MOSCOW (Reuters) - Cyclist Vladimir Gusev will not compete in the Beijing Olympics after his professional team fired him last month on suspicion of doping, the head of Russia’s cycling federation said on Tuesday.
Gusev, 25, was scheduled to compete in the individual time trial on August 13 and had been tipped for a medal.
He won the Russian national championship in the discipline in June but was fired by Astana in July after internal, out-of-competition tests showed abnormal blood values.
“This is a tragedy for the athlete, this kind of suspicion. Not just in cycling, but any sport, it’s bad and it can distract from a desired result,” Russian Cycling Federation head Alexander Gusyatnikov told Reuters.
Gusev did not test positive for doping, and has not been accused of using performance enhancing drugs, Gusyatnikov said.
“We believe him, we have faith, but who knows? Maybe in the technical data something will show up.”
Astana was not at the Tour de France in July and Gusev’s high-mountain training for Beijing could have altered his blood values, Gusyatnikov said.
“He spent a lot of time at altitude and his body was attuned to elevation where there is less oxygen. That alone has the effect of changing blood indicators ... But all we can do now is wait and follow procedures,” Gusyatnikov said.
Gusev’s exclusion from the Olympics, where he will be replaced in the time trial by the 4th-place finisher in this year’s Tour de France, Denis Menchov, is the second doping-related withdrawal to hit Russia ahead of Beijing.
Last week seven Russian track and field athletes were provisionally banned on suspicion of manipulating their out-of-competition urine samples.
The Russian Sport’s Minister Vitaly Mutko called those bans unprecedented, but said avoiding scandal was more important than losing medals. He singled out cycling as a sport nearly run aground by doping.
Last week, at a public meeting with Gusyatnikov, Mutko told the cycling head to ensure that allegations of doping did not further cloud Russia’s Olympic ambitions.
“One doping instance and everything we earn in the Olympics could be wiped out. I ask you to take maximal control and get maximum guarantees that international cycling officials have no pretences in the Gusev affair against our athlete,” Mutko said.
Gusev turned professional in 2004 with Team CSC. In 2007, with Team Discovery, he won a mountain stage and was the best climber in the Tour de Suisse. At last year’s World Championships he placed 6th in the time trial.
Reporting by Chris Baldwin; Editing by Jon Bramley and Alex Richardson