Russians to compete at World Cup event in Canmore despite doping scandal
Russian athletes being allowed to compete as independents
The head coach of the Canadian para-nordic ski team has some concerns about competing against Russian athletes at a World Cup event this month in Canmore.
Russia is embroiled in state-sponsored doping scandal that saw that country's Paralympic team banned from the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Despite the ban, Russian skiers — namely those who train outside the country and have passed stringent drug testing — are being allowed to compete as independents in this year's World Cup circuit.
The first of three World Cup events will be held Dec. 9 to 17 at the Canmore Nordic Centre. They will serve as qualifiers for the 2018 Paralympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
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About 60 Russian athletes are set to compete at the Canmore event.
Robin McKeever, head coach of the Canadian para-nordic team, says it's unfair to allow the Russians in under a cloud of suspicion, but unfortunately the sport needs them.
"They are the biggest nation in our sport by far," he said.
"Almost 50 per cent of the athletes at 2014 Sochi Games were Russian. We're a small enough community that we need numbers."
McKeever's brother, Brian, who competes for the Canadian team as a blind skier and won three gold medals at the 2014 Sochi Games, says until an athlete is proven to be competing dirty, they should be allowed in.
"There's a process to this and we have to respect that process," he said.
"And right now they are not banned so they have every right to compete. I don't really think about it too much. I just go to my training, do my racing and hope that it's good enough."
The second World Cup event goes Jan. 20-28, 2018 in Germany and the third Feb. 2-10, 2018 in Finland.
The 2018 Paralympic Games are set for March 9 to 18 in PyeongChang.
With files from Andrew Brown