Road To The Olympic Games

Russia bans 4 athletes for doping offences

Russian authorities said on Monday they had banned four athletes including European silver medallist Irina Maracheva for doping offences.

800 metre runner Irina Maracheva gets 2-year suspension

Russian 800-metre runner Irina Maracheva, right, was one of four athletes suspended by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency for doping offences. Maracheva was suspended for two years. Yelena Arzhakova, also pictured, was suspended earlier. (AFP/ Getty Images)

The Russian Olympic Committee suspended four female track and field athletes for doping, including a silver medallist from the 2012 European championships.

The sanctions were the first handed down by the ROC, which has gained some authority over the Russian track and field federation since it was banned from global competition in November over allegations of systematic doping.

Irina Maracheva, who won silver in the 800 metres at the European competition in Helsinki, received a two-year ban. Several other Russian 800-meter runners have either been given doping bans in recent years or are under investigation, including Olympic champion Mariya Savinova.

Maracheva originally finished third in the 800 final in 2012 but was upgraded to silver when Russian teammate Yelena Arzhakova was disqualified from the gold-medal position for doping.

Britain's Lynsey Sharp, who inherited the gold medal, posted a picture on Twitter on Monday of herself with Maracheva and Arzhakova, commenting: "Remember that time I was the only clean athlete on the podium?"

Race walker Anna Lukyanova, a former silver medallist at the world junior championships, was banned for two years and joins a list of more than 30 doping cases in recent years linked to the Russian national walking centre in the city of Saransk.

Four-year bans

Receiving four-year bans were Maria Nikolaeva, an 800-meter specialist, and Elena Nikulina, who runs the 400.

In a statement late Sunday, the ROC did not specify which violations the four athletes had committed, when the bans were dated from, or which results would be cancelled out as a consequence.

ROC spokesman Konstantin Vybornov told The Associated Press on Monday that "practically all" of the cases involved the biological passport system, which analyses athletes' blood for evidence of doping. Separately, the Russian anti-doping agency confirmed Nikolaeva's case was due to the passport system.

Biological passport cases often rely on multiple blood samples from a period of several years, raising the possibility that some of the four athletes banned Monday could lose results from previous seasons.

Maracheva's coach, speaking to Russia's state Tass news agency, claimed the athlete was innocent and had unusual blood values because of a childhood head injury.

"Her blood values vary very strongly at altitude," Zamira Zaitseva was quoted as saying.

On Monday, the Russian anti-doping agency also announced bans for three national-level cyclists and a triathlete, plus a four-year sanction for a track coach, Lyudmila Fedoriva.

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