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Winter Olympics: First Russian fails drug test at Games

PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 16:  Ryan Cochran-Siegle of the United States reacts at the finish during the Men's Super-G on day seven of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Jeongseon Alpine Centre on February 16, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.  (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images) 775123231
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 16: Ryan Cochran-Siegle of the United States reacts at the finish during the Men's Super-G on day seven of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Jeongseon Alpine Centre on February 16, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images) 775123231
Published Feb. 18, 2018

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — A Russian has failed a preliminary doping test, the first athlete from the country to come under investigation for using a banned substance at the Games, putting in jeopardy Russia's efforts to move past a vast, state-backed cheating scheme that left it nominally barred from the Olympics.

A second test will be conducted to confirm the finding, said a statement from an organization representing the Olympic Athletes from Russia, the designation given to more than 160 Russians cleared by the IOC to compete at the Games under that name.

The organization didn't identify the athlete. Media reports said it was curler Alexander Krushelnitsky, who won a bronze medal in the mixed competition with his wife, Anastasia Bryzgalovoy.

Traces of meldonium, a heart medicine that increases blood flow and has been banned from most sports since 2016, were found in a routine urine sample, reports said. Meldonium also can be a performance enhancer. It was the drug that got Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova suspended from competition for 15 months in 2016.

Krushelnitsky has told Russian officials that he fears someone at the training camp in Japan spiked his drink with meldonium before he travelled to South Korea, the Olympic news website Inside the Games reported. His claim is being investigated, it said.

"On the one hand it is extremely disappointing when prohibited substances might have been used," the International Olympic Committee said in a statement Sunday. "But on the other hand it shows the effectiveness of the anti-doping system at the games which protects the rights of all the clean athletes."

Just one other athlete, Japanese short-track speed skater Kei Saito, has failed a doping test at these Games. He tested positive for the masking agent acetalozamide in an out-of-competition test on the day of his arrival. He left without competing.

Russia was barred from the Olympics in December after an investigation into a state-backed doping program that corrupted the 2014 Winter Olympics it hosted in Sochi. Scores of athletes, coaches and officials tainted by the scandal have been barred.

The Russians allowed to participate in South Korea were subjected to what Olympics officials described as a rigorous testing regimen.

Different and same

For the first time in eight long-track speed skating events, the Netherlands failed to make the podium. And for the eighth time in eight events, the United States failed, too.

Japan's Nao Kodaira won the women's 500 meters in 36.94 seconds, becoming the first woman to race under 37 seconds at sea level. Two-time defending champion Lee Sang-hwa of South Korea took silver and Karolina Erbanova of the Czech Republic bronze.

Ocala's Brittany Bowe had the highest U.S. finish, fifth, with a season-best time of 37.530. "Other than being two-tenths off the podium, I was really, really happy with that race," she said.

American Heather Bergsma was 11th (38.13), and Ocala's Erin Jackson, an inline skater who started training on ice just five months ago, was 24th out of 31 skaters with a season-best time of 39.20. "I wouldn't have predicted being here just a few months ago," Jackson said, "so the whole experience has been great."

This time, picture-perfect finish

France's Martin Fourcade slammed his ski pole into the snow in disgust after sliding through the finish line, thinking he'd just lost a second gold medal to a photo finish.

But upon further review, replays showed Fourcade's left boot crossed the line a few centimeters ahead of Germany's Simon Schempp, giving him a dramatic victory in biathlon's 15-kilometer mass start and his second gold medal of the Games.

Fourcade had taken silver in the event at the previous two Olympics, including after losing a photo finish by a mere 3 centimeters to Norway's Emil Hegle Svendsen in 2014.

"I thought it was history repeating," said Fourcade, the world's top-ranked biathlete.

"When I saw the line, I had a deep feeling that I'd lost. I'm still waiting for them to tell me that I'm not the winner. … I'm just waiting to be back in my (hotel) room, open my phone and see that it's real."

It was Fourcade's fourth career gold medal, making him France's most successful Olympian, Winter or Summer.

Quotable

"It was cool to be on TV that much."

U.S. Alpine skier Ryan Cochran-Siegle (right), who got his face time by being in the leader box for the giant slalom for about 20 minutes until a faster time was clocked. He ended up tied for 11th in the race, won by Austria's Marcel Hirscher, who got his second gold of the Games.

Information from U.S. Speedskating was used in this report.

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