FILE - In this Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014 file photo, Russia's gold medal winner Alexander Legkov is flanked by Russia's silver medal winner Maxim Vylegzhanin, left and Russia's bronze medal winner Ilia Chernousov during the flower ceremony of the men's 50K cross-country race at the 2014 Winter Olympics, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. Four more Russian cross-country skiers have been found guilty of doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, it was announced on Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 including silver medalist Maxim Vylegzhanin. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader, file)

4 more Russian skiers banned for doping at Sochi Olympics

November 09, 2017 - 8:37 am

MOSCOW (AP) — Four more Russian cross-country skiers were found guilty of doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Thursday, including silver medalist Maxim Vylegzhanin.

The Russian Cross-Country Ski Federation said the four have been disqualified by the International Olympic Committee and banned from all future Olympics.

The other three skiers found guilty are Alexei Petukhov, Yulia Ivanova and Evgenia Shapovalova. Vylegzhanin won three silver medals in Sochi, but none of the others won a medal.

Six Russian cross-country skiers have now been found guilty of doping at the Sochi Olympics by an IOC commission. Alexander Legkov, who won gold in the 50-kilometer race ahead of Vylegzhanin in a Russian sweep, and Evgeny Belov were banned last week.

Vylegzhanin also finished second in the team sprint and the 4x10-kilometer relay. Russia's relay silver was already stripped last week when Legkov was banned.

The IOC bans leave Russia with only one medal in cross-country skiing, the bronze won by Ilya Chernousov in the 50K. The IOC will decide if he should be upgraded to gold.

Russia remains at the top of the Sochi medals table, but more verdicts are expected which could affect other golds, potentially pushing the Russians below Norway.

Without positive doping tests, the IOC disciplinary panel used evidence of cover-ups and tampering of sample bottles that was first gathered last year by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren.

With calls to ban Russia's team from next year's Pyeongchang Olympics likely to increase, the IOC's executive board will meet from Dec. 5-7 to discuss the matter.

The Russian ski federation said it is preparing an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on the four cases announced Thursday. Legkov and Belov have also said they will appeal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin disputed the bans, saying evidence of tampering wasn't proof of guilt.

In comments reported by Russian news agencies, Putin didn't mention the skiers by name but said his government had never supported or covered up doping.

Putin also claimed that U.S. interests were trying to use Russia's doping scandals to discredit the government and influence the country's presidential election in March.

"In response to our supposed interference in their elections, they want to cause problems in the Russian presidential election," he said.

Putin is widely expected to run for re-election but has yet to confirm that.

Russian sports officials reacted angrily to the new bans.

"(The IOC) is just spitting on us and thinking we'll swallow it," Russian Cross-Country Ski Federation vice president Sergei Kryanin told the R-Sport agency. "Why is it issuing these rulings with no proof?"

The cross-country World Cup season starts on Nov. 24.

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