Russian doping might keep Yarnold from skeleton worlds
Olympic women’s skeleton gold medalist Lizzy Yarnold is considering skipping this season’s world championships in Russia, citing doping concerns. In interviews with the BBC and other British news agencies Monday, Yarnold said she’s also calling upon the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation - the sport’s governing body to consider holding the competition elsewhere. “I just want the IBSF to be strong enough to make a decision that defends the true values of clean sport,” Yarnold told the BBC.
Yarnold won gold at the Sochi Games on the same track where worlds are scheduled to be held this winter. Many athletes from those games - including Latvian men’s skeleton silver medalist Martins Dukurs and US women’s skeleton veteran Katie Uhlaender, who was fourth and finished behind a Russian slider have expressed similar concerns since Russia’s state-sponsored doping program was exposed earlier this year.
“I think athletes have been pretty vocal about possibly competing against athletes who were cheating,” USA Bobsled and Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele told The Associated Press on Monday. “It’s not surprising. I don’t think one athlete going public is a surprise. I think there’s been some pretty strong statements made, not necessarily with a call to action but from athletes in general who have pretty strong feelings about this - as they should.”
Yarnold said she does not want to expose herself to racing against cheaters, and in a place where she will wonder “what is going to happen to my doping samples.” “I’m not sure whether I want to compete in Sochi or can compete in Sochi if I don’t know if it’s a clean playing field,” Yarnold said.
But time concerns might make it impossible to move the world championships, even if athletes want to see it happen. The second report from the investigation led by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren into Russia’s doping program is not expected until early December - a little more than two months before worlds are set to begin.
McLaren was appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency to investigate corruption claims, and his first report in July detailed a plot to swap out Russian athletes’ doping-tainted urine samples from 2011 through 2015. “The world of sport is going through a huge upheaval and massive doping issues,” Yarnold said. “All international sport is. And skeleton is by no means clean. That’s the problem at the moment - we don’t necessarily know who is doping and how to catch them.” — AP