Members of the Russian Olympic national team wave upon their arrival at Sheremetyevo international airport in Moscow on August 13, 2012. AFP Photo/Alexander Nemenov

March 1, 2014

Team Russia’s astonishing success in Sochi a result of ‘hard work of hundreds’

Team Russia’s triumph at the Sochi Olympics came as a surprise for many prompting allegations in the German media that athletes could have used xenon gas as a doping agent. But these suspicions are groundless, a Russian sports official told RT.

“The West, probably, did not expect such a success for Team Russia,” Russia’s Deputy Sports Minister Yury Nagornykh told RT.

Russian Deputy Minister of Sports Yury Nagornykh (RIA Novosti / Alexey Kudenko)

He flatly denied all allegations, saying that no technologies using xenon have ever been used by Russian athletes and that all of them regularly underwent doping tests before, during and after the Sochi Olympics.

A recent report by German WDR TV channel alleged that Russian athletes may have used xenon gas while training for the Sochi Olympic Games to stimulate the release of hormone erythropoietin (EPO) in order to improve performance. The use of this blood-booster is banned in sport, WDR noted. The channel said that xenon “leaves no traces” yet it made several assumptions about the Russian team.

Allegations appeared after some Sochi doping tests of the German team gave positive results.

An official van passes by the anti-doping laboratory of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games on February 21, 2014 at the Olympic Park in Sochi, as a German athlete has failed a doping test - the first such case to hit the Sochi Games. (AFP Photo / Leon Neal)

Nagornykh said that Russian officials learnt about the allegations from the media and “somewhat renewed” their knowledge about the gas and ways it could be used.

“No xenon-linked technologies were used by members of the Russian sports team neither while preparing to the Games, nor during the course of Sochi Winter Olympics,” he said.

Nagornykh said Russia does not regard media speculation as accusations.

“The allegations circulated in the Western media suggest that Russian athletes might have used certain ‘techniques,’ while no actual instance of such use has been reported. So we are dealing with speculation,” he said.

“Both the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) rigorously control the training and competition processes and our athletes underwent tests on a regular basis within 6 months, and particularly at the final preparations period,” said the official. “Russian athletes, as those representing the Games host-country, had no preferences and sometimes were controlled even more often than athletes from other countries,”
he pointed out.

Xenon is a chemical element, a colorless, heavy, odorless noble gas, symbol ‘Xe’, atomic number 54. Xenon is most widely used in various types of lamps and as a general anesthetic.

Success is result of ‘selfless’ team work

In 2010, the Russian Ministry of Sports developed a special program for training the Russian national teams, the sports official said. The program included increasing the times allocated for centralized training, setting up necessary conditions for the national team, a search for new talent who would be capable of achieving results in Sochi, and, at the same time, maintaining the potential of Russia’s renowned sport stars.

Russia’s achievements at the Sochi Games are the result of “hard, and very selfless,” work of coaches, specialists and athletes, Nagornykh said.

“We take off our hat to athletes and coaches who during the four-year preparation period spent up to 330 days annually in training camps from Siberia to Chile and New Zealand,” he said. “We also invited the best specialists from abroad to train out teams in bobsleigh, short-track speed skating and figure skating. We returned some of Russian figure skating specialists who had moved abroad and worked there. A huge collective body of leading specialists in technique, psychologists, biomechanics and biochemists consulted our coaches so that our sportsmen could show in Sochi the utmost performance possible,” Nagornykh told RT.

(L-R) Russia's silver medalist Maxim Vyleghzanin, Russia's gold medalist Alexander Legkov and Russia's bronze medalist Ilia Chernousov pose on the podium during the Men's Cross-Country Skiing 50km Mass Start Free Victory Ceremony at the Closing Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 23, 2014. (AFP Photo / Peter Parks)

“Our athletes and coaches knew perfectly well the domestic Olympic Games was the main event of their sport careers and, of course, they had to do their best,” he added.

Team Russia topping the medal table did not come as a surprise for sport specialists, the Russian official believes.

“The 13 Olympic gold medals in Sochi is an expected result of calm, thoughtful and methodical effort of the Ministry of Sports working in close cooperation with sport federations and teams,”
Nagornykh said. “No miracle happened; the result we got was backed by hard work of hundreds of sportsmen, coaches and experts.”

Still, Russia has not fulfilled its full capacity in Sochi, the official believes, referring to “disappointment” over the hockey team performance, lack of medals in biathlon, cross-country skiing, and speed skating. Russian women’s curling team is also capable of performing better than it did during the 2014 Winter Games, Nagornykh said.

“So, we have things to work on in future. I’m sure our teams will keep making their fans happy. We are going to fight for medals in the entire range of winter sports competitions,” the deputy minister said.

‘We want to compete in the sports arena, not behind the scenes’

In a very short period of time, after rather a disappointing performance in Vancouver in 2010, Russia managed to get back on track.

“I imagine that some people must have been surprised that Russia has managed to pull itself together and comeback after Vancouver in such a short period of time. In the world of sport, four years is no time at all. At the disastrous Winter Olympics in Vancouver, we only won three gold medals and finished eleventh in the medal count. Now, Russia has reclaimed its position among the world’s leading winter sport nations,” Nagornykh observed.

Some people might have been upset by Russia’s results, but sport is about competition.

“We want to compete on the pitch, or on the racing track, but not behind the scenes. Our athletes have demonstrated that determination and hard work can get even the most ambitious task accomplished, such as getting the best result at your home Olympics,” Nagornykh concluded.

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