GANGNEUNG — News that a Russian mixed doubles bronze medallist tested positive for a banned substance was met with surprise among some curlers at the Olympics but Canada’s Marc Kennedy wasn’t the slightest bit shocked.
“I would be if it wasn’t coming from Russia,” Kennedy said
“That’s state-sponsored, everyone mandated to be doping … so no, I’m not surprised. Most people will tell you they shouldn’t be here. I absolutely agree with that. It was a consolation to even let them in. My understanding is now, if it’s positive, they won’t be able to march in the closing ceremonies potentially. Awesome.”
The Court of Arbitration for Sport opened an official case against Russian curler Alexander Krushelnytsky on Monday after both his A- and B-samples tested positive for meldonium, a banned substance that increases blood flow and improves exercise capability in athletes.
Krushelnytsky and his wife, Anastasia Bryzgalova, won the bronze medal in mixed doubles curling last Tuesday, beating Kristin Skaslien and Magnus Nedregotten in the third-place game. Canada’s Kaitlyn Lawes and John Morris won the gold medal, while Jenny Perret and Martin Rios of Switzerland took silver.
Now the Norwegians could be in line to claim the bronze if and when the Russians are stripped.
“If Krushelnytsky used dope, then I would like to take the medal,” Nedregotten told Norway’s TV2.
Kennedy was one of the few Olympic curlers who wanted to speak out on the subject Monday. Many others, like members of the Canadian women’s team, said they were too focused on their own games to think about a doping scandal.
Kennedy didn’t need any prodding to speak his mind.
“It’s infuriating to the other athletes to know this is going on and they still get to compete,” he said. “Now you’ve got an athlete who says he was clean again and tests positive. It’s unbelievable for every other clean athlete in the world.
“We’re in a sport where it doesn’t affect that much and it’s not going to make you a better athlete. For those athletes in other sports like biathlon and cross country skiing that have to put up with this all the time, it’s unbelievable that (the Russians) are even allowed to be here.”
While a positive test could be somewhat of a black eye for curling, it has much bigger ramifications for the Russian Olympic program. Russia was banned from these games but their “clean” athletes were allowed to compete as Olympic Athletes from Russia under an independent banner.
A positive test for meldonium could be detrimental to Russia’s attempts to get reinstated to the Olympics.
“I don’t think it looks bad for curling,” said American curler Matt Hamilton, who competed in mixed doubles with his sister Becca. “I think it looks bad for the Athletes from Russia.”
Russian Curling Federation president Dmitry Svishchev said it’s possible the athlete’s food or drink was spiked with meldonium, suggesting a rival Russian athlete could have been responsible. He said the curling team had a training camp in Japan in January and some other Russian curlers who failed to qualify for the Olympics also participated.
Shivshev told the Associated Press that Krushelnytsky was tested on Jan. 22, the day before he flew to Japan for the training camp, and it came back clean.
“I feel bad for the guy if he didn’t take it knowingly but you’re responsible for what goes in your body so they’ll have to strip him of his medal,” Hamilton said.
At the Gangneung Curling Centre Monday, other members of the Russian curling delegation were disbelieving of the result, while players from other countries were stunned that such a thing would happen in their sport.
“I don’t believe that young man, clever man will use the same doping which was so big (in the news) the last two years,” Russian women’s coach Sergei Belanov said. “It’s stupid. But Alexander is not stupid, so, sorry, I don’t believe it.”
Meldonium has been on this list of banned substances since Jan. 1, 2016. It’s the same drug for which tennis star Maria Sharapova was recently suspended for 15 months.
“Things like that shouldn’t really happen, not in curling and not in any other sport,” Swiss women’s skip Silvana Tirinzoni said. “It’s just no question, if he’s guilty, and we don’t know yet, it’s very disappointing.”
Canadian second Brent Laing said he knows nothing about the drug or what it does for you. Unlike Kennedy, he was surprised to hear of a positive test in curling.
“Beer and Advil, those are the only painkillers I’ve ever heard of for curling,” he said. “I imagine it wasn’t that. Hopefully not, or else I’m in trouble.”
Drugs could provide a curling edge, especially in mixed doubles
GANGNEUNG — When news broke that a Russian curler tested positive for a banned substance, some people immediately scoffed.
Why in the world would a curler need to take performance-enhancing drugs?
It’s certainly not the most physically taxing sport in the Olympics, more so a thinking-person’s game that requires the skill to make touch shots along with athletic ability to sweep rocks.
“Curling’s a finesse game but there’s a lot of strength and endurance,” American Matt Hamilton said. “There are advantages to (doping). It will give you a little bit of an edge.”
Canadian Marc Kennedy can see how curlers, especially those who specialize in mixed doubles, would benefit greatly from PEDs.
“Actually in mixed doubles, with the amount of sweeping you do, and to be able to have that quick recovery to be able to sweep again and again and again, it could definitely benefit you,” Kennedy said.