I was dithering for a week or so about whether to start this thread, as I have not been watching biathlon for very long. Hence, I do not actually know that much about the sport (some would say the same about me and figure skating...! )
But, the past few days there has been a major story breaking, and it had to be brought up.
Two Female Russian Biathletes And A Male Lithuanian Biathlete Under Investigation For Doping
During commentary of the European Championships at the weekend, Patrick Winterton told us that this was an important event for the Russians, as there was now a slot available in the Olympic team.
He explained that three biathletes, including one of the women selected for the Russian team, had recently failed a drugs test. They have been suspended until their “B” samples have been tested, to double-check whether what had been found in their “A” samples was correct.
Patrick did not name the biathletes concerned, as their names have not been officially released. But, he did cheekily comment that if you look at the results and find somebody who has been performing a lot better than they ever had before, then you will not be too far out!
However, Irina Starykh (née Maximova) has identified herself as one of the biathletes under investigation. Starykh is currently lying 6th in the World Cup.
In an open letter to the Russian federation, she has said that it was all a misunderstanding. Nevertheless, she has stood down from the Olympic team as she felt it would be inappropriate to compete in the Olympics while this is hanging over her.
The other biathlete is believed to be Ekaterina Iourieva… who was given a 2-year ban for doping in 2009.
Now, if this is right and it was Iourieva, you would have thought that she would have had the gumption to realise that the authorities would have been keeping a very close eye on her after her previous indiscretion.
The interesting thing is that both these Russian women only came back to the World Cup towards the end of last season after long spells away from the sport.
After competing Junior Worlds in 2005 (mid-field) and 2006 (two 2nds and a 5th), Irina Maximova won all competitions at the Summer World Championships in 2007 and 2008. But then she disappeared from the sport for 5 years, during which time she got married.
She made her comeback (as Irina Starykh) towards the end of last season at the Holmenkollen, where she finished mid-field. But, that was the only meeting she did last season. Until her suspension, she had done the whole of this season, with a string of podium finishes before the New Year putting her towards the top of the World Cup rankings. However, since the New Year, she has been back in the mid-field.
Iourieva was largely a mid- to lower-field competitor up until the 2007 World Championships. Apart from the odd blip here and there, she was a top-10 finisher from then onwards. However, during the 2008/09 season, she failed a drugs test. She was disqualified from all the races that season, and given a 2-year ban.
At the end of her ban in 2011, she did a couple of World Cup meetings in America, but only finished mid-field, and she disappeared for another couple of years.
Iourieva made another comeback last season (one meeting before Starykh) and finished 92nd! She did the rest of the season, finishing in the mid-field each time. At the opening meeting of this season at Oestersund, she came in as a replacement for somebody who was injured, and got a 4th and a 7th (her best results since her ban). But, in the few meetings she has done since then, she has been in the mid-field or lower.
Normally, I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt until we have proof that says otherwise. But, there seems to be a pattern here:
Mid-field competitor disappears for a long number of years...
said competitor comes back, and is still mid-field...
said competitor suddenly starts getting good results…
said competitor then drops back into the mid-field…
we then hear that said competitor has failed a drugs test...
Mmmm. I wonder are these events are connected…
Maybe I’m being too cynical in this case. It could all just be a big misunderstanding, just like as Irina Starykh has said.
But when it involves somebody that has been done for doping before, along with one of her team-mates, it is very hard to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Whatever the case is, this is just what you don't want coming into the Olympics - a doping scandal.
BBC (all times GMT)
Sunday 9th February 2014
14:30 – 15:40 BI Women’s 7.5km Sprint
Tuesday 11th February 2014
15:00 – 15:40 BI Women’s 10km Pursuit
Friday 14th February 2014
14:00 – 15:45 BI Women’s 15km Individual
Monday 17th February 2014
15:00 – 15:45 BI Women’s 12.5km Mass Start
Wednesday 19th February 2014
14:30 – 15:50 BI 2x6km Women + 2x7.5km Men Mixed Relay