Two Russian cyclists test positive for banned meldonium

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MOSCOW — Russia’s troubles with the banned substance meldonium resurfaced Wednesday when officials confirmed that two track cyclists and an Olympic hopeful water polo player had failed doping tests.

Anastasia Chulkova, who won the points race at the 2012 world track championship, and former European bronze medalist Pavel Yakushevsky tested positive for the drug that was banned from Jan. 1.

The Russian cycling federation said in an e-mailed statement that both Chulkova and Yakushevsky stopped taking meldonium after the World Anti-Doping Agency said in September that the substance would be banned.

 The federation said evidence points to “leftover traces,” but didn’t specify when the samples were taken.

“According to the data which we have, the amount of the substance in the doping sample is low,” the federation said.

Another Russian cyclist, road racer Eduard Vorganov, was suspended last month after testing positive for meldonium, the same drug that Maria Sharapova tested positive for at the Australian Open.

Separately, Russian Water Polo Federation spokeswoman Viktoria Kirina told The Associated Press on Wednesday that national team player Alexei Bugaichuk had failed a doping test at the European championships in January, when Russia reached the quarterfinals.

“He’s now suspended from all competitions until the circumstances are cleared up and until a decision from WADA and FINA,” she said.

Kirina said the amount of meldonium found in Bugaichuk’s sample was “very small,” likely leftover from consumption in October, while the substance was still legal. No other players tested positive, she added.

Russia’s performance at the European championship gave it a place at April’s final Olympic qualifying tournament. Kirina said she does not expect the team to be excluded from the tournament.

Also Wednesday, the International Biathlon Union said it had suspended an unnamed athlete who tested positive for a “substance defined under hormones and metabolic modulators,” a category which includes meldonium.

So far this year, all three doping cases in biathlon have involved meldonium, with provisional suspensions for Ukrainian athletes Olga Abramova and Artyom Tyshchenko and Russian biathlete Eduard Latypov, who won gold at last year’s world junior championships.

Australia’s Jay Vine wins Tour Down Under


ADELAIDE, Australia — Australia’s Jay Vine defended his overnight lead to win the Tour Down Under, the first event of the 2023 World Tour.

Simon Yates of Britain won the final stage and moved up from third to second place on overall standings. Vine came in second on the stage to secure the biggest win of his career in a stage race.

The UAE Team Emirates rider took the overall tour lead when he finished second in Stage 2 and third in Stage 3. He came into the final stage with a 15-second lead on general classification.

The 70-mile stage involved four laps of a 15.5 mile-circuit through the Adelaide Hills before finishing just beyond the summit of Mount Lofty.

Yates led the crucial attack on the ascent less than 1.2 miles from the finish, but Vine jumped onto his wheel and Australian Ben O’Connor also joined in.

O’Connor led out close to the finish line, Vine briefly passed him but Yates came over the top to claim the stage win. Vine retained his overall advantage and claimed the title in his debut appearance in the Tour Down Under.

The 27-year-old made his name in e-Sports before being signed by the UAE team after winning the academy program on the Zwift online platform. He won two stages of the Vuelta a Espana last year and the Australian Time Trial title.

“It’s pretty incredible to be standing here and wearing this jersey,” Vine said. “The way we drove that was first class. My guys were incredible.”

The final stage featured a breakaway of 13 riders but Vine’s UAE teammates led the chase by the peloton and put their rider in a position to contest the win.

Yates again rode an aggressive race but had to be happy with the stage win.

“We came Down Under with a lot of ambition. We put a lot into it and we didn’t come away with the overall but we can walk away pretty happy,” Yates said. “Obviously Jay Vine is a massive talent and the crowd will be happy with a local winner.”

France’s Coquard wins Tour Down Under Stage 4; Vine leads


ADELAIDE, Australia — French cyclist Bryan Coquard won Stage 4 of the Tour Down Under for his first-ever World Tour win, while Australia’s Jay Vine retained the overall tour lead by 15 seconds with one stage remaining.

Coquard is a lightweight sprinter who has had 49 wins in a decade-long career but had never won on the World Tour until he cleared out near the finish to claim the 82-mile stage by a margin of about just over 100 feet.

Vine was among the leading group that shared Coquard’s winning time and who retained his lead on general classification over Britain’s Simon Yates and Germany’s Phil Bauhaus. The race concludes with Stage 5, which ends atop 2,329-foot Mount Lofty.

“It’s a long time that I’ve waited for this win, 10 years,” said Coquard, who rides for the French Cofidis team. “I never really expected and I’m very happy and relieved with this win.”

While the stage was flat and suited sprinters, it had its challenges. Cross-winds and occasional gradients made the stage difficult and confounded some riders.

After an early breakaway by Jonas Rutsch and former tour winner Daryl Impey of South Africa, the peloton broke into two groups with Vine and other tour leaders among the leading group.

The leading group stayed together around the last, sharp bend towards the finish and Coquard bided his time until his late sprint left other riders flat-footed.

“It was pretty stressful,” Vine said. “There was one point there, I thought we were going to have an easy day and I was happy, smiling, waving to families on the side of the road.

“Then, 45 kilometers in it was on and it was on until the end so it was a very hard day. There was a lot more calorie expenditure than I was planning.”