Russia replaces whole U18 roster and coach on the eve of WJC

Russia replaces whole U18 roster and coach on the eve of WJC

Davide Tuniz06 Apr 2016Davide Tuniz»

The consequences of Meldonium abuse also reach the world of hockey?


A strange and apparently inexplicable event happened yesterday: U18 final roster for the 2016 IIHF Men’s U18 World Championship, scheduled from 14 to 24 April in Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA, was removed from the Russian Hockey Federation’s website one day prior to the team’s departure for the North Dakota and the day after the last training match played, and lost 5-1, against KHL team Vityaz Podolsk. While Russian media began to suspect a link between the removal and the recent scandal involving Russian athletes from different sports, from tennis icon Maria Sharapova to volleyball team Surgut Ugra not alligning key players in CEV Cup final against Berlin few days ago. The felon? A substance called Meldonium, which was banned by the WADA on January 1st, 2016, causing an earthquake in the Russian world of sport.
Is this the cause of the sudden replacement? Initially Russian Federation denied the possible link: “There is no any decision at the moment. If there will be any changes, the information will be published on our official website.” said U18 team’s official spokesman, Maxim Biryukov, as reported by agency but later team coach Vitali Prokhorov confirmed the rumour to R-Sport portal “We discussed with the Russian Minister of Sports, I won’t be flying to the US, I can’t give you any other comment.”

Prokhorov and the entire team, composed mostly by players born in 1998, will be replaced by U17 team - players born in 1999 - coached by Sergei Golubovich, with Igor Znaroks - younger brother of senior team coach Olegs -  Dmitri Kokorev and Eduard Timashev as assistants, as confirmed by same Igor Znaroks "Yes. We’re going there. And we are going to get the medals.” at journalist Slava Malamud. But while coaches and athletes involved confirmed the change, the Federation released another statement by same President Vladislav Tretiak: "I am surprised by the large amount of rumors and speculation about our U18 team. The final roster will be announced, as planned, tomorrow (Thursday April 07) at 17:00, Moscow time, on Federation website"Also forward German Rubtsov apparently falls from the sky: "No one told us anything about this, we are ready to go to the World Championship, we have been preparing all season for this" - said by phone to R-Sport, referring to the fact that the Russia U18 competed in MHL this season. In conclusion, while the IIHF,  through the press service, merely stresses that "The team has the right to modify the roster up to two hours before the first meeting of the Directorate of the tournament, so at the moment Russia have the full right to decide whom to bring to the tournament" probably fans have to wait for the official announcement to discover the truth. But the confusion not bode well. Meanwhile, to avoid misunderstandings, Team Canada announced entire roster will be tested for meldonium tomorrow at training camp in Winnipeg.

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