Russian Olympic champion has robust reply to ‘doping’ question
Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov said hearing questions about doping makes him feel ‘a little bit sick’ after he stormed to gold at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Bolshunov claimed the first top prize of the 2022 Games for the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team when he won the 30km skiathlon title on Sunday, with countryman Denis Spitsov finishing second.
For the 25-year-old Bolshunov it was a first Olympic title after he earned three silver medals and a bronze in PyeongChang four years ago.
Bolshunov was imperious at the Zhangjiakou National Cross-Country Skiing Center, finishing more than one minute ahead of Spitsov.
Such was his margin of victory that Bolshunov bowed to crowd before taking hold of an ROC flag to carry with him across the finish line.
Spitsov was almost 50 seconds ahead of third-placed Iivo Niskarnen of Finland, and the Russian duo embraced upon sealing their two-top showing.
But even though the pair have been fully tested by the authorities and cleared to compete in Beijing – as with the entire ROC team – some Western journalists were unable to let Bolshunov enjoy his victory without dragging up doping questions at a press conference.
Nathaniel Herz of FasterSkier.com claimed that some readers might wonder how ‘clean’ Russian athletes are in Beijing, asking Bolshunov how he would respond to that.
“You don’t just become an Olympic champion all of a sudden,” replied Bolshunov, who also won the skiathlon title at the World Championships in Germany last year.
“Over the past few years I’ve proved that in every race, and I always show decent results and always fight to the end.
“As for doping. When I hear about it, I really feel a little bit sick, because I don’t accept it.
“When I hear these words, I don’t even want to listen to them, because it’s something incompatible to me with sport.”
Bolshunov noted that every athlete in Beijing has been tested.
“There are clean athletes here who are always taking doping tests,” he said.
“Asking us questions like that is wrong. A result like this doesn’t just fall from the sky, behind it are years of training.
“If you want to watch us train, then come and watch, it’s really hard work. After you look at how we work, you won’t have anymore questions like that,” concluded Bolshunov.
After being questioned by members of the Russian media on why he asked about doping, Herz said he was simply “doing his job” – but admitted that no one has any reason to doubt Bolshunov.
Russian athletes are competing in Beijing under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), as the Russian flag and anthem remained banned due to sanctions from the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Russia has been accused of running a state-sponsored doping campaign, including at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but denies the allegations and says many of the claims are politically motivated.
The WADA ban is due to expire in December of this year. Ahead of the Beijing 2022 Games, athletes from Russia were reportedly tested more than any other nation. They were also among the most tested prior to the Tokyo Summer Games last year.
Despite Bolshunov’s irritation at the question following his victory, it failed to take any of the shine off a remarkable performance in which he obliterated the rest of the field in a notoriously brutal race which involves the first 15km being completed using the classical technique, and the final 15km using freestyle.
Bolshunov received a congratulatory message from Russian President Vladimir Putin after his gold medal feat.
“I am convinced that your performance will become an inspiring example for all of our Olympians,” said Putin in a statement.