A medal contender from Russia’s Sochi Olympic biathlon team, Irina Starykh, is heading home after testing positive for a banned substance, the Russian Biathlon Union said Thursday.

MOSCOW, January 30 (R-Sport) – Sprint specialist Starykh, 26, has emerged from obscurity over the last two years to become a leading light in the biathlon World Cup and a medal contender for the February 7-23 Sochi Olympics in Russia.

The RBU’s website quoted what the organization said was a letter from Starykh in which she said she had left the national team for an “undetermined period.” The Olympic biathlon competition starts February 8.

“I have received a notification [from the International Biathlon Union] in which it is stated that one of my tests gave a positive result,” the letter states.

“This news was a major unexpected event for me. Believe me that I respectfully regret that this story is linked with my name. … I do not have the right or the desire to let down the girls and the whole team.”

The letter states that Starykh has asked for her ‘B’ sample to be assessed, signaling she may fight the doping claims.

Starykh was a prominent junior athlete in the mid-2000s, but missed four years of elite competition before debuting in the World Cup last year. She is sixth in the women’s overall World Cup table this season with two individual podium finishes and one relay win.

International Biathlon Union vice president Ivor Lehotan confirmed to R-Sport on Thursday that a total of three athletes from Russia and Lithuania had failed doping tests, but refused to name the athletes involved, citing IBU policy.

Starykh was one of two Russian biathletes reported to have failed doping tests by the sports website championat.com. The other was Ekaterina Iourieva, who is not in the Russian Olympic squad.

Russia was caught up in the last major Olympic biathlon doping scandal in 2006, when the silver medalist in the women’s 15km individual race, Olga Pyleva, now known as Olga Medvedtseva, tested positive for the stimulant carphedon. She was banned for two years and stripped of her medal.

 

Photo: Irina Starykh | © by RIA Novosti. Alexander Vilf