Turin catches its first drugs cheat

TURIN – Russian biathlon silver medalist Olga Pyleva was kicked out of the Winter Olympics yesterday as the Games unveiled its first drugs cheat. The 30-year-old Pyleva, who won the silver medal in the women’s 15-kiometer race, tested positive for the stimulant Carphedon and was stripped of her silver. A further consequence could see the Russian prosecuted under Italy’s tough anti-doping laws, which carry a sentence of between three months and three years for offenders. The failed dope test overshadowed the medal action, which saw Estonia’s Kristina Smigun win a second cross-country gold and America’s Seth Walcott win the first ever Olympic snowboard cross title. The International Olympic Committee confirmed the failed drug test after suspending Pyleva earlier in the day. The IOC also said yesterday that Pyleva has been excluded from the XX Olympic Winter Games in Turin in 2006 after failing an anti-doping test carried out by the IOC. «Pyleva, 30, tested positive for Carphedon, a prohibited substance, on 13 February after the women’s 15km Individual, Biathlon event, in which she won the silver medal,» the IOC statement said. Pyleva, who won gold at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002 in the pursuit and was world individual champion in 2004, had been due to start the 7.5km sprint in the morning but was withdrawn shortly before the start. Host country Italy won its second gold medal of the Games with the speed-skating men’s team, who defeated Canada in the final by almost three seconds. The women’s team event was dominated from start to finish by Germany boasting veterans Claudia Pechstein and Anni Friesinger alongside Daniela Anschutz, who crushed a Canadian trio in the final. Switzerland’s Maya Pedersen was a confident winner of the women’s skeleton with a surprise silver going to Britain’s Shelley Rudman, her country’s first of the Turin Olympics. France’s Florence Baverel-Robert was the upset winner of the women’s biathlon 7.5km with the silver going to Anna-Carin Olofsson of Sweden and the bronze to Lilia Efremova of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Estonia’s golden girl Smigun, 28, added the 10km cross-country crown to her 15km pursuit title in the nordic cross country. World Cup leader Marit Bjorgen of Norway took silver while Norwegian veteran Hilde Pedersen, 41, nabbed the bronze. Under sleet and rain, Smigun won by 21.3 seconds over the hilly course at Pragelato. «I think 1.5 million people will celebrate for me,» Smigun said. Austria powered to gold in the nordic combined team event after Germany squandered a huge lead built up by Bjoern Kircheisen in the first leg of the cross-country relay. Austrian Mario Stecher eventually launched his attack to overtake Germany’s Ronny Ackermann at the top of the final hill on the last leg, reaching the finish line more than 15 seconds ahead of the Germans. Reigning world champion Wescott captured gold in the first appearance of snowboard cross in the Olympics. The 29-year-old American surged to the lead from the start in the four-man finals showdown and held off Slovakia’s Radoslav Zidek at the finish line to capture gold. France’s Paul-Henri Delerue took bronze. «Radoslav looked as if was riding super good,» said Westcott. «It’s an amazing thing to win gold. It won’t set in for a while.» The mighty Czech Republic’s ice hockey team suffered a shock 3-2 defeat to Switzerland in their second group match, but Russia bounced back to trounce Sweden 5-0. Later yesterday, three-time world champion Yevgeny Plushenko of Russia entered the figure skating free skate final with a huge 10.66-point lead over American Johnny Weir. (AFP)

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