April 25, 2014, LONDON (ISN) – Two months after the closing ceremony, the Sochi Olympics broke a Winter Games record Friday when a Latvian hockey player became the eighth athlete disqualified for a positive doping test.
Ralfs Freibergs was retroactively kicked out of the games by the IOC after being found guilty of a steroid offence, the third hockey player and second from Latvia caught for doping in Sochi.
The International Olympic Committee said the 22-year-old defenceman tested positive for a testosterone-related steroid in a sample provided after Latvia’s 2-1 loss to Canada in the quarterfinals on Feb. 19.
Another Latvian, Vitalijs Pavlovs, was disqualified in Sochi after testing positive for the stimulant methylhexaneamine following the loss to Canada.
Swedish star Nicklas Backstrom was suspended from the Olympic final against Canada after a positive test for pseudoephdrine, which was contained in an allergy medication. He was allowed to keep his silver medal.
Freiberg’s expulsion represents the eighth doping case overall from Sochi, surpassing the previous record of seven recorded at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. While there was only one positive test during the 2006 Games, the IOC also lists seven cases in Turin because of the police raids on the Austrian cross-country and biathlon team lodgings that led to subsequent doping sanctions.
“The number of the cases for me is not really relevant,” IOC President Thomas Bach said on the final day of the Sochi Games on Feb. 23. “What is important is that we see the system works.”
The IOC carried out a Winter Games record 2,812 tests in Sochi, including pre-competition and out-of-competition blood and urine controls. The samples are stored for 10 years so they can be retested when new methods become available.
Freibergs, who also plays for Bowling Green State University in Ohio, is the second Sochi athlete sanctioned over a serious doping substance. Austrian skier Johannes Duerr was expelled after testing positive for the blood booster EPO.
The IOC said it was up to the International Ice Hockey Federation to consider any further sanctions against Freibergs. Steroid cases usually carry a minimum two-year suspension.
Latvia finished eighth in the Olympic tournament, which was won by Canada.
The IOC ruled out disqualifying the entire Latvian team, citing IIHF rules specifying that a full team is punished only when more than two players are found guilty of doping violations.
“Therefore, no consequences have to be considered in respect of the team results at this stage,” the IOC said.
Freibergs told Bowling Green State that he had tested positive for turinabol, a steroid widely used in the former East Germany, the IOC said. The university appointed a lab to conduct a screening of a sample from Freibergs and reported that it found no traces of the drug.
A three-person IOC disciplinary panel held a hearing on the case in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 4. Freibergs did not attend but was represented by a lawyer who contested the validity of the Sochi doping lab and the procedures of the “B” sample testing.
The panel rejected the defence claims and found Freibergs guilty of a doping violation, disqualified him from the Canada game and ejected him from the entire Sochi Olympics.
Other athletes sanctioned by the IOC for doping in Sochi were Ukrainian cross-country skier Marina Lisogor, Italian bobsledder William Frullani, German biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle and Polish bobsledder Daniel Zalewski.
Photo: Martin Rose, Bongarts/Getty Images