What the Russians left behind

what the russians left behind

This is an incident that has flown under the radar somewhat – towards the end of July, two riders from the Russian ProContinental team Rusvelo flew over to the United States to participate in the Prairie State Cycling Series (part of the National Criterium Calendar). A few days ago, a photo of what they left in the bins of their host family was posted to the internet. 

The photo was posted on Twitter by TheRealPSIMET, but taken down after he was asked to remove it. It should be noted that the Tweet mistakenly referred to the Tour of America’s Dairyland rather than the race series the two Russians took part in. A version of the tweet still exists thanks to Team SmartStop p/b Mountain Khakis rider Adam Myerson.

The Tumblr blogs of reputed bloggers INRNG and Cyclocosm carry the photo with Cyclocosm adding..

“So I’m getting DMs me telling me it’s real, and from‎ Prairie State Cycling
Series, not ToAD, but that the host family doesn’t want to talk about it
and threw away the drugs. Of course, no one wants to speak publicly
about, name names, etc. Silence doesn’t promote clean sport.”

Ivan (left), Evgeny (right)

The riders in question are two brothers – Ivan and Evgeny Kovalev. Ivan is the elder at 27, while his brother is 24. Both are track riders too, and both have a somewhat empty palmares, though Ivan has a 2nd at the 2011 Tour of China to his name as well as a win at the GP of Moscow this year. Kovalev the younger was part of the team that lost to New Zealand for the Team Pursuit bronze medal at the London Olympics.

Now, before we get to the photo, there is another issue to consider  – as you may or may not know, RusVelo were prevented from racing for eight days in late July. Three of the team’s riders (Artem Ovechkin, Andrey Solomennikov and Roman Maikin) tested positive for the long-acting asthma drug fenoterol at the Russian National Championships in late June. The team is a member of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC), whose rules call for any team to suspend racing for four weeks if they have three positive tests within a 24-month period. In April, Valery Kaykov was suspended and sacked after testing positive for GW1516.

The team doctor was blamed for the ‘mistake’, which saw RusVelo treated more leniently and prevented from racing from 13st-21st of July. However, the Kovalev brothers raced in the Beverly Criterium (July 18th), finishing towards the back of the pack, albeit as part of ‘Team Russia’. It is unclear whether this constitutes a violation of the MPCC rules, given that they weren’t technically racing for RusVelo. The races do form part of the UCI Road Criterium Calendar though, meaning that it is unlikely that riders on a suspended team would be allowed to race by the organisation.

RusVelo training

Thanks to USA Cycling’s National Criterium Calendar results page we can see exactly what the brothers Kovalev did at the races in Illinois, with the results for the Prairie State Cycling Series (which also shows which team name they registered to race under) available here.

As you can see, they technically didn’t race for their banned team, but it at best debatable as to whether they should be riding at all in such circumstances. We will just have to wait for the MPCC or the team to make a statement clarifying this matter. Adam Myerson has confirmed that they didn’t race in RusVelo kit at the Beverley Criterium, so it looks like they were attempting to fly under the radar.

I guess now that that’s out of the way for the time being we can take a look at the photo. If you click on it you can view the large version.

what the russians left behind - labelled

Now, I have only been able to identify (and painstakingly translate) a few of the labels, with the photo being too low quality to read everything. As far as I can work out, everything I have identified is legal and nothing is prohibited by WADA’s 2013 list.

  • МУМИЕ (Shilajit/Mumie): A traditional Indian medicine, with no clinical evidence to support any health benefits. It is used largely in Russia and India, as an anti-inflammatory/pain relief, but there are claims that it can treat many more ailments.
  • КУДЕСАН (Qudesan): This is a source of Coenzyme Q10, which plays a part in generating adenosine triphosphate (ATP – a compound which breaks down to provide almost all of our energy). Q10 reduces the risk of heart disease and lowers blood pressure. The Russians seems to have chosen the chewy tablets for kids.
  • Foli-Doce (Folic Acid): Otherwise known as Vitamin B9. This aids erythropoesis (the production of red blood cells). Folate deficiency can cause anaemia.
  • КАПИЛАР (Kapilar): A herbal supplement. Kapilar contains taxifolin, which is taken from Siberian Larch trees. It reduces blood viscosity, improves blood flow in the capillaries and regulates blood pressure. Inhibits growth of some cancer cells.
  • ЦИТОФЛABИН (Cytoflavin): Improves blood oxygenisation and reduces the risk of strokes. This drug contains multiple components, including vitamin B2 and inosine, which simulates the synthesis of ATP.
  • РИБОКСИН (Riboksin): Also contains inosine, so read above. This is an antiplatelet drug, which decreases platelet adhesion/aggregation as well as inhibiting the formation of blood clots. Both this and cytoflavin activate a number of enzymes in the Krebs’ Cycle (basically a series of chemical reactions which create energy for us).
  • ТРОМБО АСС (Thrombus ACC): This reduces blood plasma concentration. Also another antiplatelet drug.
  • L-Carnitine (Carnitine): Another supplement, this supposedly aids weight loss and ‘improves athletic performance’, though this hasn’t been proven by any studies.
  • АСМАНЕКС (Asmanex): Put simply, an inhaler. It seems RusVelo have quite a few asthmatics on their books. The active compound is mometasone furoate which reduces inflammation of the airways. It is more potent than hydrocortisone and has a half-life three times that of salbutamol, meaning it acts for over five hours.

Edit: It seems that the clear bag on the bottom right is a IV giving set that can be used for vitamin/enzyme/saline infusions or even blood transfusions. The UCI’s no needle policy prohibits any form of injection or drip, so even if they were intended to infuse an innocent substance such as a vitamin, this would still be considered illegal.


Nothing illegal then, but note all the effects on the circulatory system, blood cells and the like. Some of the effects noted (such as reducing blood pressure, viscosity) are notable in combating some of the negative effects of blood doping – overly thickened blood, for example. Of course, we can’t indict a rider based on effects of these drugs alone.

The presence of the unused IV set is the most worrying thing about the photo, as usage of such equipment violates UCI rules. Hopefully we will hear some clarification on the matter from someone at the team or the MPCC soon.

While keeping in optimum health is obviously of utmost importance to professional cyclists, seeing so many drugs and supplements laid out after two men had used them during a short trip to participate in some minor American criteriums is worrying. You have to wonder what is happening towards the top of the food chain if two relatively minor riders, albeit on Katusha’s development team, are carrying all this around.

Finally, the fact that the pair weren’t wearing their team kit and seemingly rode at the back of the peloton on the 18th does make it seem like they were trying to avoid detection. Maybe RusVelo noticed what they were doing and recalled them, or somebody figured out who they were? Only time will tell, but another question that remains unanswered is what were two Russians doing racing near Chicago?

35 thoughts on “What the Russians left behind

  1. that clear bag isn’t a syringe its an IV giving set. its the tubing required to give intravenous injections/infusions/transfusions

  2. The bag bottom right is commonly known as a ‘giving sack’ which can be hooked up to give an infusion of saline (could also be used for blood) but it could be argued that, for an athlete, this could be used in extreme cases to rehydrate.

    Any evidence of team doctor being there? It seems unlikely to me that they would be encouraged to give themselves saline.

    1. Ah I see, thanks for that. No evidence of any team doctor as far as I can tell, the two riders were staying at someone’s house locally and it looks like they were just there to race separate from the team structure.

  3. Thank you very much for doing this research and sharing it. I’ve been bothered by the story as much for the “fear of these unknown foreigners” as for the meds. I like the “what if they took every legal supplement known to man” abstract as well. Anyway, great work.

    1. Yeah, what they were actually doing in Illinois is kinda strange and as yet unexplained. Even though they’re all legal is is still an intimidating haul. We’ll have to wait and see what happens about the IV kit.

      Good luck for your guys in the ‘cross season dude.

      1. Foreigners have been racing here over the summer for decades. For 40 years they’d come race superweek. Superweek died this year. TOAD and PSCS have effectively replaced it. If I were a betting man, I’d guess they were looking to come over for Superweek and, as it vanished, contacted the PSCS organizers.

        I don’t know, formally, why they were here. I can just tell you that it’s been happening forever and wasn’t concerning to anybody locally.

  4. It’s the substances that they more than likely didn’t leave in the trash that are the most concerning.

      1. That’s another angle, for sure. Why not take it back with them – it’s a lot that appears unused – and why not take it to the airport to dispose of…

  5. Having just spent some time with a cyclist he had a daily supplement list that contained over a dozen different, mostly over the counter items.
    ranging from joint ache, to vitamins all the way through to testosterone boosters – he had half a cup of these things every day!

  6. The UCI’s rules explain the trip to Illinois. It was a good block of racing for internationally ranked, but not “World Tour” riders.

    The summary is: once a rider reaches an elite international level, the races they can attend are restricted to some category or better.

    The promoter is similarly required to have certain amounts of international talent attend the race in order for the event to remain highly ranked on the UCI’s international calendar.

    Don’t take my word for it. Read the UCI’s rules.

  7. It is good I guess to use vitamins and daily supplements, however drug enhancement I do not agree with. I hope all players can keep the sports clean! Thanks for this awesome blog!

  8. I’m no expert, but isn’t the point of doping to beat everyone else by cheating? If they were keeping a low profile in their race by hanging back, doesn’t that defeat the purpose? But maybe there’s more to it than that.

    1. We’d need someone to describe the circumstances of their results. Crit racing can be pretty interesting because unlike stage racing, the strongest rider isn’t the most likely winner.

      A win one day and well off the podium the next can be because of the last lap circumstances. Right place, right time at one and blocked at the next.

  9. What the hell happened to food and training? Why have athletes become human-shaped chemical receptacles? If you have to “enhance” your performance, then your performance sucks, doesn’t it? Time to find another sport.

    It wouldn’t be you winning, anyway. Instead of your name engraved into the trophy, there’d have to be a paragraph of drugs and additives listed in descending order of importance with your signature buried somewhere near the end.

    Races are more like extreme science labs these days: it’s no longer about pushing the limits of the magnificent human body, it’s about how much a person can tolerate extra substances during intense physical conditions and still not die. Yay, team.

  10. Is there a ‘clean’ competitive sport out there these days? Cycling, baseball, football, etc., and yet we want our children to participate.
    I’m thankful I grew up in the day and time when all I had to worry about was whether or not I’d be chosen for the A or B team.

  11. The fun, the will, the challenge, competition and victory that can come from sports, it’s almost like it has to be a part of my life rather cycling or playing B-ball! But supplements in sports take away the purity and innocence in competition which cause for horrible sportsmanship and unfairness. It just shouldn’t be tolerated. Great post!

  12. So if I understand correctly nothing is illegal except for USING an IV. Plus these are just 2 riders who never were really successful… You have to ask yourself is it really worth to spend so much attention to this?
    I mean great research by you, no doubt. But actually you have just proven them not guilty. At least under normal law. In cycling however it seems to work the other way around (guilty till proven 100% innocent, which is almost impossible to do) and that’s probably why the picture was removed in the first place.
    I don’t believe cycling is worse than any other sport. I am convinced that the top-footballteams (maybe I should say soccer for the American readers) are all taking doping too. The Dutch teams in the 70’s were for sure, Juventus was in the 90’s and now the latest scandal: the West-German national team too.
    Real Madrid and Barcelona were mentioned from the start in the Fuentes case. But unlike with the cyclists nobody dared to look into that!
    I would like to see the focus on those cases!

  13. As has been said, this is just the stuff they left behind, shocking. I know you’ve got to be in it to win these days but it ends up breading mistrust and cynicism which takes the joy out of it all. Thankfully we don’t have to do this in our daily lives to survive because thought of taking all that and possibly more just to get to the checkout first?

  14. If you need all this to race as an add on you’ve failed in cycling.
    God or the NSA only knows what else their up to.

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