Banned Russian athlete wins European skeleton gold


Russian skeleton athlete Elena Nikitina, who has been banned from the Olympics, was crowned European champion at a World Cup event in Innsbruck on Friday.

Nikitina was a bronze medallist at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi but was stripped of that honour in November and banned from competing in future Games for breaching anti-doping rules.

The 25-year-old was cleared to compete in International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation (IBSF) competitions at a hearing earlier this month, although the governing body said it disagreed with the decision of its own hearing panel and revealed it was assessing its legal options.

Nikitina beat Canada's Elisabeth Vathje and Mirela Rahneva into second and third respectively in Austria to claim gold in a World Cup race that doubled as the European Championship.

Russia has been barred from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang but athletes will be allowed to compete under a neutral flag if they meet the International Olympic Committee's strict criteria.

Nikitina is appealing her Olympic ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.