin’s suspension, initially announced on Dec. 23, 2016, or the suspensions of any of the other five athletes. The federation rejected an initial appeal by two skiers.
The FIS Anti-Doping Rules state in section 10.12.1:
“No Athlete or other Person who has been declared Ineligible may, during the period of Ineligibility, participate in any capacity in a Competition 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 or any elite or national-level sporting activity funded by a governmental agency.
“An Athlete or other Person subject to a period of Ineligibility longer than four years may, after completing four years of the period of Ineligibility, participate as an Athlete in local sport events not sanctioned or otherwise under the jurisdiction of a Code Signatory or member of a Code Signatory, but only so long as the local sport event is not at a level that could otherwise qualify such Athlete or other Person directly or indirectly to compete in (or accumulate points toward) a national championship or International Event, and does not involve the Athlete or other Person working in any capacity with Minors.
“An Athlete or other Person subject to a period of Ineligibility shall remain subject to Testing.
“[Comment to Article 10.12.1: For example, subject to Article 10.12.2 below, an Ineligible Athlete cannot participate in a training camp, exhibition or practice organised by his or her National Ski Association or a club which is a member of that National Ski Association or which is funded by a governmental agency. Further, an Ineligible Athlete may not compete in a non-Signatory professional league (e.g., the National Hockey League, the National Basketball Association, etc.), Events organised by a non-Signatory International Event organisation or a non-Signatory national-level event organisation without triggering the Consequences set forth in Article 10.12.3. The term “activity” also includes, for example, administrative activities, such as serving as an official, director, officer, employee, or volunteer of the organisation described in this Article. Ineligibility imposed in one sport shall also be recognised by other sports (see Article 15.1, Mutual Recognition).]”
Vylegzhanin and Valbe
Neither Vylegzhanin nor Elena Valbe, the president of the Cross-Country Ski Association of Russia, considered his participation in the recent races to be against the rules.
“Maxim doesn’t have right to compete in the international races [organized by] FIS, or to take part in the national team activities,” Valbe said. “There’s nothing else forbidden for him. He trains and will go on training. This race has nothing to do with FIS.”
Vylegzhanin agreed, saying that he had approached Valbe and another Russian ski official to ask what types of competitions he could compete in without violating his suspension. He explained that “people need to understand that you need to keep in shape to compete.”
However, the races were almost certainly within the scope of the FIS rules cited above. They were regional championship competitions in Udmurtia, a state republic on the plains of Russia whose capital, Izhevsk, is 600 miles nearly due east of Moscow.
The races were organized by Ministry of Physical Culture, Sport and Youth Policy of the Udmurt Republic, and the Ski Races Federation of Udmurtia. This federation is a member of the Cross-Country Ski Federation of Russia. This would seem to make the races organized by “a club or other member organisation of FIS or any National Ski Association.”
FIS has said that it is investigating Vylegzhanin’s participation in the races to see if it is a violation of his suspension.
According to Article 10.12.2 of the FIS Anti-Doping Rules,
“Where an Athlete or other Person who has been declared Ineligible violates the prohibition against participation during Ineligibility described in Article 10.12.1, the results of such participation shall be Disqualified and a new period of Ineligibility equal in length up to the original period of Ineligibility shall be added to the end of the original period of Ineligibility. The new period of Ineligibility may be adjusted based on the Athlete or other Person’s degree of Fault and other circumstances of the case. The determination of whether an Athlete or other Person has violated the prohibition against participation, and whether an adjustment is appropriate, shall be made by FIS. This decision may be appealed under Article 13.”
The Associated Press contacted FIS for comment.
“FIS is currently following up with the Russian national ski association to ensure that during ineligibility these rules are correctly understood and followed,” FIS spokeswoman Jenny Wiedeke wrote in an email reply. “If an athlete does not respect his/her status during ineligibility, then the time of the provisional suspension will not be credited against the final suspension period (if any).”
— Maya Guseynova contributed
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.