The West

How clean are the Winter Olympics?
How clean are the Winter Olympics?

The suspensions of three biathletes this week for doping violations brought the ugly name of doping back into the Olympics.

The unnamed trio, from Russia and Lithuania, have been provisionally suspended after failed doping tests on the eve of the Sochi Games.

It conjures up the question, how clean are the Winter Olympics?

The answer is relatively positive.

Since drug testing was introduced in the mid-60s, there have been 12 Summer and Winter Games. 128 athletes have been caught for offences at Summer Games, just 14 at the Winter.

Although there are only about 35% of the athletes at the Winter Olympics compared to the Summer version, this is still a positive ratio.

Just as doping has blighted endurance summer sports such as Cycling, the majority of offences at the Winter Games have come in Cross Country Skiing.

Back in 1976, Galina Kulakova of the old Soviet Union lost her bronze in the 5km event after taking a nasal spray that contained the banned substance ephedrine.

The 2002 Games in Salt Lake City saw the two biggest doping scandals as Spain's Johann Muehlegg and Russia's Larissa Lazutina and Olga Danilova were disqualified due to darbepoetin use - a newly developed substance which boosted red blood cell count like EPO.

Muehlegg tested positive after winning his third gold medal in the 50km and although he was initially allowed to keep his wins from the 30km freestyle and the pursuit, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ordered these medals to be withdrawn.

The same fate was deemed on the Russian duo who had combined for three golds and two silvers in Utah and it cast a doubt over how successful testing was in the 90s when no positive results were found. Lazutina and Danilova had won seven golds, two silvers and a bronze during the three Games in that decade.

Also 12 years ago, Austrian cross-country skiers Achim Walcher and Marc Mayer were found with syringes and blood bags in their room, evidence of blood transfusions, and were immediately expelled along with their coach Walter Mayer.

Olga Pyleva is the only biathlete to have tested positive previously, losing her 15km silver in Turin after taking an over-the-counter medication for an ankle injury prescribed by her personal doctor which contained the banned substance carphedon.

Whilst muscle bulk can help most athletes, the potential benefits for say someone in a sliding sport is relatively low compared to the risk and those sports plus all skating sports, Ski Jumping and Nordic Combined have seen no positive tests.

Ice Hockey has seen four players caught after taking various stimulants while since the introduction of Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding, the only notable incident was a fitting one as boarder Ross Rebagliati tested positive for marijuana after winning Giant Slalom gold. It was not on the list of banned substances at the time and the Canadian was given back the medal.

The sixth medalist to lose their medal was the only Alpine Skier and unfortunately Britain's own Alain Baxter (pictured). The 'Highlander' won slalom bronze, had a parade around Aviemore in an open top bus only to find out a Vicks inhaler he bought in the United States was different from those found in the UK and included banned substance Methamphetamine.

We are pleased to announce there have been no positive tests in Curling although anti-narcolepsy medication has been found in many spectators.


1972 Sapporo - Alois Schloder (West Germany) - Ice hockey - Ephedrine
1976 Innsbruck - Galina Kulakova (Soviet Union) - Cross-country skiing - Ephedrine
1976 Innsbruck - Frantisek Pospisil (Czechoslovakia) - Ice hockey - Codeine
1984 Sarajevo - Batsukh Purevjal (Mongolia) - Cross-country skiing - Anabolic steroid
1988 Calgary - Jaroslaw Morawiecki (Poland) - Ice hockey - Testosterone
2002 Salt Lake City - Alain Baxter (Great Britain) - Alpine skiing - Methamphetamine
2002 Salt Lake City - Olga Danilova (Russia) - Cross-country skiing - Darbepoetin
2002 Salt Lake City - Larisa Lazutina (Russia) - Cross-country skiing - Darbepoetin
2002 Salt Lake City - Johann Mühlegg (Spain) - Cross-country skiing - Darbepoetin
2002 Salt Lake City - Marc Mayer (Austria) - Cross-country skiing - Possession of blood-transfusion equipment
2002 Salt Lake City - Achim Walcher (Austria) - Cross-country skiing - Possession of blood-transfusion equipment
2002 Salt Lake City - Vasily Pankov (Belarus) - Ice hockey - Nandrolone
2006 Turin - Olga Pyleva (Russia) - Biathlon - Carphedon
2010 Vancouver - Kornelia Marek (Poland) - Cross-country skiing - Erythropoietin

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