Semen Elistratov won the first medal of PyeongChang 2018 for the Olympic Athlete from Russia team.

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Elistratov first Olympic Athlete from Russia to win a medal

Russia is officially banned from the Games

Elistratov once tested positive for a banned substance

CNN  — 

Russia may be banned as a nation from the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, but that didn’t stop a Russian athlete who once served a drug ban from winning a medal.

Semen Elistratov took bronze in the men’s 1500m short-track event on day one to clinch the first medal for the Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR) team.

The 27-year-old was suspended in 2016 for taking the banned heart drug meldonium but was later exonerated.

The 168-strong neutral-flagged OAR team is made up of Russian athletes who have been able to prove they are competing clean.

Last year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned the Russian team from the PyeongChang Olympics after it found the country had run a state-sponsored doping program leading up to and during the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

READ: Winter Olympics Day 2: live updates

READ: Russian athletes lose last-ditch attempt to compete at Games

‘Special issue’

Elistratov was part of a group of about 40 Russian athletes who were exonerated in April 2016 by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), which said a presence of less than one microgram of the substance found in samples before March 1 was acceptable.

WADA had put meldonium on its banned substance list from January 1, 2016.

In March 2016, Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova announced she had failed a doping test for meldonium at the Australian Open.

After initially being given a two-year suspension, her ban was cut to 15 months on appeal and she made her comeback to women’s tennis in April.

“Anyone who had been suspended for an ADRV (Anti-Doping Rule Violation) was not invited,” IOC medical and scientific director Richard Budgett told reporters in Pyeongchang on Sunday.

“As you know, meldonium was a special issue. It was accepted that, because of the way it was metabolized it could stay in the system for many, many months, even nine months after it had been taken, because its stored in red blood cells, released and then stored again…

“So if the case was consistent with usage before meldonium was prohibited, that would not be considered an ADRV.”

Budgett added that meldonium use in eastern Europe and Russia was “widespread” and “considered a cardiac stimulant which was not prohibited.”

READ: Best photos from day two at PyeongChang 2018

More controversy over comments

Elistratov’s drug ban wasn’t the only controversy surrounding him after he appeared to breach strict IOC rules by criticizing Olympic officials after winning his bronze medal.

“I dedicate this medal to all guys that have been excluded from these Games in such a hard and unfair way,” Elistratov said. “This medal is for you.”

When asked if Elistratov has breached the OAR team guidelines, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Sunday: “As with all of the behavior and comportment of the Olympic Athletes from Russia group of athletes we have a surveillance program going on looking at their actions and behavior and they will report back at the end of the Games to the executive board whether they feel that not just the letter but the spirit of the law has been breached.”