Olympic champion Russian diver Ilia Zakharov retired earlier this week as Russian media reported he had missed multiple doping tests and was facing a suspension. Wednesday, FINA released a statement confirming Zakharov had been dealt a 18-month ban after missing three doping tests in a 12-month period.
“On 22 November 2019, the FINA Doping Panel issued a decision in the case of Ilia Zakharov (RUS) regarding his violation of the FINA DC Rule 2.4 – a combination of three missed tests within a twelve-month period,” the FINA doping panel wrote.
“The FINA Doping Panel decided according to the FINA DC Rule DC 10.3.2 to impose on the athlete a period of eighteen (18) months ineligibility starting on 22 November 2019 and ending at the conclusion of 21 May 2021 for his first anti-doping rule violation.”
Zakharov posted on Instagram that his retirement was due to injury and that he missed the doping tests as he underwent surgery. Russian news agency TASS reported that the missed tests were on Oct. 21, 2018, and Feb. 17 and June 11, 2019
“Today I would like to say that I will retire. And I want to thank all of you for your kind thoughts of me, for your support, my dear fans. I have never used doping… and I will never do it!” Zakharov wrote. “Due to injury I had two operations and missed doping tests. I am grateful to my family, my nearest and dearest, my friends who are always with me. Now I have a new stage in my life and I am preparing for it. I am sure I can do good for sport. Thanks a lot. I am always in touch.”
Alexei Vlasenko, president of the Russian Diving Federation, told TASS that Zakharov has no plans to appeal his suspension because he was already leaving the sport.
Zakharov, 28, won gold on the springboard at the 2012 Olympics, becoming the first non-Chinese diver (male or female) to win the event since 1992; he also earned silver on the synchronized springboard that year. Zakharov did not compete at the 2019 FINA World Championships last summer, citing a knee injury according to TASS, but did win at the Russian Championships in May.
He took 18th on the springboard in Rio and racked up seven world championships medals in his career.
The Russian Federation as a whole is currently awaiting its fate as WADA comes to a decision on the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s level of compliance. If officially found non-compliant when the WADA Executive Committee meets in early December, Russia as a nation could potentially be banned from major events, including the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.