Russian woe, Canadians go

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When it comes to gaining coveted spots on Team Canada’s Olympic squad, it’s good to see that some of our local competitors have gained spots due to the Russian doping scandal.

Many Russian athletes are still able to compete in the Games, despite a doping scandal, as OAR (Olympic Athletes from Russian) in neutral IOC uniforms, but due in part to cuts in the number of athletes Russia can send, Graeme Killick and Russell Kennedy have now benefitted (page 32).

Cutting the Russian contingent from 20 to 12, based on the doping scandal, has appropriately meant other ‘clean’ athletes will now appear in their place in PyeongChang on the largest sports stage on this planet. Another upside is that Russian stars such as cross-country ski star Sergey Ustiugov and biathlete Anton Shipulin were barred from competing, creating the opportunity for more clean athletes to hit the podium – which is in keeping with the Olympic ideal.

As it is, the Russian Federation is still sending 169 Olympic Athletes from Russia and in the end, medals they win will still be seen as Russian medals, despite the lack of a national anthem being played.

But chopping the number of athletes Russia can send to the Olympics, as OAR or not, has at least put some teeth into the doping scandal ban. If any headway is ever to be made in the ongoing fight against doping, some serious consequences must be realized; such as a loss of Olympic starts.

The slogan “Faster, Higher, Stronger” is fitting for the Olympics, but, as an ideal, how far should anyone be expected to go to achieve these results? The Olympics must be about athletes performing without the benefit of drugs, not about which country has the best pharmacy, or which country hires the best doping specialists to hide usage.

As a parent, you don’t want your child heading down a road where top results can only be had through illegal (who knows exactly how dangerous, at this point?) doping. As an athlete, you shouldn’t be subjected to institutional doping for short-term gain against your long-term health.

There are already plenty of stories floating around concerning doping among East German athletes from the Iron Curtain days – how steroids harmed them and caused changes to body chemistry, with accompanying organ damage and mental health issues, etc. Will future stories of similar health issues be connected to a Russian doping program?

Victory, yes. Victory no matter the cost? No.

In keeping with the Russian doping scandal, it’s all well and good that a ceremony will be held in PyeongChang to award medals retroactively to winners in Sochi after 25 Russians were disqualified, but it’s too little, too late.

When it comes to truly amateur athletes such as those in cross-country or biathlon who call Canmore home, there is a small window of opportunity where an athlete can cash in on a medal win. Being that big media in North America embraces professional sports far above amateur achievements, a medal-winning amateur needs to take advantage of their fleeting fame to garner sponsorships, funding, speaking engagements, etc.

A medal awarded retroactively is a medal that is not loudly celebrated and will never have the same positive impact for an amateur athlete.

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Rocky Mountain Outlook