By Nick Butler

Alexander Zhukov has insisted the Russian team at Sochi 2014 were not using xenon gas ©Getty ImagesRussian Olympic Committee President Alexander Zhukov has insisted home athletes did not use xenon gas products to boost their performance at Sochi 2014, following suggestions to the contrary.

In February, German broadcaster WDR claimed members of the Russian team at Sochi inhaled the gas and alleges top Russian athletes have been using xenon to improve performances as far back as the Olympics in Athens in 2004.

The Research Institute of the Russian Defence Ministry reportedly even set out guidelines in 2010 for the administration of xenon gas to athletes, while the Russian medical-xenon producer, Atom Medical Centre - which received national honours for its efforts preparing athletes for Athens 2004 and Turin 2006 - disputes the effect of the gas on the release of erythropoietin (EPO) in humans and the claim inhaling it constitutes doping.

During the Games the product was not outlawed, but earlier this month both xenon and argon gases were added to a list of banned substances by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), after a study found they artificially boosted performances.

Although there would be no risk of retrospective sanctions even if proof was found, because the product was not banned at the time, Zhukov, appointed an International Olympic Committee member last September, has strongly denied the allegations.

"We did not use these technologies during the preparations of Russian athletes for Sochi", he told Ria Novosti.

"Studies showed that xenon is not an effective tool for training athletes and in addition, it has been banned."

He did not comment on whether Russian athletes used the product at any point before Sochi 2014. 

There have been claims Russian athletes were using the now banned product for more than a decade since before Athens 2004 ©Getty ImagesThere have been claims Russian athletes were using the now banned product for more than a decade since before Athens 2004 ©Getty Images

This follows Russia achieving its best ever Winter Olympic result in Sochi, winning 13 gold medals and 33 overall to finish top of the medals table.

The WADA investigation earlier this month found inhaling the gas encourages the production in the body of the hormone EPO, which enhances formation of red blood cells to improve performance.

This would deem it particularly beneficial in endurance disciplines, such as biathlon and cross country skiing. 

Although there is no specific test for xenon in an athlete's system at the moment, unexplained increases in testosterone levels or discrepancies in a biological passport, suggesting usage of the product, will now be punished.