By Nick Butler

Ekaterina Iourieva has been handed an eight-year ban after the second failed drugs test of her career ©AFP/Getty ImagesDisgraced biathlete Ekaterina Iourieva has been handed an eight-year ban after a second doping offence earlier this year, although the Russian had anticipated a hefty suspension by announcing her retirement in February.

The 31-year-old won a gold, a silver and a bronze medal at the 2008 World Championships in Östersund, but was subsequently banned for two years after being one of three high profile Russian biathletes to test positive for erythropoietin (EPO).

She successfully returned to top-level action with success in last year's World Cup circuit, but, after failing in her bid to be selected for the Russian Olympic team in Sochi, she was one of three biathletes, along with compatriot Irina Starykh, to test positive for EPO, again.

Because this was her second failure, a hefty ban always appeared likely, and in a statement the International Biathlon Union has now confirmed she has been banned for eight years, backdated from the date of her second failed test on December 23.

Given her age this was always effectively a life ban, although the Russian jumped the gun by announcing her retirement anyway, with the impending doping suspension not even mentioned as a motivating factor behind her decision. 

Writing on a personal blog, she claimed instead that she had experienced a very difficult period due to her mother's serious health problems, adding that once she had failed in her goal of participating in the Olympic Games, she had no more incentives to continue her career.

No further reaction appears to have been given following confirmation of her suspension.

The ban follows the one handed to fellow Russian Irina Starykh earlier this week ©AFP/Getty ImagesThe ban follows the one handed to fellow Russian Irina Starykh earlier this week
©AFP/Getty Images

This news follows the announcement yesterday that Germany's double Olympic gold medal-winning biathlete Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle, the first athlete to fail a drugs test at Sochi 2014, had been handed a two-year ban, along with Iourieva's compatriot Irina Starykh,. 

Starykh, who unlike Iourieva was initially a member of the Russian Olympic team, received a less severe ban for a first offence, after remarkable improvement in a 2013 season that included a maiden European title. 

But no members of the Russian team who made it to the startline in Sochi have since failed tests, with the squad winning four biathlon medals, including a gold for Dmitry Malyshko, Anton Shipulin, Evgeny Ustyugov and Alexey Volkov in the men's team relay.

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