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MOSCOW, April 8. /TASS/. Russian national teams’ roster replacements at international competitions are aimed to minimize the risk of positive doping tests for the banned performance enhancing drug meldonium, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said on Friday.
Canada’s news portal TSN reported earlier in the week that half of the Russian national Under-18 ice hockey team’s players tested positive for meldonium. Following the news, the Russian Hockey Federation (RHF) stated that a team of U17 players coached by Sergey Golubovich would travel to the 2016 IIHF U18 World Championship this month in the United States instead of the previously announced roster of the U18 squad, which particularly trained for the tournament under Head Coach Vitaly Prokhorov.
"What is the essence of replacing the teams?" Mutko asked speaking to journalists. "If an athlete or a group of athletes used meldonium in October-November, we don’t know whether its traces will be found or not."
"We are not avoiding responsibility," he said. "We simply don’t know what will happen if an athlete goes to an international tournament. We are simply minimizing [the possible] risks."
"Whether we speak about an ice hockey team or any other athlete, one should realize a simple thing that it is incorrect to [bluntly] state that a drug’s presence had been revealed in the system of athletes from the youth or women’s teams," Mutko said.
"Only officially accredited services have the right to make such statements and for us at the moment it is the British Anti-Doping Agency [UKAD], which controls the Russian Federation," the minister said. "We [Russia] have no right taking doping tests."
Russian sports was in the center of doping-related scandals since the fall of 2014. Since early February control over doping abuse in Russian sports has been exercised by RUSADA only under the supervision of the British anti-doping agency (UKAD).
"We must not politicize the current situation since we simply do not know what can happen today with an athlete sent to international competitions," Mutko added.
Early last month Russian sports was hit with a new case in a chain of doping-related scandals after some of the country’s athletes tested positive for banned substance meldonium.
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).
Last week, Sports Minister Mutko announced that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has officially registered 30 cases of Russian athletes’ abuse of performance enhancing drug meldonium.
Experts say it is highly possible that Russian national athletics teams will be suspended from the Summer Olympic Games in Brazil this year following the chain of high-profile doping scandals in Russian sports.