‘Enough is Enough’: Russia Dumped as Host of World Bobsleigh, Skeleton Championships amid doping scandal
After reading the latest mind-blowing evidence in the Richard McLaren doping report, Duff Gibson is convinced the authorities need to take a stand on behalf of Olympic athletes who compete cleanly.
So Gibson, the gold medallist in skeleton at the 2006 Turin Games, is thrilled the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation announced Tuesday that it is dumping Sochi as host of the 2017 world sliding championships.
“We live in an age where it’s almost impossible to know what’s true and what’s not true,” says Gibson, a Canadian national team coach for eight years, including at the 2014 Sochi Games. “But from that perspective, this is about as true and as damning as you can get when it comes to drugs in sport.
“When you have that kind of proof, you need to be completely intolerant of it.”
The move comes after Latvia – home of four-time world skeleton champion Martins Dukurs – announced it would boycott the event if it remained at the Sanki Sliding Center.
“The Olympic spirit was stolen in 2014,” the Latvian team said in a statement. “Now we say enough is enough.”
After several high-profile athletes chimed in with concerns about going to Sochi – including Canadian bobsleigh pilot Kaillie Humphries – the IBSF opted Tuesday to change course.
A new location for the February event is to be determined in the coming days.
“This decision was made for two primary reasons,” the IBSF said in a news release. “First, to allow athletes and coaches from all nations to participate in a competition that focuses on sport rather than accusations and discussions – whether justified or not.
“Second, the Russian Bobsleigh Federation has put a great effort in the preparation of the world championships, but the current climate would make it nearly impossible to appreciate the efforts of the organizing committee to host a great event or the quality of the Sanki Sliding Center as one of the best tracks in the world.”
The IBSF also called for national federations and athletes to show “fair play and respect” which includes “the assumption of innocence for any athlete, regardless of national affiliation, until proven guilty.”
Russia won gold in Sochi in two-man bobsleigh, four-man bobsleigh and men’s skeleton.
“The Russians were extremely dominant,” says Helen Upperton, an Olympic silver medallist in bobsleigh at the 2010 Vancouver Games. “It’s been so hard even as a retired athlete to read all the stories coming out of the McLaren report. It’s just really hard. You invest your life and all your time and a lot of money into achieving this dream that is supposed to represent the best of people. It’s supposed to be, `May the best man or woman win.’”
According to McLaren, 15 Russian medallists in Sochi had their doping samples tampered with, including two athletes who won four gold medals.
“If there are no severe repercussions for people blatantly breaking the rules in sport, you’re not teaching people lessons,” Upperton says. “You’re not upholding the reason the Olympic Games exist. So I’m really proud of the IBSF for taking a stand.”
Gibson lauds Latvia for being taking a stand when other nations remained quiet.
“Latvia gets a lot of credit for being the first ones to say, `No, this is ridiculous. We’re not going to be a part of it,’” he says. “Latvia is the hero.”
Russia clearly does not share the same view.
“This is a very unfortunate development,” Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for president Vladimir Putin, told RT News. “And we are sure that this is highly politicized decision. It is based on an allegation that simply does not have a real basis.
“And definitely Russia will continue, through its authorities in charge of sports and other bodies, to protect its interests in a legal way.”