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Putin hopes biathlete Ustyugov’s genetic tests will help challenge his ban

Gold medalist at the 2014 Olympics in Russia’s Sochi, Yevgeny Ustyugov is set to be stripped of his 2014 Olympic relay gold medal on doping charges
Yevgeny Ustyugov AP Photo/Darko Bandic
Yevgeny Ustyugov
© AP Photo/Darko Bandic

NOVO-OGARYOVO, May 14. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin hopes that results of genetic tests of Russian biathlete Yevgeny Ustyugov will help to challenge the decision to disqualify him for violating anti-doping rules in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the leader said at a genetic technology development meeting, commenting on the report drafted by director of the Russian Engelhardt Institute of Molecular Biology Alexander Makarov.

"Thank you for helping our athletes, this help is coming at the very right time. I think it will be a highly valid argument in this issue," Putin noted.

Makarov explained how genetics is applied in sports. He recalled that the International Biathlon Union (IBU) in February put forward more accusations against Yevgeny Ustyugov linked to abnormalities recorded in his biological passport. The accusation was based on the increased hemoglobin levels in the athlete’s body, resulting in the IBU’s demand to ban Ustyugov and particularly strip him of the Olympic gold medal he won in Sochi.

"The athlete’s lawyers approached us, asking to determine whether his DNA has some unique genetic particularities that cause high hemoglobin levels since these hemoglobin levels can be constantly observed in his body. All Ustyugov’s as well as his parents’ genes were identified. <…> It turned out that three genes, the most vital ones responsible for increased hemoglobin, had rare mutations causing the high levels of hemoglobin," the scientist clarified. Therefore, the athletes’ unique genetic composition is the reason for the constantly increased hemoglobin levels, according to him. Makarov assured that the data obtained made it possible to challenge the ban and will be used by lawyers in the CAS hearing.

Ustyugov, 34, is accused of using the prohibited substance of oxandrolone by the ruling delivered on February 13. All of Ustyugov’s results achieved between August 27, 2013 and the end of the 2013/2014 season are set to be annulled with all medals, points and prizes stripped. Ustyugov, among other, will be stripped of his Olympic relay gold medal that he won at the 2014 Olympics in Russia’s Sochi, which will lead to Russia losing the first place in the unofficial medal table.

Ustyugov is the 2010 mass start Olympic champion. After his home Olympics came to a close, the biathlete announced his retirement. Ustyugov has won two silver medals at the 2011 World Championships.