Sunday, February 24, 2002
Lazutina wins race, but is stripped of gold after test
MIDWAY, Utah -- Cross-country skier Larissa Lazutina of
Russia was disqualified for testing positive for a
performance-enhancing drug, losing the gold medal she won Sunday in
the 30-kilometer classic-style race.
The medal would have been Lazutina's 10th, tied for the most
ever by a woman. However, she tested positive for darbepoetin,
which boosts production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to
After Lazutina was disqualified, Gabriella Paruzzi of Italy, who
finished second, was awarded the gold, Stefania Belmondo of Italy
gets the silver and Bente Skari of Norway gets the bronze.
Lazutina, 36, will get to keep the two medals she won earlier in
Lazutina's Russian teammate, Olga Danilova was also disqualified
for the same drug. She finished eighth. Danilova gets to keep two
medals she won earlier at these Olympics.
Also testing positive was triple-gold medalist Johann Muehlegg
of Spain, who must return his medal from Saturday's 50K classical
race. All three athletes must leave the games and could not take
part in the closing ceremony.
Since darbepoetin is relatively new, it is not on the IOC's list
of banned substances. But it has similar properties to the banned
hormone erythropoietin, or EPO.
Lazutina passed a urine sample Sunday, but she was stripped of
the medal because she darbepoetin was found in a blood test she
took earlier this week.
On Thursday, Lazutina was disqualified from the women's relay
for having high levels of performance-boosting hemoglobin, a blood
molecule that helps carry oxygen to muscles.
She was allowed to compete Sunday after taking another blood
test. The results were negative for hemoglobin.
"It was a shocking experience," she said before being
disqualified for darbepoetin Sunday. "That tragedy on Thursday
made me more determined to work hard."
The heavily favored Russians had to withdraw from the
competition. Russian officials claimed drug-testers were targeting
their athletes, and the dispute led to widespread complaints of
biased judging in other sports.
Russia threatened to pull out of the Winter Olympics and not
compete in the 2004 Summer Games if its concerns were not
"The rules need to be changed," Lazutina said. "Unfortunately
we cannot change any rules. In that sense, I feel lawless. ... It's
hard to get to the people who make decisions.
"I feel like we're treated like criminals because of those
If Lazutina had kept her gold from Sunday, she would have tied
the women's Winter Games record held by cross-country skier Raisa
Smetanina, who won four gold, five silver and one bronze competing
for the Soviet Union and the Russian Unified team from 1976 to
Lazutina won silver medals in the 15K freestyle race and the 10K
combined event. She also finished fourth in the 10K classical.
Lazutina led every leg of the race Sunday, covering the Soldier
Hollow course in 1 hour, 29 minutes, 9 seconds. Paruzzi finished
almost two minutes behind.
Nina Kemppel was the top American finisher in 15th, followed by
Wendy Wagner (23th) and Barbara Jones (35th). It was Kemppel's best
finish at these games. Aelin Peterson did not start the race.
"It's been a really tough week for me mentally to overcome all
my setbacks and stay positive," Kemppel said. "Today was a day to
go out there and ski for myself."