Alexander Zubkov

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IOC publishes details of Russia bobsled star’s doping

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — An Olympic disciplinary panel says “powerful” evidence proved that two-time bobsled gold medalist Aleksandr Zubkov took part in the Sochi Winter Games doping conspiracy.

In its full decision published on Thursday of a Nov. 24 verdict, the IOC disciplinary panel chaired by Denis Oswald detailed why it disqualified Zubkov and banned him for life from the Olympics.

The verdicts states one sample had “an abnormally high level of salt” and two scratched bottles were tampered with.

Laboratory staff added salt to clean stored urine that was swapped in for steroid-tainted samples during the Olympics.

The panel says similar evidence exists in seven more cases from Russia’s Sochi bobsled teams.

Zubkov, who carried Russia’s flag at the Sochi Opening Ceremony, has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, along with most of the other 25 Russians banned from the Olympics for life.

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Vladimir Putin spokesman calls Russia doping allegations ‘turncoat’s libel’

Alexander Zubkov, Vladimir Putin, Thomas Bach
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Two Olympic gold medalists from Russia denied doping Friday, a day after they were named in a newspaper report detailing state-sponsored cheating at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Bobsled champion Alexander Zubkov and cross-country skier Alexander Legkov were among the athletes accused in a New York Times article of doping by the former head of the Russian national drug-testing laboratory.

“What’s written now in this article is baseless libel,” Zubkov told Russian state TV, adding that he regularly gave doping samples in his career.

“I’m a person who has worked for many years in sport, competed at the Olympics, and I know how much responsibility each athlete bears when they compete at such a high level.”

The article also brought a strong response from the Kremlin. Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s spokesman denounced the allegations as “a turncoat’s libel.”

Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Russian lab now living in Los Angeles, told the Times that he was given a spreadsheet of doping athletes by the Sports Ministry ahead of the games. It allegedly bore the names of 15 athletes who later won medals, including Zubkov and Legkov.

The spreadsheet was not published and The Associated Press could not verify it.

Rodchenkov said he then switched out tainted urine samples for clean ones at the doping lab used for the games in Sochi, with help from people he believed to be officers of the Russian security services.

Legkov defended his “honest medals” and said Rodchenkov, who resigned as lab director last year following separate allegations that he covered up doping in track and field, was not a credible source.

“I don’t understand why a person like this should be believed, trusted or anything else,” Legkov said in televised comments.

Zubkov and Legkov are two of Russia’s most prominent winter sports athletes.

Zubkov carried the Russian flag at the Opening Ceremony for the Sochi Olympics and won gold in the two-man and four-man bobsled events at the age of 39, becoming one of the oldest pilots to win an Olympic event.

Legkov won gold in the men’s 50km cross-country mass start on the last day of the Games and was given his gold medal at the Closing Ceremony.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin rejects the accusations that the Russian government oversaw a state-sponsored doping program and subsequent cover-up.

“It just seems like, you know, some kind of a turncoat’s libel,” Peskov said, without mentioning Rodchenkov by name. “I wouldn’t put trust in such unfounded claims.”

The government continues to back Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, Peskov added.

The World Anti-Doping Agency is set to investigate Rodchenkov’s allegations, and Rodchenkov himself has volunteered to identify which samples he tampered with.

The International Olympic Committee on Thursday said that the “allegations are very detailed and very worrying and we ask the World Anti-Doping Agency to investigate immediately.”

The IOC said, based on the result of the WADA inquiry, that it “will not hesitate to act with its usual policy of zero tolerance for doping and defending the clean athletes.”

MORE: Russia track, anti-doping changes ‘just fake’ so far, whistleblower says

Steven Holcomb reacts to Russia bobsled doping report

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U.S. bobsledder Steven Holcomb isn’t ready to say he wants Sochi Olympic medals redistributed after Thursday’s report of Russian gold medalists doping.

Holcomb-driven sleds took bronze medals in the two- and four-man at the 2014 Winter Games. Those events were both won by sleds driven by Alexander Zubkov, one of four Russian gold medalists from Sochi reported Thursday as being part of a state-run doping program leading up to the Winter Games.

“It’s really hard to say,” Holcomb said Thursday night when asked if he thought he deserved to be upgraded to silver. “I know Zubkov. I would like to say that I’m actually friends with Zubkov. … He’s helped me out. I’ve helped him. … I’d like to think that he is an honorable guy.”

That said, Holcomb had heard and read previously about doping in bobsled.

“I’m definitely suspicious,” said Holcomb, who in 2010 piloted a four-man crew that ended a 62-year U.S. Olympic gold-medal drought in men’s bobsled. “I kid you not, I’ve had this conversation with Russian [bobsled] pushers, multiple times, about what constitutes cheating. And they said, well, you should be able to take anything, any sort of steroid, performance-enhancing drug, any time. Just not on race day.”

Those memories re-emerged when he read the report Thursday afternoon.

“It’s been hard to swallow,” he said. “I guess I kind of think it’s been a very good day, but at the same time it’s hard to know that you’ve been doing this for so long and working so hard and you end up being cheated in the end.”

Zubkov’s victories at the Olympics were partially attributed to his experience on the Sochi track. Being a Russian, he had the home advantage of many more training runs at the Sanki Sliding Center, reportedly as much as 10 times as many as Holcomb, going into the Winter Games.

Holcomb stuck to that contention Thursday, even though the use of performance-enhancing drugs could impact the all-important start times pushing the sled at the top of the track.

“You could see that he knew [driving] tricks about the track that you just couldn’t figure out,” Holcomb said.

Zubkov called Thursday’s report “baseless libel” on Russian TV, according to The Associated Press.

Holcomb, who is still driving, and Zubkov, who retired after the Sochi Olympics, have not spoken since the Winter Games. Holcomb would reach out to Zubkov but doesn’t have his contact information.

“I would like to ask him, ‘Hey, what’s up? Talk to me,'” Holcomb said. “Not to admit you’re guilty or not guilty, but just talk to me. Like I said, I’ve known the guy for a long time. For six months a year, we spend four or five hours a day together [in the World Cup season]. It’s a lot of time. It becomes a brotherhood, a family.”

Holcomb instead spent Thursday evening talking to a doping-control officer in Lake Placid, N.Y., where he is doing offseason training.

Holcomb was undergoing a random, out-of-competition drug test while watching the below NBC Nightly News report on the doping news, for which he was interviewed.

“It sounds crazy, but it actually happened,” said Holcomb, who was not allowed the use of a cell phone while being drug tested and thus couldn’t document the twist of fate. “If I could take a picture, I would have.”

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