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  • Monday, March 27, 2000

    Coach takes blame for failed doping test

    By NEIL STEVENS -- Canadian Press
     NICE, France -- It didn't seem fair that Tamara Moskvina was left to take the blame.
     
     While pairs skaters Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze relaxed Monday in Monte Carlo, their coach faced the media to explain why a positive drug test resulted in the 1998 and '99 world champions being disqualified from this year's competition.
     
     The International Skating Union kicked them out Sunday because Berezhnaya tested positive for a banned substance. The sample was taken during the European championships, which the Russians won, in Vienna, Feb. 6-13.
     
     "Please excuse us for not giving you the possibility to enjoy their performances," Moskvina said in closing her news conference.
     
     She explained that Berezhnaya had obtained medicine through a doctor in New Jersey, where they train, for bronchitis.
     
     "She was not sick but she did have some coughs because in our ice rink it was cold," Moskvina explained. "To have medicine against coughing -- for 30 years we've done it and it was never prohibited.
     
     "Nobody paid attention."
     
     Ignorance was a downfall in this case, she admitted. With other athletes having been disqualified during the 1990s after using cold remedies, her skaters should be more careful about what they take.
     
     "I do not accuse the doctor," Moskvina said. "I can only now accuse myself.
     
     "I was not attentive because for 30 years they never touched me. I will have to be more cautious about whatever medications my skaters take. This is a lesson for me. I need to start reading scientific stuff to learn."
     
     But it was an innocent mistake, she insisted.
     
     "Never as a coach for 30 years have I advised skaters to take anything prohibited," she said.
     
     Moskvina did not drop the pills into Berezhnaya's mouth, yet, she said the disqualification is her fault. It was a magnanimous gesture on her part to take the blame in Berezhnaya's absence.
     
     She and her skaters were advised last Friday by the president of the Russian skating federation that Berezhnaya had flunked the doping test.
     
     "I was surprised," she said. "I opened my eyes like saucepans. So did Elena.
     
     "I have always considered doping a great disgrace. We can win without this kind of help. The only pill I gave them was in artistry, music, preparation . . . "
     
     Berezhnaya, 22, and Sikharulidze, 23, are well known in Canada. They were first at Skate Canada in Saint John, N.B., and won the Sears Open in Mississauga, Ont., last autumn .
     
     An ISU council that meets next month will determine the length of the suspension for both the Russians and Natalia Ponomareva and Yevgeny Sviridov of Uzbekistan, also disqualified from pairs competition Sunday after Sviridov tested positive for a banned substance taken during the Four Continents meet in Osaka, Japan.



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