Russian curler to return Olympic medal over failed drug test

Pyeongchang Olympics_799876

FILE – In this Feb. 13, 2018 file photo, Russian athletes Anastasia Bryzgalova, left, and Alexander Krushelnitsky smile as they win bronze medal during the venue ceremony for the mixed doubles curling match at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea. Russian curlers say a coach on their team told them that Krushelnitsky tested […]

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) Russian curler Alexander Krushelnitsky will give back his Olympic bronze medal after failing a drug test at the Pyeongchang Games, a spokeswoman for the Russian Curling Federation told state TV on Thursday.

Krushelnitsky tested positive for the banned substance meldonium, which is believed to help blood circulation, after winning bronze in mixed doubles with his wife, Anastasia Bryzgalova.

”We have signed a statement that indeed he did have (meldonium in the sample) and as a result we will give the medal back,” Russian Curling Federation spokeswoman Valentina Parinova told state TV channel Russia 1.

Word comes as the International Olympic Committee is due to decide Saturday whether to formally reinstate the Russian team for the closing ceremony.

Russia was banned from the Pyeongchang Olympics over widespread doping at the Sochi Games four years ago, but 168 Russians including Krushelnitsky were allowed by the IOC to compete as ”Olympic Athletes from Russia” under the Olympic flag.

Spokesman Mark Adams confirmed that IOC President Thomas Bach met Wednesday with Igor Levitin, a former Russian minister of transport and adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Adams said the two talked for only four minutes. He said the main purpose was for Bach to wish Levitin a happy 66th birthday. Adams said they ”may have talked about something else,” but he declined to speculate what that might have been.

The IOC executive board is scheduled to meet Saturday to decide if Russian athletes and officials have conducted themselves well enough to merit reinstatement. That would allow Russians to march in the closing ceremony on Sunday wearing their national uniforms and display Russian flags.

Adams hinted there might be a compromise solution but would not elaborate.

Krushelnitsky and Bryzgalova became the first Russians to compete at the Winter Olympics since the doping scandal at the Sochi Games when they competed in a preliminary-round game Feb. 8, the day before the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang.

A statement in Krushelnitsky’s name published by state news agency Tass said he accepted the substance had been found in his sample but that he had not doped intentionally.

”I accept a formal breach of the current anti-doping rules,” the statement read, adding that he will waive his right to a hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport because it would be ”useless and senseless” for Krushelnitsky and Bryzgalova to fight the case.

However, the statement added that they consider themselves ”clean athletes” and could contest any proceedings from the World Curling Federation, which could seek to have Krushelnitsky banned from the sport.

Russian curling officials have said they believe Krushelnitsky’s food or drink could have been spiked with meldonium either by Russia’s political enemies or by jealous Russian rival athletes who had not made the Olympic team.

CAS said ”all parties” agreed to cancel a hearing initially scheduled for Thursday that pitted Krushelnitsy against the IOC and World Curling Federation. The IOC will issue a decision later Thursday based on written statements.

The Russian Curling Federation and the Russian delegation at the Pyeongchang Olympics could not immediately be reached for comment.

More AP Olympic coverage:

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