Sochi Drug Lab Snags First Olympic Doper

biathlete

After planning to complete 2,453 drug tests during the course of the Sochi Olympic Games, it was inevitable: the anti-doping laboratory has found its first positive drug test. The offender was a biathlete from Germany, Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle, who has a history of winning gold medals . . . and a history of issues during the Olympics. Soon after, another athlete, Italian bobsledder William Frullani also failed a drug test and was sent home. After 14 days of competition, this Winter Olympics almost made it to the end without a positive test

The anti-doping lab is performing a record number of tests for this Olympic Games, and a majority of those are in endurance and strength sports. The biathlon is one of those endurance events that is closely scrutinized. The event consists of athletes cross-country skiing and shooting a rifle, and is a test of skill and endurance. How, then, does performance enhancing drugs enter into this sport, especially the one Sachenbacher-Stehle tested positive for, which is a stimulant that is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited list? While German officials are not commenting, and those close to the athlete are “shocked” at her dismissal from the Games, it’s not an entirely new situation for Sachenbacher-Stehle.

Sachenbacher-Stehle, a five time Olympic medalist – two of them gold – in cross country skiing, competed in the 2006 Games in Turin, but was suspended for five days because her hemoglobin levels were high. During the 2014 Sochi Games, Sachenbacher-Stehle competed in five events, finishing fourth in two, and much lower in her other three events. Once the A and backup B samples from Sachenbacher-Stehle were tested and both came up positive, she was sent home to Germany.

Soon after the news about Sachenbacher-Stehle broke, it was reported that Italian bobsledder William Frullani also failed his drug test, and it was also for a stimulant. The athlete asked for a new test and his backup sample also came back positive, resulting in his dismissal from the Games. Frullani was the brakeman on the four-man bobsled team, and has been replaced by teammate Samuele Romanini for Saturday’s race.

The only other athlete who was involved in doping during this Games was another biathlete, Russian Irina Starykh, who failed a doping test before the Games began. She withdrew from competition. Why would these elite athletes, competing on the world stage in his or her sport’s highest competition, risk it all by taking an illegal performance enhancer? Taking a stimulant while competing is said to help an athlete increase endurance, remain alert and battle fatigue. However, in light of the fact that they tried to cheat and got caught, was that little bit of competitive edge worth it?

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