Two Russian cyclists test positive for banned meldonium

Getty Images

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.

Thomas sees Giro d’Italia lead cut slightly by Roglič; Buitrago wins Stage 19

Getty Images

TRE CIME DI LAVAREDO, Italy — Geraint Thomas maintained his bid to become the oldest Giro d’Italia champion although his lead was cut slightly by Primož Roglič during the toughest stage of the race.

Roglič crossed the summit finish of the so-called “Queen Stage” three seconds ahead of Thomas at the end of the race’s final mountain road leg.

There were no flat sections and five tough, classified climbs on the 114-mile route from Longarone to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, which had gradients of up to 18%.

Stage 19 was won by Santiago Buitrago, who finished 51 seconds ahead of Derek Gee and 1 minute, 46 seconds ahead of Magnus Cort and Roglič, who just missed out on bonus seconds.

“I’m really happy with this victory. It was the most difficult moment of a difficult Giro for me personally,” said Buitrago, who rides for Bahrain Victorious. “I wanted to try and raise my arms before the end and coming here at Tre Cime di Lavaredo is amazing.

“This is the recompense for all the work that I’ve done. … There’s a lot of motivation for me and the whole team having seen the fruits of our labors.”

The 37-year-old Thomas, who rides for Ineos Grenadiers, is 26 seconds ahead of Roglič going into what will be a decisive penultimate stage

Third-placed João Almeida lost more time and was 59 seconds behind Thomas.

Roglič changed his bicycle shortly before the start of the penultimate climb and he made his move inside the final kilometer. However, Thomas was able to stick to his wheel and the British cyclist made his own attack in the final 500 meters and looked to have slightly distanced his rival.

But Roglič came back and gained what could be a vital few seconds.

The winner will likely be decided in the mountain time trial that ends in a demanding climb up Monte Lussari, with an elevation of over 3,000 feet and gradients of up to 22%.

“Tomorrow we go full again,” Roglič said. “It’s good. We got a bit of legs back, so tomorrow we go full, eh?

“If I wouldn’t be confident then I don’t start. The best one at the end wins.”

The race ends in a mostly ceremonial finish in Rome, where Thomas could beat the age record held by Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

Thomas celebrates 37th birthday by retaining Giro d’Italia lead; Roglic into 2nd

Getty Images

VAL DI ZOLDO, Italy — Geraint Thomas celebrated his 37th birthday with another strong ride in the mountains to retain the pink jersey during Stage 18 of the Giro d’Italia.

Thomas crossed immediately behind Primoz Roglic, who moved up from third place to second.

“The legs have been good,” Thomas said. “Need to enjoy these moments.”

Joao Almeida dropped from second to third overall after losing 21 seconds over the 100-mile route from Oderzo to Val di Zoldo, which included two first-category climbs followed by two second-category climbs in the finale – including an uphill finish.

Thomas – the 2018 Tour de France champion – leads Roglic by 29 seconds and Almeida by 39 seconds.

“It’s a pleasant day. I take time on Almeida and didn’t get dropped by Primoz,” Thomas said. “I felt pretty good, always under control but Primoz obviously went hard. It wasn’t easy. … I just want to be consistent until the end.”

Italian champion Filippo Zanna won the stage ahead of fellow breakaway rider Thibaut Pinot in a two-man sprint.

With only two more climbing stages remaining before the mostly ceremonial finish in Rome, Thomas is poised to become the oldest Giro winner in history – beating the record of Fiorenzo Magni, who was 34 when he won in 1955.

Chris Horner holds the record for oldest Grand Tour champion, set when he won the Spanish Vuelta in 2013 at 41.

However, Thomas will still be tested over the next two days.

Stage 19 is considered perhaps the race’s toughest, a 114-mile leg from Longarone to Tre Cime Di Lavaredo featuring five major climbs. Then there’s a mountain time trial.