Road To The Olympic Games

Winter Sports

Canadian Olympians laud Russian Olympic ban

Canadian cross-country skier Devon Kershaw was floored by the International Olympic Committee's crackdown on Russia because he had zero faith anything would happen.

Cross-country skiers Devon Kershaw, Beckie Scott voice support for IOC's decision

Canada's Alex Harvey, right, is tagged by teammate Devon Kershaw in the men's team sprint cross country skiing event at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. The Canadians finished fourth, while a Russian pair took gold. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Canadian cross-country skier Devon Kershaw was floored by the International Olympic Committee's crackdown on Russia because he had zero faith anything would happen.

The IOC punished Russia on Tuesday for widespread evidence of state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, banning the country from competing in February's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Athletes from Russia who prove they're clean can participate as "neutrals" without the Russian flag and anthem, the IOC said.

"I'm flabbergasted that the IOC did anything," Kershaw told The Canadian Press from Norway. "I mean, look at their track record.

"I'd pretty much lost all faith in the IOC."

The three-time Olympian has been leading the charge for Canada's first medal in men's cross-country skiing for over a decade.

"Those moments that were robbed, you don't get them back and it doesn't feel good to sit here and talk to you and think about were they doing something like that in Vancouver [in 2010], when I was fourth? Probably," the 34-year-old from Sudbury, Ont., said.

Canadian athletes react to IOC's suspension of Russia


3 years ago
The IOC has told Russia to stay home from the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeonchang, South Korea. 3:06

"That stinks because that was the prime of my career. Before my facial hair was grey."

The fine print of the IOC's announcement intrigued Kershaw more than the headlines.

Corrupt system

No official from Russia's ministry of sport will get accreditation for Pyeongchang and no coach or doctor found to have committed an anti-doping violation can be invited, according to the sanctions released Tuesday.

Kershaw believes the leaders of Russia's sport system bear the responsibility for what happened in Sochi and the subsequent fallout.

"It's easy in Canada to point fingers and say 'the athletes should know better' but travel to Russia and see the living conditions these kids are growing up in," Kershaw explained.

"They make the national team . . . and then they come into this incredibly corrupt system with a bunch of coaches that have been there since, I don't know, World War II?

"They have so much power over the athletes compared to the western culture. If you speak up, you're on the next bus to Siberia."

But Calgary curler Chelsea Carey was less forgiving, saying she's not comfortable with allowing Russians to compete as neutrals because they're not being held to the same standard as her.

Explainer: IOC bans Russia from Olympics


3 years ago
What does the IOC ban mean for Russia, its athletes and the options the Russians have moving forward? 0:47

"We all sign a thing that says even if we don't know, we're responsible for what we put into our bodies," Carey said during Olympic trials in Ottawa.

"So I don't think they should get off the hook because technically they're responsible for that. Even if they're claiming they didn't know or whatever, and maybe that's true, it doesn't matter.

"We would still get banned if we didn't know what we were taking. That's the paper that we signed that says we would be banned no matter what."

Struck the right balance

Former Canadian cross-country skier Beckie Scott has been an anti-doping advocate since her bronze medal in 2002 was upgraded to silver and then gold because athletes were disqualified for doping.

Canadian cross-country skier Beckie Scott had her 2002 Olympic bronze medal upgraded from silver and then to gold in 2004 after winner Olga Danilova and silver medallist Larissa Lazutina of Russia were both disqualified for doping offences. (Chris Bolin/Canadian Press/File)

Her shocked face in the documentary "Icarus", when documentarian Bryan Fogel lays out evidence of Russian doping sanctioned at the highest levels, is a telling moment.

The chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency's athletes committee says the IOC struck the right balance of punishing those responsible and protecting clean athletes.

"It was the furthest they could go in terms of levelling a sanction and consequences for what became known about Russia and their doping system," Scott said.

"The system is being punished . . . the conspiracy is being addressed and sanctioned and if there are clean athletes who can prove they're clean, they still have a chance to compete."

Canadian luger Sam Edney sees Tuesday's decision as a great step toward fairer competition, but is also in favour of allowing clean Russian athletes to compete. 

"We are one step closer to seeing that clean sport is the number one priority," the Calgary native told CBC Sports. "It's what needed to be done. It wouldn't be fair to see a [Russian] athlete who absolutely is a clean athlete, if they can absolutely prove they are, then they should have the right to compete at the highest level. 

"If there are clean athletes in Russia, and I'm  sure there are a few out there that missed this whole [doping] system that was going on, that is the future of sport and clean sport within the country, so we've got to give them a chance to lead their country into a new era in sport."

Six-time Olympic hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, who was elected to the IOC athletes' commission in 2014, aligns with Kershaw in placing the blame Russia's sport leaders and not the athletes.

'There are no winners in today's decision'

"There are no winners in today's decision," she said in a statement. "It is not lost on many clean athletes that Russian athletes who were part of this system may have had no choice but to comply.

"It is also commendable and important to see harsher sanctions towards officials and entourage. The evidence overwhelmingly show the power and influence these people took to control athletes and their outcomes."

The Canadian Olympic Committee told the IOC in October to impose "immediate and meaningful sanctions" on Russia.

"Sport is only sport when everyone plays by the same rules," COC president Tricia Smith said in a statement.

"We are encouraged and hopeful that the sanctions announced today by the International Olympic Committee will bring forward positive change for clean and ethical sport.

"The COC has an unshakable belief in playing fairly. We also believe that clean and ethical sport should know no borders, and that agreed-upon standards must be enforced."

With files from Jamie Strashin


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