UCI appeals Russian Cycling Federation decision to clear Olympic medallist over alleged positive test

Russian rider Olga Zabelinskaya allegedly tested positive in Spring 2014 but was cleared by her home federation of wrongdoing

(Image credit: Watson)

The UCI will appeal to the Court for Arbitration of Sport following the decision by the Russian Cycling Federation to acquit Olga Zabelinskaya of doping allegations. Zabelinskaya, who won bronze medals in both the road race and time trial at the London Olympics in 2012, allegedly tested positive in Spring 2014.

Zabelinskaya’s sample, which was provided when she was racing in Latin America, apparently contained traces of the fat burner Octopamine. Early last month the Russian federation (FSVR) announced they had found in her favour and would be taking no further action.

In response to the acquittal, the UCI today released the following statement to Cycling Weekly: “On 16 December, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) filed an appeal before CAS against the RFC’S [FSVR] decision whereby Olga Zabelinskaya was cleared. Since the proceedings are ongoing, we won’t comment any further.”

Though the positive test was announced in July 2014, disagreements about jurisdiction caused a substantial delay. It was only in September 2015 that the Russian anti-doping authority (RUSADA) directed the FSVR to deal with the issue, the result of which was made public last month.

The 35-year-old was in a rich vein of form at the time of the test, having claimed five victories in Costa Rica, El Salvador and China, including a stage in her final event. Her RusVelo team, which was largely built around her, ceased to exist at the end of the 2014 season.

The case follows allegations that Russian officials covered up positive tests by Russian track and field athletes. Following on from these allegations the Russian Athletics Federation has been suspended from all international competition.

Speaking to the Russian news agency TASS last month, Alexander Gusyatnikov of the FSVR indicated he may have been expecting the action from the UCI.

“This is a difficult issue,” he said. “It is difficult for me to predict whether the UCI and WADA agree with our decision. Let’s wait for the beginning of January.”

Zabelinskaya, who finished third in the London Olympic road race behind Dutch woman Marianne Vos and Britain’s Lizzie Armitstead, took time out from the sport in the mid 2000s after having a baby. She returned to competition in 2009.

As it stands Zabelinskaya does not appear on any of the UCI suspension lists and remains free to compete, though she has not raced at international level since May 2014. No time frame for the appeal to CAS is known and, depending on the outcome, Zabelinskaya could be eligible to race at the Rio Olympics later this year.

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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.