Cycling: I was breastfeeding so could not have doped - Zabelinskaya

Wed Aug 10, 2016 2:13pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Russia's Olga Zabelinskaya protested her innocence after winning the silver medal in the women's time trial on Wednesday, a week after almost flying home because a previous doping ban looked like ruling her out of the Olympics.

The 36-year-old Russian mother-of-three was beaten to the top step of the podium by American veteran Kristin Armstrong, missing out on victory by 5 seconds after a strong ride around the 29.7 km course.

Her participation had caused ill-feeling in the peloton, with British rider Emma Pooley saying she would refuse to shake Zabelinskaya's hand if she won a medal.

However, the Russian, who served an 18-month suspension in 2014-15 for testing positive for a banned stimulant, said she had never doped and that the fact she was breastfeeding her youngest child at the time of the test proved it.

"No, I never in my life," she told reporters when asked if she had ever doped.

"I am clean for myself, for my kids, for everything, when I got this problem with doping, I had my third child and I breastfeeded in this time.

"Any mother knows if you breastfeed you can't take any medicine."

After independent reports for the World Anti-Doping Agency found evidence of widespread state-sponsored cheating in Russia, Olympics bosses said no athlete with a past conviction for doping should be allowed to compete in Rio - a position the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled unenforceable.   Continued...

2016 Rio Olympics - Cycling Road - Final - Women's Individual Time Trial - Pontal - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 10/08/2016. Olga Zabelinskaya (RUS) of Russia competes. REUTERS/Paul Hanna