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29 Nov, 2017 17:49

Russian athletes not giving up Olympic medals until doping proof presented – banned Sochi champ

Russian athletes not giving up Olympic medals until doping proof presented – banned Sochi champ

Banned Russian athletes won’t be returning the Olympic medals they won at the Sochi 2014 Games until solid proof of doping violations is presented, Russian bobsledder Aleksandr Zubkov, who was stripped of two gold medals, said.

“This is absurdity,” Zubkov said, commenting on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decision to strip him of his two- and four-man gold medals from Sochi and ban him for life from the Olympics over alleged doping violations. “For the first time I see myself being accused of something I didn’t do. My samples were always clean,” he said, as cited by R-Sport.

“In legal terms, no proof was presented (of use of forbidden substances by Russian athletes) – only words and empty accusations,” the 43-year-old, who has already retired from sports and now heads the Russian Bobsleigh Federation, said. “Until there’s body of evidence, nobody, including myself, is giving their medals back. Those medals came in a fair competition through blood, sweat and tears.”

When asked if the whole doping ordeal has marred his impressions of the Sochi Games, Zubov replied “of course not,” without hesitation. “I reiterate, I’m a clean athlete. I was competing for my country in Sochi. Before Sochi, I was already a famous athlete. I’ve won various titles, with only an Olympic gold lacking… Doping samples were taken all the time from me and I never had problems throughout my whole career.”

On Wednesday, the IOC sanctioned three more Russian bobsledders over alleged doping violations at the Sochi Winter Olympics, and issued a statement.

“Aleksandr Kasyanov, Aleksey Pushkarev and IIvir Khuzin are found to have committed anti-doping rule violations pursuant to Article 2 of The International Olympic Committee Anti-Doping Rules applicable to the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, in 2014, and are disqualified from the events in which they participated. In addition, the three athletes are declared ineligible to be accredited in any capacity for all editions of the Games of the Olympiad and the Olympic Winter Games subsequent to the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014,” the IOC statement reads.

READ MORE: IOC bans 5 Russian athletes from Olympics over alleged doping rules violations

Kasyanov’s crews finished fourth in both two- and four-man events at the Winter Olympics and were to receive bronze after Zubkov’s disqualification, but now the medals will go to Latvia and the UK. The International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) suspended Kasyanov, Pushkarev, and Khuzin after the IOC ruling. Kasyanov and his partners were among the favorites for the upcoming 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, after winning the 2016-17 World Cup in the four-man event.

According to Zubkov, chances are the whole Russian team will be banned from the upcoming Olympics in South Korea. “Politics is deeply rooted in sports. I think the IOC will decide that our country will miss out on the Olympics. It’s going to be a huge blow for sports internationally, not only in Russia.”

Russian Skiing Federation head Elena Vyalbe echoed Zubkov’s stance on the doping accusations, describing the situation as “absurd” in an interview with Sport-Express newspaper. “Forbidden substances weren’t found in the samples of any of our athletes. Nobody is going to return their medals ahead of time in our team. We’re going to fight in court until the end,” she said.

A total of 22 Russian athletes have been stripped recently of medals and banned by the IOC as part of the ongoing investigation of the IOC Disciplinary Commission led by Denis Oswald. Following the rulings, Team Russia, which initially topped the overall medal count at the 2014 Winter Olympics, has fallen out of the top three in the overall standings.

The final decision on Russia’s participation in the 2018 PyeongChang Games is expected to be taken at an IOC Executive Board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland on December 5.