Russian ‘identity fraud’ athlete handed 12-year drugs ban

When Russia was banned from international competition, Kseniya Savina borrowed the name and nationality of childhood friend and competed abroad frequently. She was also found to have used banned blood booster and was handed a 12-year ban.

Kseniya Savina underwent an out-of-competition control in Ifrane, Morocco, on May 15, 2018 with banned blood booster EPO detected in her sample. (Representative image)   -  Getty Images

A Russian athlete who infamously used the identity of a friend to circumnavigate her country’s state-sponsored doping suspension was on Wednesday handed a 12-year ban, the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) announced.

Kseniya Savina, 29, underwent an out-of-competition control in Ifrane, Morocco, on May 15, 2018 with banned blood booster EPO detected in her sample.

She blamed the positive test on her housekeeper mixing up her back pain medication with pills her husband and coach Aleksei Savin was taking for chronic renal failure. She claimed it had happened “whilst laying the table for lunch“.

An investigation by the AIU with the help of Russia’s anti-doping agency RUSADA discovered that Savin had never been prescribed this medication.

Records supplied by Savina from a clinic in her home town of Simferopol were proved to be forged.

Her husband was given a four-year ban for his part in the deception.

Savina, who has retired from competition, is also under investigation for an extraordinary case of false identity.

The tale began in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea, then part of Ukraine, and home to Savina, then a promising track athlete.

Savina took on Russian nationality following Crimea’s annexation and began to compete for her adopted country.

When Russia was banned from international competition following revelations of massive state-backed doping, Savina’s career appeared to be finished, until she took matters into her own hands.

Under an assumed identity and another nationality Savina competed abroad frequently over the ensuing three years.

She borrowed the name and nationality of childhood friend Galina Syshko, a one-time 800-metre runner who also happened to look like her, though two years younger.

Russian and Ukrainian athletics federation officials are investigating her case.