A Russian cross-country skier who won a bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics has denied he's an informer for the World Anti-Doping Agency after two teammates who finished ahead of him were banned.
Ilya Chernousov finished third in the 50-kilometre race at the Sochi Olympics behind fellow Russians Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin.
Both were stripped of their medals and banned this month over allegations they were part of a Russian doping scheme and cover-up, with evidence their drug-test samples were tampered with. Chernousov's was in line for a possible upgrade to gold.
That prompted Russia ski team coach Yuri Borodavko to suggest Chernousov may be "one of those anonymous informers," in comments to news website Gazeta.ru on Thursday.
"The only way he can be calm is if he's also in on this conspiracy, betraying his teammates and comrades," Borodavko alleged. "Now he's looking on, giggling and desiring that medal."
Chernousov dismissed the claim.
"This is a bluff," he said in a statement on the website of the Siberian center where he trains. "I'm in training camp with the team and we have a full schedule of training. I'd like to focus completely on my work."
The training centre head Viktor Zakharov said the accusation was "a powerful psychological blow."
Athletes and officials who have given evidence of doping in Russia have typically found themselves frozen out by former friends, with several leaving Russia because they feel under threat. The head of Russia's cross-country ski federation, Yelena Valbe, told the R-Sport agency on Friday that, "For me any informer is a traitor to the motherland."