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Bazarova, Larionov could face two-year ban

Russian pair suspended with tests pending

Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov won the bronze medal last October at Skate America, which was their international senior-level debut.
Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov won the bronze medal last October at Skate America, which was their international senior-level debut. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Todd Hinckley
(02/18/2008) - According to www.juniorworlds2008.com, Russia's Yuri Larionov tested positive in a drug test taken last November, two weeks before the Junior Grand Prix Final in Gdansk, Poland. Larionov and his partner, Vera Bazarova, could now face a two-year ban from competition. In the meantime, the ninth-ranked pair in the world is suspended from all competitions while the test procedure finishes.

Larionov tried to explain what happened in an interview with Sport Den za Dnem: "WADA experts visited us at home and took blood samples two weeks before the start of the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final. The drug test proved positive. I might have taken some headache pills, but nothing from the list of banned drugs."

Bazarova and Larionov are one of the hottest young pairs in the world. They finished second at the 2007 World Junior Championships behind Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, who just won the U.S. national title last month and are ranked No. 5 in the world right now.

The Russians started the 2007 Junior Grand Prix Series with a silver-medal finish at JGP Germany. They followed that with a gold the next week at JGP Great Britain.

The pair then made a bigger statement at Skate America, their international senior-level debut, the next week, where they won the bronze medal.

Bazarova and Larionov went back to the junior ranks and won the gold medal at the JGP Final in December. A month later, the couple had a disappointing showing at Russian nationals, where they finished sixth.

The Russians would have been the favorites at the 2008 World Junior Championships, to be held Feb. 25 - Mar. 2 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Now they will wait to see if their ban will be lifted, and their names cleared.