Several top Russian athletes underwent minimal doping tests

Two of Russia’s top swimmers underwent only two drug tests by their national agency in 2023, a trend that extends across multiple sports and adds a layer of uncertainty to the International Olympic Committee’s decision ( IOC) to allow certain athletes from the country to participate in the Paris Olympic Games.

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency, RUSADA, indicated on its website the number of tests carried out on athletes, a procedure it has long been criticized for not adopting. It administered 10,500 tests in 2023, figures highlighted by senior IOC officials in a memo signed by members of the Olympic Movement last summer and which sought to demonstrate that “testing continues in Russia”.

Of all these tests, only two were undergone by 100 and 200m backstroke champion Evgeniy Rylov and 50m backstroke world record holder Kliment Kolesnikov.

Another medal hopeful, Evgeniia Chikunova, underwent only three tests by RUSADA. Two silver medalist fencers only underwent one test. Five gymnasts, who led Russia’s men’s and women’s teams to gold medals, underwent only nine tests together.

All these athletes must still qualify for the 2024 Olympics. It will also be necessary to see if their respective federations and the IOC will allow them to participate.

Rylov, for example, said he was not going to sign a statement saying he does not support the war in Ukraine, an IOC prerequisite for participating in the Olympics. Gymnasts are in limbo due to the positions of the international and European federations in this sport.

The president of the American Anti-Doping Agency, Travis Tygart, is concerned that the Paris Games will not be contested on equal terms.

“Things are not exactly what they say they are. To say that Russian athletes were treated the same as other athletes is a slap in the face of clean athletes,” he said.

America’s top athletes were tested three to four times more often in 2023. Gymnast Simone Biles (four tests) alone underwent almost half of the tests for Russia’s two gymnastics teams.

Three to five tests per year by anti-doping agencies are usually required to ensure that athletes’ biological passports are effective.

An email sent by The Associated Press to RUSADA went unanswered.

The setbacks of the Russian anti-doping system have lasted for 10 years. A state doping program was updated after the Sochi Olympics in 2014.

Doubts persisted ahead of the Tokyo Games, held in 2021, as testing declined drastically across the globe due to restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) continues to monitor RUSADA and works with international sport authorities to ensure Russians are tested appropriately.

“WADA remains skeptical and fearful when it comes to Russia,” said its spokesperson James Fitzgerald. We must remain vigilant and ensure we do everything in our power to verify that all tests are carried out before the Paris Games. »

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