With the training heats underway in skeleton, the competition is not exactly friendly between the American and Russian racers this week in PyeongChang.
According to Reuters, racers from the two countries are not on speaking terms in a dispute that centers on the widespread doping among the Russian contingent. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned Russia from competition due to “systematic manipulation” of doping tests during the 2014 Sochi Games. However, the IOC allowed Russians without doping violations to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” under a neutral flag.
That hasn’t erased the tension.
“Obviously there is some language barrier that exists between all nations,” U.S. skeleton athlete Matt Antoine said. “Do I believe they’ve competed fairly? No, and I’ve been very vocal about that. So I don’t really have a need to have a conversation with those athletes.”
Nikita Tregubov said he and countryman Vladislav Marchenkov have been “scolded without evidence” by American and British skeleton racers.
“We used to get along great. People have changed abruptly,” Tregubov told Reuters.
Two Brits, Jerry Rice and Dom Parsons, attributed the apparent coldness to a language barrier.
“I’m friendly with everyone around the track,” Rice said. “There’s always the language barrier with obviously some nations. I don’t speak Russian, they don’t speak English.”
Parsons said athletes were also focused on the competition, not each other. “I think when we’re at the track all of us are very focused on what we are doing anyway,” he said.
A ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) led to the IOC overturning doping bans for 28 Russian athletes earlier this month. Many of those athletes filed appeals to compete in South Korea. However, just before the PyeongChang Games began, the CAS ruled that they would not be eligible for competition.
In all, 169 Russians are competing as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” That includes Tregubov and Marchenkov.
The skeleton training heats continue through Wednesday before the men’s competition begins Thursday. Medals for the men will be awarded on Friday with the women’s final coming on Saturday, Feb. 17.
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