Seven Russian Athletes Banned Could Have Profound Effect On Medal Haul

On Monday FINA issued a statement announcing that seven swimmers from the Russian Olympic team have been withdrawn, with more to possibly follow. Four athletes were withdrawn by the Russian Olympic Committee, and three more have been named in the WADA-sanctioned McLaren report, named ineligible by FINA. For more information and the full release by FINA, click here.

Among the seven athletes removed from the team, six of them had a legitimate chance at one medal or more. The athletes removed are as follows:

Athletes withdrawn by the ROC:

–    Mikhail Dovgalyuk
–    Yulia Efimova
–    Natalia Lovtcova
–    Anastasia Krapivina (Marathon Swimming)

Athletes appearing in the WADA IP Report:

–    Nikita Lobintsev
–    Vladimir Morozov
–    Daria Ustinova

Here’s a closer look at each swimmer removed, their past international success and what their chances were heading into Rio.

Dovgalyuk swam a best time of 1:47.83 in the 200 free at the Russian Olympic Trials to place fourth, qualifying for the team as a relay-only swimmer. Though only him and 3rd place finisher Danila Izotov were named as relay-only swimmers in this relay, 5th and 6th place finishers at Trials Vyacheslav Andrusenko (400 free) and Alexander Sukhorukov (400 free relay) also qualified to swim in Rio, so there’s a chance Dovgalyuk would have only swum the prelim relay had he been out-swum in the prelims.

The Russians won silver in the 800 free relay at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and again at the 2009 World Championships in Rome, but faltered at the last Olympics finishing 10th in London. They have had improved results since, placing 2nd and 4th respectively at the last two World Championships. Dovgalyuk was part of the team that finished 4th in Kazan. Trials runner-up Nikita Lobintsev, who was set to also swim the individual race in Rio, has also been removed from the Olympic team. How this effects the 800 free relay moving forward remains to be seen.

The most talked about Russian swimmer lately, Efimova’s ban is music to the ears of many swimming fans who are calling for clean sport. Until recently it appeared Efimova would be allowed in Rio after being cleared by FINA, but the IOC has taken action. She will reportedly appeal this decision to the CAS. Efimova was unable to swim at the Russian Olympic Trials due to her doping ban, but was a legitimate medal threat in both breaststroke events in Rio.

Efimova was the world champion last year in Kazan in the 100, and did the same thing two years prior in Barcelona in the 200. This year she sits 2nd in the world in both the 100 and 200 breast, done at the Arena Pro Swim in Orlando in March. Her times of 1:05.70 and 2:21.41 sat behind only American Lilly King (1:05.20) and Japan’s Rie Kaneto (2:19.65) for top spot in the world. She was also the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist in the 200. Efimova’s removal from the team leaves Daria Chikunova (100 br) and Sofia Andreeva (200 br) as Russia’s female breaststrokers at the Games.

Lovtcova was set to swim the 50 free and 100 fly in Rio, as well as swim on the 400 free relay. Lovtcova was seeded 25th in the 50 free with her entry of 25.00 done last year, but she was faster at this years Trials in 24.97. Her best time is 24.93, leaving her outside of the medal conversation, but she would’ve had a shot at the semi-finals. She was also seeded 25th in the 100 fly with a 58.42. At Trials Lovtcova finished 1st in the 50 free, 2nd in the 100 fly and 3rd in the 100 free.

Lovtcova was an Olympian four years ago in the 400 free relay, and most recently swam four individual events at the 2015 World Championships including a 13th place finish in the 100 freestyle. The Russian 400 free relay could go on without any additional changes being made if they so chose, as 4th place finisher at Trials Rozaliya Nasretdinova qualified for the team in the 50 free, so they have added Daria Mullakaeva as an alternate, giving them four along with the Trials top-2 of Veronika Popova and Viktoriya Andreeva (Andreeva won’t swim the 100 individually in Rio, but she will swim the 200 IM).

Anastasia Krapivina, an open water swimmer who was suspended back in 2013, automatically qualified for Rio with her 5th place finish at the 2015 World Championships in the 10 KM. Just two seconds outside of a medal, Krapivina figured to be in the hunt for a medal this year in Rio. She also placed 8th in the 5 KM race, and recently came away with the win at the Russian Open Water Championships.

Nikita Lobintsev broke out at the 2008 Olympics, qualifying for the final of the 400 free in a national record (that still stands) and won silver on the 800 free relay. Since then he has been a consistent performer for Russia, winning four World Championship medals on the free relays and added another Olympic medal in 2012 with a bronze in the 400 free relay. Lobintsev placed second at the Olympic Trials in the 200 free, earning an individual event at the Olympics to go along with the relay. He also placed 6th in the 100 free, so he could’ve potentially been used as a prelim swimmer in the 400 free relay.

A finalist four years ago in London in the 100 free, Lobintsev was a long shot to match that this year in the 200, but he and the Russians were real medal threats in the 800 free relay. He and Dovgalyuk take away half of the top-4 in this event at Russian Olympic Trials.

Probably the biggest surprise on this list is Morozov, who has no positive doping tests on record but was on the McLaren report banning him from the Games. Morozov had a legitimate chance at a medal in both the 50 and 100 freestyles as well as the 400 free relay. Beginning with an Olympic bronze in 2012 on the 400 free relay, Morozov hit his stride in 2013, earning a silver medal in the 50 free at the World Championships along with a bronze in the 400 free relay.

Morozov split a 46.95 last year on the 400 free relay at the World Championships, but was disqualified in the individual race leaving him with no individual medals. Morozov was seeded 6th in the 50 free for Rio and was our original pick for bronze, but that won’t happen and the picks have been updated. He was also seeded 9th in the 100 free, and is the key for the Russians in the 400 free relay. They have medalled at 4 of the last 5 major championship meets (Olympics & World Championships), but with Morozov out they’ll be in tough to reach the podium again.

Daria Ustinova placed fourth at the World Championships last year in the 200 back, and has been even faster this year as she was a medal threat. She sits 5th in the world with her time of 2:06.92, and is also 15th in the 100 back in 59.78. She won both events at the Russian Olympic Trials. Her absence now leaves Anastasia Fesikova as the only female Russian backstroker on the team.


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Attila the Hunt
5 years ago

It is straight up child abuse.

How would anyone even defend that?

5 years ago

Why is Vladimir Morosov getting punished? Does an athlete that talented really need to use PED’s? Has he ever been caught using? This sounds fishy to me………

He trains at USC or am I wrong? I was interested in seeing him compete. If he’s innocent. why would he get banned? He seems smarter than that.

I’m tired of all this drug garbage tainting the great sport of competitive swimming. It’s killing my interest……………….

Joel Lin
Reply to  Billy
5 years ago

If he’s in the report, it isn’t fishy. It would either be missed tests or a past positive. That hasn’t yet been disclosed, but the inference this is a witch hunt is offensive. There’s something there with Vlad. I’m disappointed and sorry to see it too, but the only way this “drug garbage tainting a great sport” gets addressed is smoke it all out now.

5 years ago

Can’t help but think Arkady Vyatchanin was backing away from this mess when he left Russia.

Reply to  IRO
5 years ago

Would have to agree. He was the smart one in Russia!!

Reply to  YoungFish11
5 years ago

But alas, still not going to the Olympics

Attila the Hunt
Reply to  swimdoc
5 years ago

At least his reputation is still intact; not so much for Morozov and Lobintsev.

5 years ago

The fact that the Russians conspired to cheat the doping control system at competitions inside their country takes the doping controversy to a whole new level of shock and disillusionment.

They’ll never get to host another major athletic competition again.

ole 99
Reply to  marklewis
5 years ago

Except for the World Cup.

5 years ago

It should have an asterisk….if their appeals are turned down…….

5 years ago

Will the removal of Krapivina open an extra spot in the 10K?

Reply to  W3T
5 years ago

Yes, Anna Olasz who was 11th in Kazan. It’s “certainty” at the moment. We’ll see it.

5 years ago

Very disappointed about Vladimer. As I being a nieve American I thought being of the U.S. he would tell them to go pound sand when they intervened or his was poor decision if he missed a test or two.

Joel Lin
5 years ago

I think my conspiracy theory is pretty good now.

I think these seven will each appeal to CAS and win. The four that are barred because of prior bans will prevail because it is well settled there is no second dip to punish an athlete that has already served the punishment of a prior sanction. Vlad and the others named in the WADA report somewhere seems to clearly signal each of them were popped in the re-testing of samples. There isn’t a rational other way to explain it. Each of them will appeal and win because they have technically never been reported by WADA or sanctioned by FINA yet.

FINA ain’t stupid people. They want to show compliance with… Read more »

Reply to  Joel Lin
5 years ago

Dissapointed about Vladimer. I as a niaeve American thought he would tell them to “pound sand” with this crap or did he make the mistake of missing a test or two.

Reply to  Joel Lin
5 years ago

Very disappointed in Vladimer. I as a naive American was he would tell them to ” go pound sand” or did he miss a test or two which was a poor decision.
This is my third time trying to post am I censored.

Reply to  Joel Lin
5 years ago

I buy about 90% of it. But if Vlad has a buried positive test I think that is grounds for provisional suspension just like the Brazil gal was temporarily suspended pending her case being cleared. How would they clear him to compete with a positive test case pending? There is too much heat at this point to let him compete. If Vlad has no positive test and he has a bunch of negative USADA test results from his USA training then I think he is good to go.

Reply to  Joel Lin
5 years ago

So you finally got what IOC was up to … ? Great for you!
Of course they know that this decision wont stand, so all those cheaters will still be allowed to compete, but IOC can act as if they really tried to change something.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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