The Olympic Games have caught the attention of many sports fans all over the world for as long as they have been played.
The Winter Olympics are the newer group of games in the retinue, having been introduced in 1924. In the same spirit as the Games played by the ancient Greeks, these events pit athletes from all over the world in a matchup to see who is the best. In the modern-day incarnation of the Games, professional athletes are able to compete alongside amateurs, and the ethos of the event has not been significantly changed by this fact.
Except for the matter of performance-enhancing drugs, commonly called “doping.” This issue has been the bane of the Russian Federation this time around, preventing the nation from participating in the Games under its own flag. There are many Russian athletes participating, but they are under a neutral “Olympic Athlete from Russia” (OAR) flag.
The doping scandal that caused this has already been the subject of much discussion in the news media, but Russia came into this hoping at least to clear their name by not having such things happen this time around. And so far, everything was going fine, until Monday, February 19th.
On this day, the Russian athlete Alexander Krushelnitsky tested positive for the compound called meldonium, which is a banned substance that is understood to increase blood flow and to therefore improve clarity of mind and exercise capacity.
It would make sense if Krushelnitsky was competing in something physically demanding, such as speedskating or some skiing or biathlon event, but he is a curler. Curling is not exactly a sport that demands huge physical strength, though it does require some ability.
Mainly it requires a combination of strategy and guesswork, and although physical activity is required, it seems to be more of a mental sport than anything else. As such, this doping compound does not offer much, if any, benefit.
Take a look at this video and you will better understand what is taking place here:
As one can see, this is largely like playing marbles. But with a big stone. And brooms. And ice.
The reaction to Mr. Krushelnitsky’s situation is a bit skeptical. There are two primary sources of skepticism. One is what was mentioned earlier – this sport does not lend itself to any action that doping would help. Sweeping a broom faster is probably not significant, nor is yelling likely to be enhanced by doping.
The second factor is that so far, there is only the one positive tested athlete, and the amount of meldonium found is consistent with having taken an incidental dose of this stuff, rather than the extended length of steady use that it would take for any benefit to one’s physical condition to occur.
The more likely scenario is that someone is trying to smear the Russian team’s already battered reputation. Russia has had a series of strange accusations leveled against it lately, mostly concerning the election of US President Donald Trump, but there are definitely those in America and Europe that are over the line with hysteria about the Russian Federation at levels that have not been seen since the good old days of Senator Joe McCarthy.
As noted in this piece, the narrative is so virulent against Russia and Russian people that one might be led to think that the country is just made of consummately corrupt cheaters and crooks that cannot even think well enough to behave for three whole weeks.
Again, there is not much logic to this, but then again, the Russian hysteria does not comply to logic in the first place. Just to show how illogical it is, consider that Russia, as OAR is currently in seventh place in overall medal count, and 19th in the number of Gold medals, having as of February 22nd, zero.
The unfortunate truth is that the IOC like much of the West, already has it in for Russia, and it is not likely they will let this matter go. While it is exceedingly unlikely that Mr. Krushelnitsky actually willfully ingested meldonium to increase his curling powers, any further marring of the Russians’ record would be a gleeful moment to Russophobes.
Time will tell but it is likely that this is a sad situation displaying the extreme prejudice of politics infecting what should be the politics-free arena of sport.