Russian speed skater An banned from Olympics for doping

Victor An, pictured in 2015, won three gold medals at the Sochi Games

Moscow (AFP) – Russia’s short track speed skating star Victor An has been banned from the Pyeongchang Winter Games over doping, Russian media reported on Monday.

“An has been suspended from participating in the Olympics,” TASS news agency quoted a source as saying after the skater was implicated in the Russian doping scandal revealed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sponsored McLaren report.

An, 32, who was born in Seoul as Ahn Hyun-Soo, won three gold medals at the Sochi Games. He lives in Russia with his South Korean wife and child.

An, the world’s most successful short track speed skater, had earlier requested permission to compete as a neutral athlete at the upcoming Olympics following the IOC’s ban on Russia’s athletes over widespread state-sponsored doping.

Lawyer Mikhail Prokopets told Russian media that An would have to miss the upcoming Olympics, saying the skater would not have enough time to lodge an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The decision was “unexpected”, Russia’s Sport Express daily quoted Prokopets as saying. 

“We had the names of those suspended beforehand and An was not on this list,” he said.

“CAS this week will consider the affairs of our Olympians, and An will not have time to get into this hearing, therefore, he will miss the Olympics.”

Dozens of Russian athletes banned by the International Olympic Committee for life over doping began an appeal against their suspension on Monday at CAS, the world’s top sports court.

The week-long hearing includes appeals from 39 Russians who competed at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi that were tarnished by a vast, Moscow-backed doping scheme, according to multiple independent investigations.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) refused to immediately confirm the reports of An’s ban. 

“To protect the rights of the persons involved, the IOC cannot comment on any individual cases but will communicate the invitation list in due course,” it said in a response to AFP.

Svetlana Zhurova — who took gold for Russia in speed skating at the 2006 Olympics and is now deputy of the lower house of parliament — said she did not understand how the games could go ahead without An. 

“Especially (when) the competition is taking place in his homeland. Victor Ah is without doubt the god of short track. And the IOC has just stripped the competition of its main character,” she said in comments reported by Sport Express daily.