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Katusha Avoid Doping Suspension

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Feb 10, 2016 – Russian cycling team Katusha will not be suspended despite two riders failing drug tests within a 12 month period, the International Cycling Union said on Tuesday.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

Last week, Katusha suspended Russian rider Eduard Vorganov after he tested positive for the Latvian-made anti-ischemia drug meldonium, which boosts oxygen supply to the blood and tissues in the body.

That came only seven months after Italian Luca Paolini was kicked out of the Tour de France after testing positive for cocaine. But the UCI said in a statement: “The conditions for a suspension of Team Katusha… have not been met.”

It added: “With regard to the (Paolini case, it has been) established that the rider’s taking of cocaine was not related to an intention to influence sporting performance but was rather taken on a ‘recreational’ basis.”

The UCI’s disciplinary commission concluded that to ban the whole team would be “inappropriate and disproportionate”.

Russian sports minister denies doping problems

Russia’s sports minister on Monday denied there were “problems of any kind” in Russian cycling despite several doping cases in recent days.

“I fully trust the athletes and trainers,” sports minister Vitaly Mutko told state news agency TASS, referring to the national cycling team. “I don’t see problems of any kind here.”

Russia’s anti-doping agency RUSADA announced last week that track cyclist Yelena Brezhniva, a two-time European champion in the team sprint, had received a four-year suspension for doping. Her suspension was followed by that of Vorganov.

Russia has vowed to fight doping after a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) independent commission last year released a report alleging state-sponsored doping and mass corruption in the country’s athletics.

Russian officials initially dismissed the findings of the WADA report as groundless, but acted upon some of its recommendations after President Vladimir Putin said the country “must do everything” to fight doping.

The International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) in November provisionally suspended Russia over the report, sparking fears that Russian track and field stars could be sidelined from this summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Both RUSADA and Russia’s anti-doping laboratory were suspended over the scandal.