Russian Olympic biathlon champion loses Sochi doping case

Two-time Olympic biathlon champion Olga Zaitseva lost her appeal against disqualification from the 2014 Sochi Olympics for her part in Russia’s state-backed doping program.

File photo of Olga Zaitseva during a biathlon World Cup competition.   -  AP Photo

Two-time Olympic biathlon champion Olga Zaitseva lost her appeal on Thursday against disqualification from the 2014 Sochi Olympics for her part in Russia’s state-backed doping program.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said its judges upheld the International Olympic Committee’s disciplinary ruling of 2017, which used evidence against Zaitseva from Russian whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov.

Zaitseva’s disqualification from all her events strips Russia of its silver medal in the women’s biathlon 4x6-kilometer relay at Sochi. She won — and will retain — her gold medals from the same relay event at the two previous Winter Games in 2006 and 2010.

Two of Zaitseva’s relay team-mates at Sochi, Olga Vilukhina and Yana Romanova, won their appeals on Thursday, and had their IOC disqualifications from individual biathlon events at Sochi overturned. Vilukhina’s silver medal in the 7.5-kilometre individual sprint will be reinstated. Romanova had a best result of 19th in her individual events.

The court said its judges found “none of the acts alleged to have committed by these two athletes had been established to its comfortable satisfaction and beyond the mere suspicion” of doping.

Zaitseva's lawyer in Switzerland, Yvan Henzer, said Zaitseva would appeal the CAS ruling at Switzerland’s supreme court.

Two of Zaitseva’s relay teammates at Sochi, Olga Vilukhina and Yana Romanova, won their appeals on Thursday, and had their IOC disqualifications from individual biathlon events at Sochi overturned.

Vilukhina’s silver medal in the 7.5-kilometer individual sprint will be reinstated. Romanova had a best result of 19th in her individual events.

The court said its judges found none of the acts alleged to have committed by these two athletes had been established to its comfortable satisfaction and beyond the mere suspicion of doping.

The verdicts on Thursday involved the last of the disputed 2014 Sochi Olympics medals affected by the Russian doping program that Rodchenkov revealed.

In 2016 after fleeing to the United States, Rodchenkov detailed how state authorities and agents helped swap pre-stored clean urine for steroid-tainted samples at the Sochi testing laboratory.

The IOC’s disciplinary panel — composed of three members of the Olympic body — investigated Zaitseva’s case in 2017 and published a full written verdict of its evidence and reasons.

It said that in autumn 2013, he (Rodchenkov) took part to a discussion with the athlete Zaitseva at the Ministry of Sports in Moscow, where her doping use was discussed.

The IOC ruling noted Zaitseva’s name appeared on the so-called Duchess List of athletes scheduled to use a cocktail of steroids created by Rodchenkov while he was director of the Moscow lab accredited by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

In Sochi, bottles of Zaitseva’s urine contained excessive amounts of salt, which Rodchenkov alleged was to disguise the sample swap. Scratch marks on the glass also were judged to prove his claim of secure lids being forced open to allow the swap.

The three biathletes’ appeals were finally heard over two days at the Lausanne-based court in March. That was more than two years after other Russian doping cases from Sochi were heard urgently by CAS panels ahead of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.

Then, 28 of 39 Russian athletes won their appeals against disqualification from the Sochi Olympics.