Every player on Russia’s women’s hockey team at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi was reportedly part of large-scale Russian doping program that included “at least 15 medal winners,” according to the New York Times.
In a shocking report published Thursday morning, Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, who ran Russia’s anti-doping laboratory during the 2014 Olympics, told the Times’ Rebecca R. Ruiz and Michael Schwirtz of a doping operation that saw as many as 100 potentially positive urine samples destroyed and replaced with clean samples. None of the athletes involved in the reported doping program were caught.
According to the Times, the athletes who were part of the program took a “cocktail of three anabolic steroids — metenolone, trenbolone and oxandrolone.” The mixture allowed the athletes to recover quicker and perform better over the course of a gruelling Olympic schedule, Dr. Rodchenkov told the Times, and the drugs were dissolved into alcohol to both speed up the absorption and “shorten the detection window.”
The Times reported 14 members of the cross-country skiing team, two bobsledders and a member of the skeleton team were part of the doping program, and Dr. Rodchenkov, who has since fled Russia to Los Angeles, said that the “entire women’s hockey team was doping throughout the Games.”
The Russian women’s team finished sixth at the Olympics, and were the only side to be scored on during the round robin portion of the tournament by the Japanese team. Russia finished the round robin atop Group B, but were ousted from the medal round thanks to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Switzerland in the quarter-final. Russia would go on to defeat Japan 6-3 to advance to the fifth-place game, but were shutout in that game 4-0 by the Finnish team.
As of the 2015-16 season, several members of the 2014 women’s Russian Olympic team play in North America. Among those who were part of Russian squad are Connecticut Whale forward Yekaterina Smolentseva and veteran Katia Pashkevitch, who played only one game with the NWHL club this past season. The Russian team also included CIS players Iya Gavrilova and Alexandra Vafina. It should be noted that Smolentseva competed and would have been tested at the 2016 World Championship, as would Gavrilova and Vafina, who both competed at the 2015 competition, as well.
The Russian women's team has been one of the teams looking to breakthrough into the upper-echelon of women's hockey, which often sees the Canadian and American teams battling for gold. Currently, Russia's women's team ranks fourth in the IIHF World Ranking, up two spots from 2015. Only Mexico, which moved from 35th to 32nd, saw a bigger rise in 2016.
The Times’ report of the alleged doping scandal — which is fascinating and can be read in full here — comes little more than one month after the entire Russian men’s U18 team was pulled from the World Championship in Grand Forks. The U17 team went to the tournament in place of the U18 club after several members of the team reportedly tested positive for meldonium, which was added to the World Anti-Doping Agency’s banned substances on Jan. 1.