A Russian athlete was suspected on Sunday night of failing a drugs test at the Winter Games, as the International Olympic Committee’s controversial decision to allow 169 of the country’s competitors to take part as neutrals threatened to backfire.
Alexander Krushelnytsky, a member of the mixed doubles curling team who won a bronze medal, tested positive for meldonium, the heart drug that infamously caused tennis star Maria Sharapova to receive a 15-month ban.
Konstantin Vybornov, a spokesman for the Olympic Athletes of Russia, confirmed that they had been notified of the test result, which has yet to be officially verified.
It has the potential to be a major embarrassment for the IOC, which had planned to give Russian athletes the chance to march under their own flag at the closing ceremony. Their supposed neutrality in Pyeongchang is designed as a punishment for the country’s “systemic manipulation” of the anti-doping system when hosting the last Winter Olympics in Sochi, but the IOC has shown a willingness to let them back into the fold.
If the news is confirmed, Krushelnytsky and his wife, Anastasia Bryzgalova, stand to be stripped of the bronze they secured by beating Norway 8-4 in a play-off match.