A senior International Olympic Committee member has compared meldonium, the substance at the centre of a Russian doping case at the Winter Olympics, with common aspirin.

Gian-Franco Kasper’s comments are potentially significant because he is part of the IOC committee that is to decide whether to lift Russia’s Olympic suspension imposed for mass doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

In an interview with AFP, Kasper played down the doping case which led to Russian curler Alexander Krushelnitsky being stripped of a bronze medal after meldonium was found in two tests.

“A special case like that one could happen to any country,” said Kasper, a Swiss national who heads the International Ski Federation (FIS).

“Meldonium is like aspirin in our countries,” he said, referring to western Europe.

Kasper also indicated that be believed such a substance would have little impact in a skill-based sport like curling.

Although meldonium is a drug used mainly to treat heart and cardiovascular diseases, there is speculation about its potential endurance-boosting properties.

“It’s time to end this playground talk in the press,” Kasper said.

Kasper is one of the 14-strong IOC committee that also includes former Olympic pole vault champion Sergei Bubka who on Saturday will decide whether to lift Russia’s suspension.

The wider IOC will vote on their decision on Sunday, ahead of the closing ceremony in Pyeongchang.

They have the option to “partially or fully” lift Russia’s suspension, which was imposed in December after investigations revealed a highly orchestrated doping plot culminating at the Sochi Games where Russia topped the medals table.

Although Russia is banned, the IOC has allowed a team of 168 Russians to compete in Pyeongchang.

Figure skater Alina Zagitova, 15, won the team’s first goal medal of the Games on Friday.

Pressed on what a partial suspension could entail, Kasper told AFP: “You could in theory say: Russia is re-admitted but not the president of its national Olympic committee.

He added: “We have to give young (Russians) the chance to prove they are clean.”

On Friday, a fresh Russian doping case overshadowed Zagitova’s gold when Russia’s bobsleigh federation said bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeyeva had tested positive for a “heart medicine” which is on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of banned substances. – Agence France-Presse

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