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Doping may hamper Russian rowing federation to take part in contests

The entire Russian rowing federation could get a 4-year ban and miss the Beijing Olympics for the usage of prohibited injections.

International Rowing Federation president Denis Oswald said Thursday a rule calls for stiff sanctions for four or more doping offenses within a 12-month period. The Russian federation was involved in a doping case in 2006.

On Wednesday, Vladimir Varfolomeev, Denis Moiseev and Svetlana Fedorova were banned for violating rules concerning "use of a prohibited method," though they didn't test positive for doping.

"There were no positive tests and no prohibited substances. There was no blood doping and no injection of EPO. This is simply a case of intravenous infusions without medical justification," Oswald said at the world rowing championships.

If the federation is banned, that would exclude Russians from competing in next year's Beijing Olympics.

"This is something that I could imagine if it is in proportion to the offense," Oswald said. "However, as it would also affect innocent athletes, it is a decision which needs to be taken carefully and a full and in depth inquiry must be concluded."

FISA was alerted to suspicious activity on July 16 when a bag containing substances and pieces of medical equipment used for intravenous infusions was found in a garbage can near the hotel of the Russian rowing team in Lucerne, Switzerland.

The bag was taken to an accredited laboratory there and analyzed. Traces of blood found on the medical equipment were tested for DNA, the federation said.

FISA said the rowers would be banned until Aug. 28, 2009, while the investigation is ongoing.