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Official blames absence of suspended leader for Russian water polo team's failure

April 07, 21:05 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Alexey Bugaichuk was temporarily suspended after testing positive for meldonium
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© Valery Sharifulin/TASs

MOSCOW, April 7. /TASS/. The absence of one of Russian water polo team’s leaders Alexey Bugaichuk, temporarily suspended after testing positive for banned substance meldonium, was a negative factor behind the national squad’s failure to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, a senior Russian sports official told TASS on Thursday.

On Thursday, the Russian national team failed to clear the group stage of the 2016 FINA Men’s Water Polo Olympic Games Qualification Tournament, held in the northern Italian city of Trieste on April 3-10, and will not travel to the Summer Games in Brazil this summer.

"Of course we are very disappointed," Yevgeny Sharonov, the president of the Russian Wate Polo Federation, said in an interview with TASS. "The team lost its chance to play in the quarterfinals and then qualify for the Olympics."

"We will be reviewing the mistakes," Sharonov said. "The team is only studying and keeps growing up. The team has problems with meldonium. These problems were the reason for us to perform better at the qualifications tournament since our leading player [Bugaichuk] was unable to come to the tournament."

Bugaichuk was subjected to a doping test on January 18 at the 2016 Men's European Water Polo Championship, held in Serbia’s Belgrade on January 10-23. Last week, the Russian Water Polo Federation announced that January’s doping test of Bugaichuk revealed remaining traces of meldonium in his body system.

The drug meldonium (mildronate) was included in the list of preparations banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency from January 1, 2016, after which several Russian athletes tested positive for the banned substance. The presence of the meldonium substance in the athlete’s blood during and between competitions is a violation of anti-doping rules. The substance belongs to S4 class on the WADA blacklist (hormones and metabolic modulators).

On Thursday, the Russian team finished its last match of the group stage against Romania with 8-8 draw.

Playing in Group A, the Russians managed to beat Slovakia 7-4, but suffered defeats at the hands of Canada (6-7), France (11-12) and Hungary (8-18).

A total of 12 national teams, namely from Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Spain and South Africa, gathered in Trieste this month to fight for the spot at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Eight national teams secured their spots at the 2016 Summer Games before the qualifiers in Italy and they are Australia, Brazil (as host), Croatia, Greece, Japan, Montenegro, Serbia and the United States.

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