Doping Ruling Knocks Russia off Gold Medal Perch

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MOSCOW – Russia is expected to fall second in the gold medal for the 2014 Winter Olympics after sports officials disqualified a biathlon winner on Saturday for testing positive for a steroid ,

If the verdict were upheld by the International Olympic Committee and pending appeal, it would mean the final dissolution of a Russian effort to defeat medal numbers through fraud with a state-sponsored doping program.

The effects of the doping program on the number of Russian medals won at the 2014 games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi have been minor for years. Domination of the gold medals in Sochi was a point of national pride as Russia and before that the Soviet Union have long had high Olympic medals.

On Saturday, the International Biathlon Union decided that Evgeny Ustyugov, who competed in a relay team with a gold medal, had used a banned steroid in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. "The consequences are the disqualification of Mr. Ustyugov's results from the 2014 Olympic Games, in which he won a gold medal," said the group.

If confirmed by the International Olympic Committee, the decision will beat Russia in second place with 10 gold medals after Norway, which won 11 gold medals at the Sochi Games.

This would also mean that Russia would conflict with the United States over the total number of medals in these Winter Olympics. Each nation won a total of 28 gold, silver and bronze medals. Russia had maintained its top gold medal by successfully challenging earlier anti-doping decisions that threatened the count.

Four years ago, Russia was caught up in one of the most sophisticated doping programs in sports history, which has helped to oust Russia to top the Olympic Games it hosted. Russia's own anti-doping experts and agents of the Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB, carefully examined the bottles in which athletes' urine was kept for testing and replaced samples in a drug laboratory that were contaminated with performance-enhancing drugs at night.

To resolve this case, Russia had agreed to provide a database of test results dating back a few years before the Sochi Games. Although Russia was under tremendous pressure to clean up the doping program, these computer files were found to have been tampered with, the World Anti-Doping Agency said in November.

Saturday's verdict referred to This computer manipulated, not the manipulation of Russian security services on the urine bottle.

The data was changed to delete electronic files, the World Anti-Doping Agency said. Files for two biathletes were said to have been deleted, but they had been successfully restored using computer experts.

The agency did not name the athletes. However, the biathlon organization's announcement that it had disqualified Mr. Ustyugov based on information from the Russian authorities, indicated that the Russian authorities had attempted to cover up his incriminating test results. Mr. Ustyugov has denied misconduct.

The unsuccessful attempt to delete computer files became the latest chapter in the longstanding conflict between anti-doping authorities and Russian sports officials. The International Olympic Committee banned Russia from participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics. Due to computer manipulation, the World Anti-Doping Agency recommended that Russia be excluded from the Tokyo Summer Olympics this year.

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