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Russian Skating Union to press for acquittal of athletes suspected of taking meldonium

March 09, 15:50 UTC+3 MOSCOW MOSCOW March, 4. /TASS
Earlier, six Russian athletes were reported to have tested positive for meldonium, including speed skater Pavel Kulizhnikov
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Pavel Kulizhnikov

Pavel Kulizhnikov

© Sergey Savostyanov/TASS Archive

MOSCOW, March 4. /TASS/. Russian Skating Union will be pressing for the full acquittal of athletes suspected of taking meldonium, outlawed since January 1, 2016, the union’s head Alexey Kravtsov told a news conference on Wednesday.

"I would like to say that the Russian Skating Union will be pressing for the full acquittal of athletes suspected of using meldonium. There is a probability of laboratory mistakes."

"I am certain that we will manage to prove the athletes’ complete innocence of deliberate violations of anti-doping rules. We will bring those responsible to justice," he promised.

The RSU has hired a British company to represent its interests at anti-doping hearings the International Skating Union will hold soon.

"All evidence concerned will be handed over to British specialists for examination. The legal company will present them at ISU hearings," Kravtsov said.

"Currently we have a situation in which the leaders of our national teams have been charged with taking a drug they surely did not use deliberately. Our task is to make the ISU certain they did not do that on purpose and to persuade it to excuse our athletes. As for the motives that made the people responsible do what they did - envy or money - is of secondary importance," Kravtsov said.

Russia to insist drug meldonium deliberately included for use by Russian athletes

Russia’s Skating Union will apply to the international skating body to insist that the drug meldonium was deliberately included for these athletes' use, RSU president went on to say.

"As of today, the basic version, which we’ll present to the International Skating Union over these violations, is that this preparation was deliberately included by other athletes and members of Russian national teams," he said.

"We must identify these persons. We have certain data on this issue but we can’t disclose them," Kravtsov said.

Russia’s main task is to convince the International Skating Union that the Russian athletes who tested positive for meldonium didn’t do it intentionally and acquit them, Kravtsov added.

"The issue of what drove the people who did this [the drug’s inclusion for use by athletes] - jealousy or money - is of secondary nature," the Russian skating official said.

According to Kravtsov, the drug could have been included for athletes’ use in order to discredit them.

"In our specific case, it is highly probable that the banned drug was deliberately included for use by three athletes to discredit them. This was done, according to our information, by their team mates whom we intend to check," Kravtsov said.

"Our situation is of purely criminal nature. I have turned to the law-enforcement bodies but there is no criminal prosecution for such actions," the Russian skating official said.

The worst punishment for the persons who deliberately included meldonium for use is just an administrative penalty. But I guarantee that the guilty persons will be suspended from sport for life," Kravtsov said.

Polygraph testing of Russian skater Yelistratov negative

According to the RFU president, polygraph testing of Russian short track skater Semyon Yelistratov, suspected of illegal use of the banned drug meldonium has proven negative.

"To date, the results of polygraph testing of Yelistratov, as well as a woman athlete of the Russian national short track team have been negative," Kravtsov said. "The athletes did not use the drug intentionally after January 1, 2016".

A woman short-tracker of the Russian national team is suspected of doping use, Kravtsov said. "Two athletes - Yelistratov and a female athlete, I would not want to disclose her name, have been subjected to testing," he added.

Speed skater Pavel Kulizhnikov had the first day of polygraph testing on Wednesday and the test will be continued tomorrow," Kravtsov said.

Russian speed skater Konstantivova tests positive for meldonium

Russian short track speed skater Yekaterina Konstantinova has tested positive for meldonium, Kravtsov went on to say.

Konstantinova, 20, won the relay at the 2015 European Championships.

Earlier, the athlete was said to skip the coming World Championship due to medical treatment after a respiratory infection.

All skaters were ordered to stop using meldonium on October 1

All athletes of Russia’s national speed skating and short-track skating teams were ordered to instantly suspend the use of meldonium and eliminate the remaining amounts of the drug in stock on October 1, 2015 — immediately after the news arrived WADA had blacklisted the formula, the chief of the Medical and Biological Support for National Teams Department at the Russian Skating Union, Viktoria Gogotova, told the media.

"The Russian Skating Union has highly skilled doctors and medical personnel. They are aware of their degree of responsibility," Gogotova said. "As of October 1, as soon as WADA broke the news the drug (meldonium) would be blacklisted as illegal starting from January 1 all athletes were immediately instructed to stop taking it and to destroy the remaining amounts in stock. Before October 1 the athletes had been taking meldonium-containing formulas on advice from cardiologists and doctors of the national team in order to prevent damage to the heart muscle. Some of our athletes have certain problems with the condition of their cardiovascular system."

Gogotova said the course of meldonium treatment lasted no more than 10-12 days.

"That was done on doctors’ instructions. The Russian Skating Union had never used prohibited drugs during preparations for competitions," she said.

Earlier, six Russian athletes were reported to have tested positive for meldonium. The drug has been outlawed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) since January 1, 2016. At the beginning of February Katyusha cyclist Eduard Vorganov’s doping test proved the athlete had used meldonium.

On March 7, Russian figure skater Yekaterina Bobrova was exposed as a meldonium abuser and in the evening of the same day tennis player Maria Sharapova declared that her test sample taken during the 2016 Australian Open contained meldonium. The next day saw reports of three more such incidents involving speed skater Pavel Kulizhnikov, short-tracker Semion Elistratov and volleyball player Aleksandr Markin.

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