Olga Zaitseva

The bureaucratic procedure has been completed to deprive the Russian women’s biathlon team of the silver medal of the 2014 Olympics… For the first time, accusations against our participants in this start were brought forward in the fall of 2017. After that there were many courts and appeals, as a result of which two-time Olympic champion Olga Zaitseva found to be in violation of anti-doping rules… Now the four year saga is over – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Biathlon Union (IBU) have canceled the results of the athlete in Sochi-2014. In personal races, Zaitseva, who was at the end of her career, did not win medals. A Yana Romanova, Ekaterina Shumilova and Olga Vilukhi lost their awards in the relay together with Olgaon. The second place went retroactively to the Norwegians, and the third to the Czech national team.

Lots of salt

Olga Zaitseva, who was eventually recognized as the only violator of anti-doping rules in the Russian relay quartet in Sochi-2014, in the 2000s she was one of the main stars of our women’s biathlon and the leader of the national team. She is a two-time Olympic champion and three-time world champion – all these titles she retaineddespite the current troubles. The heyday of the career of a star athlete fell on the period of high-profile doping revelations in the domestic biathlon – her teammates Olga Medvedtseva (Pyleva), Albina Akhatova and Ekaterina Yurieva were disqualified. But Zaitseva’s reputation until the fall of 2017 was impeccable. Moreover, she always spoke harshly about doping, and her coach before the Games in Sochi was the German specialist Wolfgang Pichler, a well-known opponent of illegal drugs.

– For me, last year’s CAS decision regarding Zaitseva looks very strange, – Wolfgang Pichler told Izvestia. — I am sure that this is a pure athlete, she has never taken doping. She needs to keep fighting for her good name in a civil court, I will always support her.

Biathlete Olga Zaitseva at the 2012 Champions Race

Фото: Global Look Press/imago sportfotodienst

Trouble with doping charges caught up with Olga two years after she officially retired. In 2016, ex-head of the Moscow Anti-Doping Laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, who fled to the United States, told WADA investigator Richard McLaren that, among other Russian participants in the Sochi Olympics, biathletes Olga Zaitseva, Yana Romanova and Olga Vilukhina were allegedly involved in the sample swapping program. In the fall of 2017, the IOC made public this information, and soon disqualified three of our athletes, annulling their results at the 2014 Games. This decision was appealed to the International Sports Arbitration (CAS), but since all three of the punished biathletes had ended their careers by that time, the hearings and the verdict were delayed for two and a half years.

“The whole world knows that the procedure was lengthy and protracted,” said Vladimir Drachev, four-time world champion, ex-president of the SBR, in an interview with Izvestia. – The Moscow laboratory was needed to solve this problem. There were other points as well. It was necessary to evaluate all the tests and samples taken. This is not a desire to shit on us again. It was just that the expert examination was longer than we are used to. I can’t talk about justice, since I didn’t participate in this process. A lot of work has been done. The process was very big, not just someone wanted to harm Olga Zaitseva. It is not worth saying that she has become a hostage to political games. This is not about politics.

Only in the fall of 2020, CAS announced its decision, which turned out to be extremely controversial and compromise. Romanova and Vilukhina were acquitted, and Zaitseva was found guilty. It looked very strange, considering that all the athletes were preparing for Sochi-2014 in the same training group. But the judges said that only chips and cracks were found on the test tubes with samples of the justified athletes, but in the analyzes of Zaitseva, a significant excess of the salt and DNA content of another person was found. This allegedly indicated illegal manipulation of the test tubes. Regarding salt, Olga said that caviar and red fish, which she ate in preparation for the Olympics, could have been the reason. The court did not believe these explanations.

Biathletes Yana Romanova, Olga Zaitseva and Olga Vilukhina in front of the headquarters of the Sports Arbitration Court in Switzerland, 2020

Photo: TASS / Valery Sharifulin

It’s all about salt, ” said the athlete’s lawyer Alexei Panich to SE. – This is the only reason to uphold the IOC sanctions applied to Zaitseva. The arbitrators concluded that the level of salt in the athlete’s samples was suspicious. Our argument is that this is a physiologically acceptable indicator. It is considered high, but under certain circumstances it can also be observed in an ordinary person. In a number of other cases, the salt level was indeed at such a level that it could not be explained by physiological tolerance. The fact that Zaitseva was accused of violating anti-doping rules solely because of the physiologically acceptable level of salt in her sample will be one of the grounds for applying to the Swiss Federal Court.

The main victims

During the hearings, the athlete’s lawyers drew attention to the fact that the signatures of Grigory Rodchenkov, who acted as the main witness for the prosecution, on all documents were not in his own hand, but inserted into files in the form of a scanned picture. However, the arbitrators decided not to consider this fact as falsification. At the same time, Zaitsev, Romanov and Vilukhin, with the help of the former head of the Russian Biathlon Union (RBU) Mikhail Prokhorov, tried to bring Rodchenkov to justice for libel through an American court. But this turned out to be impossible due to the peculiarities of the US legislation regarding people in the witness protection program.

Thus, by September 2020, an end was put in all courts – extremely offensive for Olga Zaitseva, one of the most titled and beloved Russian biathletes by fans. Like the verdict calls into question the possibility of the two-time Olympic champion to be nominated for elective positions in the RBU and the Moscow Biathlon Federation, as well as work as a coach in government agencies and national teams. Almost immediately The star biathlete has appealed the CAS verdict to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, but no decisions have yet been made public. And the likelihood of acquittal in this way is extremely small – unless it is possible to prove the bias of the arbitrators of the CAS.


Biathlete Evgeny Ustyugov at the 2010 Winter Olympics

Photo: Global Look Press / V. CHERNYKH & Aleksander A. CHERNY

The final weaning of the relay medal from the Russian women’s national team makes our biathlon team one of the most affected by doping scandals after Sochi-2014, along with bobsledders… The men’s team lost the Sochi gold due to doping claims against Yevgeny Ustyugov. Also, for violation of anti-doping rules, the results of Ekaterina Glazyrina’s performance in Sochi (61st place in the individual race) were canceled. Only Olga Vilukhina’s silver in the sprint and Evgeny Garanichev’s bronze in the individual race remain unaffected.

In addition, on the eve and immediately after Sochi, Russian biathletes Irina Starykh, Ekaterina Yurieva and Alexander Loginov were disqualified for positive tests for EPO. True, the last two were out of the application for the 2014 Games. Like Svetlana Sleptsova, doping claims to which for old samples may be brought before the end of the year.

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