PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) – After confirming that both of Alexander Krushelnitsky’s doping samples tested positive for the heart drug meldonium, the officials in charge of the Russian team at the Pyeongchang Olympics sought to blame just about anyone other than the curler himself.
Krushelnitsky won bronze with his wife in mixed doubles, but he now is likely to be stripped of the medal.
The Russians, who are competing at the Pyeongchang Games as neutral athletes and under the Olympic flag because of a vast doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Games, said Tuesday they want to open a criminal investigation to find out who could have caused this positive result.
“(The Russian Olympic Committee) has initiated a comprehensive investigation of the circumstances which also includes the criminal investigation under the (Russian federation) criminal law to establish the facts of the case in detail,” the Olympic delegation said in a statement.
The statement did not say exactly what crime had been committed, but Russian Curling Federation senior vice president Andrei Sozin told The Associated Press he believed U.S. security services had somehow “put something” into Krushelnitsky’s water or tampered with his drug-test sample. He didn’t speculate on how that could have happened.
Before coming to South Korea for the Olympics, the Russian curlers trained in Japan.
Krushelnitsky tested positive for meldonium, the same drug that led to a 15-month ban for tennis star Maria Sharapova. Both Sozin and the official statement from the delegation claimed meldonium would not help a curler. The delegation said meldonium would be “absolutely useless and ineffective” if the intent was to enhance performance.
Meldonium is designed for people with heart problems and some believe it can help athletes increase stamina. It was added to the list of banned substances in sports in 2016.
Russian curling officials earlier said Krushelnitsky could have been set up by a rival Russian athlete or a political enemy of the country.
The delegation’s statement did offer some remorse for the positive doping test, saying it regrets the situation. But that remorse quickly turned into a defense of the athlete.
“The circumstances of the case do not provide any answers to the questions as to how and when meldonium could have gotten into the athlete’s body,” the delegation said, noting that it didn’t make any sense considering a pre-games sample taken from Krushelnitsky on Jan. 22 and all previous tests were negative.
“In order to achieve any anticipated therapeutic or other effect by using such a substance like meldonium it should be taken on a regular basis, causing its metabolites to retain in the body for a period of up to 9 months after the last intake.”
Although Russia is technically banned from the Pyeongchang Games, there were 168 Russian athletes cleared by the International Olympic Committee to compete. And Russia also has the possibility of being reinstated for the closing ceremony, allowing its athletes to march under their national flag.
The Russian delegation went to lengths to say that is taking the fight against doping seriously, and used that fight as the reason for the criminal investigation.
“We fully share and support the WADA and the IOC’s zero tolerance attitude to doping and take all the required measures so that the offenders bear the utmost responsibility for that,” the delegation said. “That’s why we are committed to carry out the aforementioned investigation and to find the actual reasons of this doping case.”