Russia’s preparations for the upcoming International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Under-18 World Championships have been shrouded in controversy following reports in the country that the whole squad has been changed due to several players testing positive for meldonium.
It has been reported that the under-17 team will compete at the event in Grand Forks, North Dakota, which begins on April 14 and runs through to April 24, instead of their under-18 side.
According to the reports in Russia, the reason for the change at such short notice is that some of the under-18 players have failed drugs tests, reportedly for meldonium, which was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) prohibited list on January 1.
The team’s head coach, Vitali Prokhorov, refused to be drawn on the suggestions.
“We discussed with the Russian Minister of Sports,” Prokhorov told r-sport.ru.
“I won’t be flying to the US, I can’t give you any other comment.”
His under-17 counterpart, Igor Znarok, confirmed that his team would be stepping in but no further details have yet emerged.
“Yes, we’re going there,” he said.
“And we are going to get the medals.”
The Russian Ice Hockey Federation have also declined to comment thus far on the allegations that the players have tested positive for meldonium, which hit the headlines when Maria Sharapova revealed at a press conference in Los Angeles last month that she had failed a drugs test at January’s Australian Open.
Former world judo champion Mikhail Pulyaev was among four of the latest Russians to have been implicated earlier this week, along with Denis Iartcev, Natalia Kondratieva and Yekaterina Valkova.
The alleged failed tests for the heart-attack drug come after Russia’s leading male gymnast Nikolai Kuksenkov tested positive.
Another Russian, skeleton athlete Pavel Kulikov, has also admitted to having failed a test for the recently banned substance.
Kuksenkov, winner of the national individual all-around title in Pensa last Friday (April 1) before withdrawing the following day, was part of gold medal-winning teams at the 2014 European Championships in Sofia and the inaugural 2015 European Games in Baku.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko recently warned that as many as 30 athletes from the country may have tested positive for the drug.
These latest positive tests bring the total number of Russians known to have tested positive to 29, 27 of whom have been identified publicly, including four-time world swimming champion Yuliya Yeifmova.
They come from 17 different sports and disciplines.
A total of 10 teams – the United States, Switzerland, Russia, Sweden, Latvia, Finland, Canada, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Denmark – are due to participate at the IIHF Under-18 World Championships.
insidethegames has contacted the IIHF for comment.
List of Russians known to have tested positive for meldonium:
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- By Liam Morgan
- Republished with permission insidethegames.biz