9th March 2021

Bulgarian swimming federation’s plan of action criticised

The Bulgarian swimming federation’s (BFPS) plan to discover how three young swimmers reported anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs) for stanozolol has been criticised by the coach of one of the swimmers. On 4 March, the BFPS announced that: 

• all supplements given to swimmers at training camps in January and February would be given to the Bulgarian anti-doping centre (BADC);
• samples from all swimmers at the training camps would be taken by the BADC;
• the national team Head Coach, Khristian Minkovski (Христиан Минковски) would continue preparing the national team for the Budapest European Championships and Tokyo 2020;
• That BFPS employees should not talk to the media until investigations are complete.

Tsvetkana Dilova (Цветанка Дилова) is Coach of Zdravko Bablakov (Здравко Баблаков), one of the three swimmers. She alleges that the BFPS’s approach is ineffective in an Open Letter published by bTV, also on 4 March. She points out that stanozolol – the substance involved in the adverse analytical findings (AAFs) reported by the three swimmers on 4 February – cannot be picked up by a urine test conducted a month later.

She is also critical of the BFPS’s support for Minkovski, whom the three young swimmers accused of asking for 30% of any bonuses they earned. She quotes Article 44 para. 5 of Bulgaria’s Anti-Doping Ordinance, which reads: ‘If in a particular case an athlete or other person proves his lack of guilt or negligence, then the applicable period of deprivation of rights shall be revoked’, and calls on Georgi Avramchev (Георги Аврамчев), BFPS Chairman, to intervene.

‘You have to choose – whether to defend your own authority and your name as a Manager and help three talented children, or take the side of Mr. Minkovski’, she writes. ‘As for the version you gave regarding external interference in the team and sabotage, I ask who allowed this interference? Mr. Minkovski is obliged to monitor everything that happens around the competitors and not to allow such a situation. Not my colleague [Nikolay] Vakareev, not the Doctor – but Minkovski.’

In the Open Letter, Dilova alleges that she spoke to Minkovski on 19 February and asked if everything was OK regarding Bablakov’s upcoming competition schedule. She says he didn’t mention the positive test, which she knew about from Bablakov’s father, despite warnings issued to Bablakov and his family not to tell anybody. 

Nikolay Vakareev (Николай Вакареев), mentioned by Dilova, coaches Blagoy Panayotov (Благой Панайотов), one of the three swimmers sanctioned by the BADC. As such, he was also at the February training camp, and denied that the swimmers were given prohibited substances in an interview with Sportal.bg. 

Echoing a statement issued yesterday, Vakareev said that the BFPS had been working with a “world famous” company, adding that the supplements given to swimmers were “plant based”. Like the BFPS, he denied that swimmers were made to take the supplements. He admitted that he had also been given pills in plastic cups whilst a professional swimmer. 

Swimmers training and competing overseas support the trio’s account of events. Vakareev is also a former Coach to one of Bulgaria’s most successful swimmers of recent years, Antani Ivanov (Антъни Иванов). Ivanov told bTV he would not participate in any national training camps until the entire BFPS coaching staff is replaced.

Ekaterina Avramova (Екатерина Аврамова), whose funding was cut off by the BFPS after the London 2012 Olympics whilst attending University in England, has also said that she was given pills in a similar manner. “Since 2009 I did not go to camps for the national team because I lived and trained in England”, she said in a video posted on Instagram (below). “However, until 2009 the practice in the national team did not differ from what the boys described. We entered the doctor’s room and had cups of pills waiting for us to take. When we asked what they were, he replied that even if he told us, we wouldn’t understand because we haven’t graduated in medicine. It’s strange that since then, one person has been on this national team and that’s Head Coach Khristian Minkovski.”


A petition has been launched by Nina Rangelova (Нина Рангелова), who holds 13 national records in swimming, in support of the trio. ‘We want to show support for Svetlozar Nikolov, Blagoy Panayotov, and Zdravko Bablakov in their fight against the BFPS (Bulgarian Swimming Federation), which selflessly tries to wash its hand of them to get out of the situation with impunity’, it reads.

Diana Petkova (Диана Петкова), the Bulgarian 50m record holder who is studying in the US, has also alleged that she underwent similar experiences. ‘I accept of of this as if it were happening to me’, she wrote on Facebook (see right). ‘You have no other choice and you trust – you trust your health, your future and every dream! […] Trust me, they have no choice but to be at camp for months taking supplements […] Don’t forget, these are our boys! Now is the moment when we show that we really are a team! Heads up – we are with you and will fight, even if it costs us everything!’

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