Didn’t the story with Christian Eriksen teach WADA anything?

Tatarstan is losing its chance of an Olympic medal, while athletes are dying

Two rowers from the Russian Olympic team have recently been caught taking banned substances, due to which other crew members of the quad including Kazan rower Artyom Kosov might suffer. Moreover, a similar story has happened to him again before the Olympics for the second time in a row. Read more in Realnoe Vremya’s report.

Where is meldonium from?

The news about two Russian rowers at once Nikita Morgachyov and Pavel Sorin excluded from the Olympic competition because of having meldonium in their blood has gone viral on the Internet and caused a storm of indignation in the sports community. Their exclusion from the Olympic team can directly impact another two crew members, Kazan rower Artyom Kosov is one of them.

Meldonium was found in the samples of 40-year-old Morgachyov and 26-year-old Sorin as early as mid-June when the athletes did a test for doping during a training camp in Greece. Even considering the necessity of another test scheduled for 8 July, the athletes were quickly excluded from the Olympic team that headed towards Japan for a pre-competition camp in early July. The problem was that only seven athletes qualified for the Olympics: the quad crew members with Morgachyov and Sorin as well as Nikolay Pimenov and Kazan’s rower Artyom Kosov, Alexander Vyazovkin in the single sculls and Ilya Kondratyev and Andrey Potapkin in the double sculls. But rules permit substituting up to half of the crew, that’s to say, the coaching staff had an option of replacing Nikita Yeskin and Alexander Matveyev. However, here one should consider that 21-year-old Yeskin is now at a camp in Ruza near Moscow, while 20-year-old Matveyev is at the World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Račice, the Czech Republic, competing with another crew. In other words, we simply cannot talk about any teamwork in the hurriedly created quadruple sculls, though synchronised rowing is one of the fundamental components of success.

Kosov had already lost his chance of an Olympic medal

This already happened five years ago, moreover, with same Kosov and Morgachyov who can face a disqualification now. They had previously been competing in the quadruple sculls with Olympic champion Sergey Fyodorovtsev and Vladislav Ryabtsev besides them. They won a World Cup leg in April 2016 as candidates for Olympic medals in Rio. But Fyodorovtsev wasn’t allowed to compete at the Olympics, since he was found trimetazidine. For a better understanding, it is an anti-ischemic medicine made in France. Trimetazidine, an analogue of the renowned meldonium, had been added to the list of banned substances a bit earlier. Famous Chinese swimmer Sun Yang was disqualified for three months for using it. Moreover, it was a period without competitions, while Fyodorovtsev was punished for four years, in fact, he retired. And yes, he is the father of Arina Fyodorovtseva, an ex-player of Dynamo-Kazan Volleyball Club, who is now going to the Olympics with team Russia.

The Olympics in Rio were remembered for a total ban on Russian weightlifters, almost total disqualification of track athletes (only Daria Klishina competed) and only six out of 28 qualified athletes allowed to perform in rowing. In the end, Kosov and Morgachyov competed with Vladislav Ryabtsev and Anton Zarutsky as a coxless four team and started to row as straight four was created in a rush, in fact, it was a different event. Nevertheless, the four reached a semi-final and finished tenth at the Olympics. Clearly, this didn’t satisfy 30-year-old Kazan man Kosov’s ambitions.

What should be done?

Firstly, to calm down and try to sort it out. By the way, a handful wants to do this. I have watched a piece of one of the TV companies that accompanied the news about the banned substance in the blood of Morgachyov and Sorin competing in rowing with footage of canoeing and kayaking, a different though related sport.

Then it is necessary to understand where does meldonium come from in the samples? If they manage to prove meldonium got into the organism through food additives, there is a chance of overruling the decision on the athlete’s temporary exclusion.

Though the story with Denmark’s national football team player Christian Eriksen alone questions the feasibility of adding heart drugs to the list of banned substances. We should understand that neither trimetazidine nor meldonium is doping, and they were enlisted as banned substances in the early and mid-2000s. It is also necessary to understand and remember that the third top athlete has died during the Olympic preparation. Four-time Olympic champion György Kolonics from Hungary died in 2008, the rower was just 36 years. World champion and two-time European champion Alexander Dale Oen died in 2012, the Norwegian swimmer turned 26 then. This year, 26-year-old rower Filippo Mondelli passed away, he was a world and two-time European champion from Italy. Greek canoe athlete Andreas Kiligkardis died directly at the World Cup in Poland. Everything is logical enough because the intensity of the training process goes up during the preparation, athletes work much harder than they will have in competition.

The whole world was shocked and almost personally witnessed the death of Denmark’s football team’s leader Christian Eriksen was rescued from “right now.” Cardiac insufficiency previously claimed the lives of football player Shalva Apkhazava, hockey players Sergey Zholtok and Igor Misko. Football players Antonio Puerta, Miklós Fehér, Marc-Vivien Foé, Kathleen Halden, hockey players Igor Antosik, Vyacheslav Bezukladnikov, Alexander Krevsun, Alexey Cheraponov. Sintez water polo player Denis Zhivchikov died after a stroke, his teammate Vladislav Timakov died from a heart attack. This is far from being a full list, and the decision of WADA to add heart drugs to the list of banned substances only increases the number of victims.

Kosov’s “heavy cross”

The sports community is familiar with the “family spell” of track athlete Sergey Shubenkov who missed the Olympics in Rio, while his mum — Natalia Shubenkova — didn’t manage to compete at the Olympics in 1984 our country boycotted. So Kosov is now in a similar situation experiencing it first-hand. You won’t wish your worst enemy to be on a team claiming a medal that has been reformed a few days to the Olympics for the second time, of course. Moreover, Artyom is a real athlete. His mum did athletic running 800 and 1,500 metres, moreover only Olympic champion Yelena Migunova managed to break one of her republican records. His father — Vyacheslav Kosov — coached and chaired a successful sports school named Aviator for a long time.

Artyom himself played basketball under a family tandem of coaches Natalya Vtorova and Yury Vtorov. After an injury, he found himself in rowing by test and trial where he started to achieve results some time later, after the glorious times of Tatarstan rowers Lidiya Averyanova and Inga Shamray, Alexander Plyushkin and Alexandra Ustinova. Due to sports and family problems, he couldn’t compete in the Universiade at home in 2013 but managed to win a spot on the national team. European silver and bronze medals in the octuple sculls, a bronze in the continental championship in the quad, a bronze in the double sculls made him one of the strongest rowers of the country. But another pre-Olympic incident can make him one of the unluckiest in the world. While we will keep living in a new reality of world sport when Russian curling athlete Alexander Krushilnitsky was disqualified for four years for the heart drug meldonium, while American sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson was banned for just a month for using marihuana in early July.

Dzhaudat Abdullin