In a well-worn story with more ups and downs that a playground seesaw, Russia could again lose top spot in the 2014 Sochi Olympics medals table after biathlete Evgeny Ustyugov was reportedly found guilty of doping violations.
The International Biathlon Union (IBU) confirmed earlier in the week that Ustyugov, who won gold at the Sochi Games as part of the men’s relay, had been charged with doping violations based on results from the period 2010 to February 2014.
Russian outlet TASS has now reported that Ustyugov has been found guilty of using the banned substance oxandrolone, and that his results will be annulled from the end of August 2013 to the close of the 2013-14 season.
That would include stripping the now-retired Ustyugov and Russian teammates Alexey Volkov, Dmitry Malyshko and Anton Shipulin of the gold medals they won in the relay at the 2014 Winter Games.
Ustyugov, 34, has the right to appeal the decision with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, but must submit his case within 21 days of the decision.
Should he lose any appeal against the latest IBU claims, it would mean Russia relinquishes top spot in the Sochi Olympics medals table, which it currently leads ahead of Norway.
The two countries both have 11 golds to their name, with Russia ahead on the overall medals count by 29 to 26.
If Russia is stripped of relay gold, it would fall to second, level on 10 golds with Canada but ahead on overall medals.
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The accusations against Ustyugov, who also won 2010 Olympic gold in Vancouver in the mass start, are the latest in the long-running doping claims against Russia which have seen its Sochi medals tally wax and wane.
Russia won 13 golds at the games, but dropped down the table after four were stripped over doping allegations.
However, it returned to top spot after several were later reinstated on appeal to CAS.
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Earlier on Saturday, it emerged that Russian 2010 Olympic biathlon champion Svetlana Sleptsova had also been found guilty of doping violations and would be banned for two years.
Sleptsova tested positive based on samples taken between March of 2013 and the end of 2013/2014, with her results for that period being annulled, the Russian Biathlon Union told TASS.
Sleptsova, 33, won relay gold at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, but retired back in 2017.
The cases against both Sleptsova and Ustyugov are based on controversial data from the Moscow anti-doping laboratory, which the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has accused Russia of manipulating.
Russia has denied that to be the case, and is fighting a four-year WADA ban at CAS.