MOSCOW: Swimming’s world governing body FINA has lifted the provisional suspension on world champion breaststroke specialist Yuliya Efimova, the head coach of the Russian national team said on Friday.
Efimova was handed a provisional ban in March after testing positive for the banned drug meldonium.
“The provisional suspension has been lifted, I can confirm that information,” head coach Sergei Kolmogorov told R-Sport news agency. “FINA still has to make a final decision on Efimova’s case, but I think everything is moving in the right direction.”
The 24-year-old, who won a bronze medal in the 200-meter breaststroke at the 2012 London Games and who is current 100-meter breaststroke champion, conceded she had taken meldonium for medical reasons before the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) ban on the drug came into effect on Jan. 1.
Jon Rudd, the coach of Ruta Meilutyte who was second behind Efimova in the 100 meters at the world championships, was dismayed by the decision.
“FINA have declared through various people in high office they have a zero tolerance when it comes to drug offences,” he told AFP on the sidelines of the European championships in London.
“That is the rhetoric, they have said it clearly and loudly and they have said it quite often.
“Then today, you get something…there is no extra information to go with the decision, I see something today and so does the world, that doesn’t stand anywhere near that statement.”
WADA said in April that athletes could escape a ban for taking meldonium because it does not know exactly how long it takes for the substance to leave the body.
Efimova, who had been suspended for 16 months and stripped of five European titles after testing positive for an anabolic steroid in 2013, could face a lifetime ban if found guilty of a second career doping code violation.
Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said earlier on Friday that all Russian athletes who had tested positive for meldonium — except Efimova and tennis star Maria Sharapova — had been exonerated.
WADA said in March that it will launch an investigation into doping in Russian swimming after British newspaper The Times claimed Sergei Portugalov, the doctor said to be the mastermind behind doping in Russian athletics, had pushed swimmers on Russia’s national team to take performance-enhancing drugs.
Russia meanwhile is working to overturn a ban by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) that could see its track and field stars sidelined from the Rio Olympics in August.
The country was provisionally suspended in November over a WADA independent commission report that found evidence of state-sponsored doping and mass corruption in Russian athletics.
The IAAF will rule on Russia’s participation at the Rio Games at an extraordinary Council meeting in Vienna next month. AFP