Four Russian cross-country skiers get life ban for doping

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By Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Four Russian cross-country skiers have been banned for life from the Olympics after they were found guilty of doping at the 2014 Sochi Games by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Russian cross-country federation said on Thursday.

The head of the federation, Elena Valbe, told R-Sport that skiers Maxim Vylegzhanin, Alexei Petukhov, Evgenia Shapovalova and Yulia Ivanova had been disqualified and their results annulled over doping.

"The athletes have been disqualified for life from taking part in the Olympic Games," Valbe said, without specifying the doping violations.

The IOC has yet to make a statement regarding the skiers.

The decision brings to six the number of Russian cross-country skiers sanctioned this month for violating anti-doping rules as part of an IOC investigation into allegations of widespread doping among Russians and sample tampering by laboratory and security officials at the Sochi Games.

The skiers' disqualification also means Russia loses two silver medals won by Vylegzhanin in the 50 km freestyle and the team sprint.

Petukhov, Shapovalova and Ivanova did not win medals at Sochi. Petukhov, a two-time world medallist, won bronze at the 2010 Vancouver Games in the team sprint.

Ivanova was part of the Russian team that placed sixth in the relay in Sochi. She also finished 17th in the 10 km, while Shapovalova finished 19th in the 15 km sprint.

The Russian cross-country federation said in a statement it would appeal the decision at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

The announcement comes a week after cross-country skiers Alexander Legkov and Evgeniy Belov received life bans from the Olympics over doping at Sochi.

Legkov won gold in the 50km and a silver medal in the 4x10 km relay event. The IOC said all of Russia's 4x10 km team, which included Vylegzhanin, would be disqualified given Legkov's violation.

Belov, who competed in the men's skiathlon 15+15 km mass start event and the 15 km classic country skiing event, did not win a medal at Sochi.

The IOC is re-testing all Russian athletes' samples from the 2014 Games following revelations by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Moscow's suspended anti-doping laboratory, of a scheme to cover up home competitors' positive samples.

The IOC has said it will decide during its executive board meeting being held from Dec. 5-7 on the participation of Russian competitors at the Pyeongchang winter Olympics in February.

(Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; Editing by Alison Williams)