GANGNEUNG, South Korea — The mood around the Gangneung Curling Centre Monday morning was one of trepidation. The women’s curling round-robin, session 8, featured Switzerland thoroughly waxing the Olympic Athletes from Russia 11-2, a result whose significance was lost on exactly no one.
Just hours earlier, news had broken that Alexander Krushelnitsky, one-half of the bronze medal-winning mixed doubles curling team, had tested positive for the banned substance meldonium. Krushelnitsky’s “B” sample is still being tested, and amid their disbelief, Russian curlers expressed hope that he would be vindicated.
(UPDATE: The Court of Arbitration for Sport announced later on Monday they were formally charing Krushelnitsky.)
“We never thought it would happen in curling,” said Victoria Moiseeva. “We were really shocked. … We all know Alexander, we all know how hard he worked to get here. I know he would never risk that.”
The IOC found Russia guilty of systematic, orchestrated doping violations at the 2014 Sochi Games. As a result, the IOC forced any Olympic athletes who cleared doping protocols to compete under a generic “Olympic Athletes of Russia” banner. Russian officials are reportedly in the process of meeting with the IOC to determine the contours of the matter.
Back at the Gangneung Curling Centre, though, there was little knowledge but plenty of sadness among the Russians. “I just read the same information like you from Internet,” women’s coach Sergei Belanov said. “Is different team. I know nothing.”
Belanov also dismissed the idea that doping could help a curler. “I don’t believe a young man, a clever man, will use the same doping [that was investigated in the] last two years. It’s stupid, but Alexander is not stupid.”
“We tried not to think about it yesterday when we found it out, because we had a morning game,” Moiseeva said. “But apparently it didn’t work for us. It was still in our heads.” Moiseeva noted that the Russian curlers are a tight-knit bunch, having known each other for years.
“I couldn’t imagine how one person could do that and sleep OK,” Moiseeva said, speaking of a hypothetical and not Krushelnitsky in particular, “because he knows that he ruined the life not just of one person but for almost the whole country.”
At almost the same moment as the Russian athletes were losing, the IOC was holding a press conference in PyeongChang, with doping and possible sacntions as one of the topics. The IOC was holding off on a final judgment until Krushelnitsky’s backup “B” sample was tested, but did not rule out the possibility that this could affect Russia’s bid to allow its athletes to carry its own flag at the Closing Ceremony rather than the generic Olympic flag.
“We’ll never reach a point where we’ll have no doped athletes. It’s like saying we’re going to do away with burglary or murder. It just doesn’t happen,” said Mark Adams, IOC Director of Communication. “Where you’ll have competition in sport, you’ll have people doing that.”
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