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Games face new doping blow as Canadian skaters serve up magic

20 Feb 2018, 21:07 IST
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Pyeongchang (South Korea), Feb 20 (AFP) The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics was hit by a third doping scandal today, casting a shadow over the magic on ice served up by peerless Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.

On a day when the first unified Korean Olympic team took an emotional bow, the Games suffered a fresh doping blow with the suspension of Slovenian ice hockey player Ziga Jeglic.

It came soon after a Russian bronze medallist in curling was suspended for failing a doping test and a Japanese short-track speed skater was similarly kicked out of the Games in South Korea last week.

Russian curler Alexander Krushelnitsky tested positive for the banned substance meldonium and Moscows sports minister waded into the controversy on Tuesday when he said the athlete was innocent of knowingly taking the drug.

"In this case, the athlete could not have used the banned drug intentionally, it would be simply pointless. Curling, as a whole, is not the kind of sport in which dishonest athletes use doping," said Pavel Kolobkov.

It could have wider repercussions -- Olympic officials will decide this week whether to lift a formal ban on Russia and let them march behind their national flag at Sundays closing ceremony.

Jeglic, who plays in Russia, tested positive for fenoterol, a banned substance used to treat breathing difficulties, and was given 24 hours to quit the Olympic Village.

The latest drugs scandal hit just after one of the high points of the Games -- the gold-medal-winning performance of Virtue and Moir to clinch victory in the ice dance.

They skated last after watching French rivals Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron break their own free dance record and top the standings with the best combined total of their careers.

The pressure was unbearable but Virtue and Moir showed no signs of buckling, skating out a flawless routine to Roxanne from Moulin Rouge in what may well be their last hurrah on the world stage.

"Amazing. It was a special moment to come out last," said Virtue.

Papadakis suffered embarrassment during Mondays routine when her dress slipped open but she and Cizeron were still on course for gold -- until the Canadians delivered something special to become the most decorated Olympic skaters of all time.

- Really emotional -

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Away from the grace and elegance of the skating rink, Martin Fourcade became the most decorated French athlete in Olympic history as he helped his country to gold in the biathlon mixed relay.

It was the remarkable 29-year-olds fifth Olympic title, his third in South Korea.

"We often say that we are doing an individual sport but we are living more than 220 days a year together," Fourcade said, stressing it was a team achievement.

"Winning this medal together is something really emotional and we really enjoy it."

In contrast, his fellow French competitor Marie Martinod wiped out on her final run in freestyle skiings halfpipe to hand gold to Cassie Sharpe of Canada.

Sharpe produced some jaw-dropping aerobatics and celebrated by raising her hands behind her head in a bunny-ear sign as she crossed the line backwards.

There were tears and cheers as the unified Korean womens hockey team exited the Olympics with a 6-1 defeat to Sweden in their final game.

The team was hastily assembled following a landmark deal between South and North Korea only a few weeks before the Pyeongchang Games, and has 12 North Koreans on its roster.

The squad had little success, however, shipping 28 goals and scoring just twice in their five defeats.

But they proved a crowd favourite and came to stand as a symbol of the abrupt reconciliation between North and South Korea that occurred in the run-up to the Games.

At the business end of the competition in Pyeongchang, where more strong wind is forecast at the end of the week, Germany caught Norway at the top of the medals table with 11 golds apiece.

The spotlight returns to alpine skiing on Wednesday when American speed queen Lindsey Vonn will bid for a second Olympic downhill gold medal

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