The International Ski Federation (FIS) has issued provisional suspensions to six Russian skiers. Five of the athletes had been competing for several weeks after being disqualified from the 2014 Olympics by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and barred from competing in any future Olympics.
Russian Cross-Country Ski Federation President Elena Valbe told R-Sport that the suspension was “very unexpected for us.”
The decision from FIS came after the IOC released its full, reasoned decision on the disqualification of Alexander Legkov, the gold medalist from the 50 k skate, on Monday. Legkov had initially been disqualified nearly a month ago, with the other five athletes either disqualified on the same day or the following week.
Meanwhile, Evgeniy Belov finished sixth in the 15 k classic World Cup in Kuusamo, Finland, last week, and 12th in the overall mini-tour. In the same World Cup weekend, Evgenia Shapovalova finished seventh in the classic sprint, and Maxim Vylegzhanin finished 16th in the 15 k classic and 20th in the mini-tour. Previously, Alexey Petukhov had finished in the mid-20’s in several FIS races in Gällivare, Sweden, where Legkov finished 16th in a 10 k skate.
One athlete, Julia Ivanova, has since retired, and thus was not competing after her IOC suspension.
“FIS is distraught over the magnitude of the systematic conspiracy with the goal of avoiding Russian athletes from testing positive at the Sochi Olympic Games, described in detail and based on convincing evidence in the IOC decision,” the organization wrote in a press release on Thursday. “While there are certain individual elements relating to the evidence of the anti-doping rule violation committed by each of the six athletes, the FIS Doping Panel found that all of them participated in a similar manner in the systematic conspiracy and benefitted from the prohibited manipulations. The FIS Doping Panel therefore concluded that an equal treatment of the six Cross-Country skiers listed in the Duchess List is mandatory.”
The FIS Doping Panel will proceed with the cases, which means that there will be no near-term answer to the question of whether the athletes will be disqualified from the Gällivare and Kuusamo races.
Valbe told R-Sport that the team would not have time to replace Belov, Petukhov, Vylegzhanin, and Shapovalova on the Lillehammer roster, so the team will be down four starters.
In an email on Wednesday, Legkov’s lawyer Christoph Wieschemann wrote that his team was preparing an appeal of Legkov’s Olympic disqualification to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
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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.