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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 01:27 GMT

Lazutina test angers Russia

Russia are standing by cross country skier Larissa Lazutina following her disqualification from the women's 4x5km cross country relay.

Lazutina, who has won two silvers in Salt Lake City, was disqualified shortly before Thursday's race which was eventually won by Germany, after a blood test showed "abnormalities".

Russia immediately withdrew their team from the race claiming they had been informed of the test results too late to name a replacement.

The Russians, who have dominated the cross country events at Soldier Hollow, then launched a protest into the disqualification.

They had been red hot favourites to retain the gold they won in Nagano four years ago.

Hours later they also threatened to quit the remainder of the Winter Olympics altogether claiming the controversy in the cross country was the last straw after earlier incidents in the figure skating and ice hockey events.

"We have lodged a protest with the International Ski Federation and the medical commission of the IOC about the timing, and the way in which this (second) test was carried out"
Vitali Smirnov, a Russian vice president of the IOC

Leonid Tygachev, president of the Russian Olympic Committee said that while Lazutina's blood count was just above the legal limit, she was not guilty of doping.

"We are clean," he said. "We have nothing to hide."

Vitali Smirnov, a Russian vice-president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said the team had filed an official protest because they were not informed quickly enough to name a replacement.

"We had a sure gold medal and it was just taken away," he told reporters.

"We have lodged a protest with the International Ski Federation and the medical commission of the IOC about the timing, and the way in which this (second) test was carried out."

Lazutina, 36, came to the Games hoping to beat the women's record for the most Winter Olympic golds, six.

She has nine career Olympic medals (five gold, three silvers and a bronze) and is also due to compete in the 30km classical on Saturday.


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