BREAKING: Russian Curlers to Lose Their Identity at Olympics

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We first broke the news of curling athlete involvement a year ago

We first broke the news of curling athlete involvement a year ago

In a stunning and controversial decision announced today in Lausanne, the International Olympic Committee has decided to ban Russia from the upcoming PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. Specifically, the IOC has elected to ban Russian athletes from competing as Russians at those Games.

Russia's curling athletes will need to be approved for competition in advance by an IOC panel and, if approved, they will go on to Korea to compete as neutral athletes. This means they will not wear Russian uniforms, they will not carry Russian flags, nor will they be able to hear the Russian national anthem – even if they stand atop the podium with Olympic gold.

This affects Russia’s women’s curling team skipped by Anna Sidorova, the Russian Mixed Doubles team and possibly the Russian men’s team, should they happen to qualify for PyeongChang 2018 from the Olympic Qualifying Event now underway in the Czech Republic.

IOC President Thomas Bach today said: "This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport. The IOC EB, after following due process, has issued proportional sanctions for this systemic manipulation while protecting the clean athletes. This should draw a line under this damaging episode and serve as a catalyst for a more effective anti-doping system led by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency)."

He continued: "As an athlete myself, I feel very sorry for all the clean athletes from all NOCs who are suffering from this manipulation. Working with the IOC Athletes’ Commission, we will now look for opportunities to make up for the moments they have missed on the finish line or on the podium."

This decision comes on the heels of two IOC commission reports that were instigated following last year’s devastating WADA news – the McLaren report – which revealed that Russia engaged in a systematic, state-sanctioned doping scandal dating from the pre-London 2012 summer Olympic Games through the home-hosted Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

The Curling News first published the story in our January 2017 issue. We were the only curling media operation in the world to examine thousands of pages of the McLaren Report seeking mention of curling athletes… and we found them.

One Russian women’s team member, one Russian Mixed Doubles team member (female) and two Russian wheelchair curling athletes (one male, one female) were involved, along with roughly 1,000 other athletes and sport/government figures, in the incredibly elaborate scheme to cheat the Olympic world at a level that is unprecedented in sporting history.

Drug cocktails nicknamed “the Duchess” were given to athletes and when doping violations occurred, “Save” orders were given to the WADA-accredited Russian laboratories – whereupon tainted urine samples were replaced with clean samples.

Other allegations appeared to be simply too fantastic to believe. During the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, a “mouse hole” in the Sochi laboratory wall allowed samples to be passed to an adjacent room overnight. That room was secured by agents of the FSB (Russia’s secret service) and clean samples were then passed back to the lab before IOC laboratory staff arrived the next day.

Two Russian whistleblowers eventually revealed the scheme to Germany’s ZDF TV network, prompting the McLaren investigation, which was aided by a second Russian whistleblower – the former head of the Moscow and Sochi laboratories, now living in protective custody in the U.S.

That whistleblower, Gregory Rodchenkov, supplied WADA with his daily diary which, in conjunction with leaked computer files and email messages, formed the backbone of the McLaren report. More remarkable details were unveiled, such as evidence of tampering (“scratching”) of the supposedly foolproof doping control sample bottles.

Over the past year, Russian sport and government voices have loudly proclaimed innocence and put the blame on Rodchenkov. Last month, one Russian Olympic official said that Rodchenkov “should be shot for lying, like Stalin would have done.”

In the past weeks, 25 Russian athletes who competed at Sochi 2014 have been banned from future Games and 14 Olympic medal results (six gold) have been invalidated. Summer Games medallists from London 2012 have also been sanctioned.

At present, no Russian Olympic #curling athletes from 2014 have received IOC or WCF disciplinary action. At Sochi, Russia’s women’s team finished ninth out of 10 teams with a 3-6 won/loss record while the men’s squad placed seventh, also at 3-6. The same goes for any of Russia’s wheelchair curling team members, who have not received any sanctions. However, that Russian team made the podium, winning silver at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. The team has also won gold at three of the past five world championships.

Women's team skip Anna Sidorova at Sochi 2014

Women's team skip Anna Sidorova at Sochi 2014

Russia’s women’s curling team has captured silver or bronze at each of the last four world women’s curling championships, dating from 2014 through 2017. Russia has also proven adept at the new Olympic curling discipline of Mixed Doubles, winning two gold and a silver at the 10 world championships contested since 2008.

This is a “compromise” decision that avoids the outright banning of Russia from the Games altogether, and it is controversial. Many around the world were demanding an outright ban and just days ago the IOC confirmed their belief in the data and testimony of Rodchenkov, calling him a “truthful witness”. Our current December 2017 issue explains that a backup database was recently uncovered and passed on to IOC commission investigators, confirming previous allegations.

However, Russian president Vladimir Putin may respond to this by boycotting PyeongChang 2018, and thus prevent his country’s athletes from competing in the Olympic Winter Games.

If there is no boycott, official Olympic apparel supplier Nike is expected to outfit the “Russian” athletes at the Games. However, to the best of our knowledge and despite their affiliation with USA Curling, Nike has never designed nor produced competition wear for the sport of curling.

Subscribe TODAY to The Curling News, the world’s only independent curling newspaper first published in 1957. Subscribers receive both the print and expanded and enhanced digital editions and, to be sure, our upcoming January 2018 issue will have more on this sensational decision.