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A second Russian Olympian has failed a doping test

The Olympic Committee might not consider the result as it weighs reinstating Russia at the closing ceremonies.

Nadezhda Sergeeva (right) and Anastasia Kocherzhova prepare to start during the women’s bobsled training run at the 2018 Winter Olympics on February 18, 2018.
Wong Maye-E/AP
Umair Irfan is a correspondent at Vox writing about climate change, Covid-19, and energy policy. Irfan is also a regular contributor to the radio program Science Friday. Prior to Vox, he was a reporter for ClimateWire at E&E News.

Bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva is now the second Russian athlete facing doping allegations in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games. But the International Olympic Committee may not hold it against Russia.

The latest positive test for a banned substance comes a day before the IOC is scheduled to decide whether Russian athletes will be allowed attend Sunday’s closing ceremonies under their national flag rather than the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” one that they’ve been using so far.

A senior IOC official told the New York Times that Sergeeva’s results were not yet confirmed, so it wouldn’t impact the IOC’s decision, and Russia’s forthrightness may work in its favor:

The official said under normal circumstances, the I.O.C. would not have learned about the failed test this soon; they know now only because Russian officials publicly revealed it.

The IOC forced 168 Russian athletes to compete as OARs as a punishment for Russia’s vast state-sponsored doping scheme during the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Russia has also paid a $15 million fine.

But this Olympics has done little to restore Russia’s reputation. Already, Russian curlers Aleksandr Krushelnitckii and Anastasia Bryzgalova had to forfeit their bronze medals after Krushelnitckii tested positive for meldonium, a banned heart drug suspected to improve endurance.

Sergeeva, who finished 12th in the women’s two-man bobsled, tested positive for the banned heart drug trimetazidine on February 18. (Her first test on February 13 was negative.)

This is not Sergeeva’s first time with a doping issue. In 2016, she tested positive for meldonium, but the World Anti-Doping Agency cleared her to participate in the 2018 Olympics under an amnesty agreement for athletes who had a low dose, the Guardian reported.

Earlier this month, Sergeeva appeared in an ad sporting an “I don’t do doping” T-shirt:

Russian officials, for their part, are pinning these new doping allegations solely on the athletes. “I can say that she seriously let us all down,” Stanislav Pozdnyakov, the leader of the Olympic Athletes from Russia delegation, told the New York Times.

Anti-doping officials have acknowledged that doping is widespread at the Olympics and have struggled to keep it in check. Japanese speed skater Kei Saito and Slovenian hockey player Ziga Jeglic have been sent away from Pyeongchang after testing positive for banned drugs as well.