MOSCOW: Russia’s short track speed skating star Victor An has been banned from next month’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics after being implicated in allegations of state-sponsored doping, Russian media reported on Monday.
An, the world’s most successful short track speed skater, has been accused in the World Anti-Doping Agency-sponsored McLaren report, TASS news agency reported.
“An has been suspended from participating in the Olympics,” TASS said.
A Russian lawyer said An’s inclusion in the report was “unexpected” because he was not on a list of Russian competitors already barred from the Games over the scandal.
Mikhail Prokopets told Sport Express daily that An would have to miss Pyeongchang because he would have insufficient time to lodge an appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) before the Olympics begin on February 9.
“We had the names of those suspended beforehand and An was not on this list,” Prokopets 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.”
An, 32, who was born in South Korea as Ahn Hyun-Soo, won three gold medals at the Sochi Games for Russia after switching allegiance to the country in 2011 following a row with South Korean sports officials.
He had previously won three golds at the 2006 Turin Olympics representing South Korea.
He now lives in Russia with his South Korean wife and child.
An had earlier requested permission to compete as a neutral athlete at the upcoming Olympics following the IOC’s ban on Russia’s athletes over the doping allegations.
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 that included tampering with urine samples, 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 An 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.