Monday, 5 February 2018

Get Used To It

News broke this morning that WADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, made an unannounced appearance at the Russian women's hockey practice just four days ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Upon their arrival, WADA summoned 16 of the 23 players for drug testing, thereby effectively cancelling the team's practice. With the depth of the doping scandal done by the Russians, should we be surprised that the Russians are being scrutinised more heavily than other countries? If there's one piece of advice I can offer to the Russian athletes in Pyeongchang, that advice would be "get used to it" because each victory that Russia posts for a medal of any colour will come with drug testing and scrutiny.

Some will say that this is overkill as the 23 athletes on the ice have already been cleared by the International Olympic Committee already, but I think most people would be happier knowing that the Russian athletes who have been cleared are still clean by Olympic drug testing standards. This shows that the punitive measures handed down by the IOC are working for now.

My hope is that none of the sixteen players pulled off the ice by WADA are found to be using some sort of prohibited substance. It would be a major setback for the Russians in trying to show that they are working towards a more ethical future in sport, and it would absolutely devastate the Russian women's hockey team if additional players were sent home at this point. Russia will open its women's hockey tournament against Canada on Sunday, and they certainly don't need to be shorthanded for that game.

Of course, it wouldn't be the Olympics without some controversy. The Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport found that 13 Russian athletes and two coaches who were banned over a positive doping result were cleared by the CAS, but the IOC has refused to lift their bans in Olympic competition, stating that the IOC would like to see how the CAS came to the conclusion of clearing the athletes and coaches.

Of those cleared by the CAS, four women's hockey players were among them, and they are Ekaterina Lebedeva, Ekaterina Pashkevich, Anna Shibanova, and Ekaterina Smolentseva. Because the IOC has yet to allow them back into any Olympic competition, they will not be rejoining the ice hockey team in Pyeongchang.

I'd expect a ton of scrutiny for the next two weeks when it comes to the Russian athletes. I'd say that's pretty par for the course when one considers the depth and scope of the state-wide doping that happened in Sochi and leading up to Rio de Janeiro. If you're a Russian athlete, this is your way of life now, and there isn't much that you can do other than peeing in a sample cup and allowing people to draw blood.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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