Rus­sia could give up W Cup ski races amid dop­ing scan­dal

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MOSCOW:

Rus­sia is pre­pared to give up host­ing rights for some World Cup cross-coun­try ski­ing races to help the coun­try’s im­age amid a dop­ing scan­dal. Elena Valbe, the pres­i­dent of the Rus­sian cross-coun­try ski­ing fed­er­a­tion, said she would “ab­so­lutely” al­low the March 16-19 fi­nal round of the World Cup in Tyu­men to be moved out­side the coun­try if it would gen­er­ate goodwill to let Rus­sia com­pete at the 2018 Win­ter Olympics.

“My deep con­vic­tion is that now we need to think about our team go­ing to the Olympics Games,” Valbe told state news agency R-Sport on Thurs­day. “A World Cup stage is a sec­ond-level is­sue.”

Rus­sia is again un­der pres­sure af­ter a re­port last week by World An­tiDop­ing Agency in­ves­ti­ga­tor Richard McLaren de­tailed a vast, state-spon­sored dop­ing cover-up in­volv­ing 12 medal­ists from the 2014 Win­ter Olympics in Sochi.

On Tues­day, the 2017 world bob­sled and skele­ton cham­pi­onships were moved from Rus­sia af­ter sev­eral of the top slid­ers said they would not com­pete in the coun­try be­cause of dop­ing con­cerns, some­thing Valbe ar­gued had set a prece­dent for more events be­ing trans­ferred or can­celed.

“If one fed­er­a­tion is do­ing some­thing, there’s prob­a­bly a joint agree­ment, or at least they’ve con­sulted among them­selves,” she said.

In July, the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee en­cour­aged win­ter sports fed­er­a­tions not to sched­ule com­pe­ti­tions in Rus­sia be­cause of dop­ing con­cerns, though the call prompted lit­tle re­sponse at the time.

On Thurs­day, Rus­sian Prime Min­is­ter Dmitry Medvedev said that an “at­mos­phere” of sus­pi­cion around Rus­sia was not enough to move events like the bob­sled world cham­pi­onships. “The anti-dop­ing cam­paign has turned into an anti-Rus­sian cam­paign,” Medvedev said. “What’s at­mos­phere got to do with it if there’s a con­tract?”

TEST-TAM­PER­ING

Mean­while, a new site - Ger­many and the US are po­ten­tial hosts - will likely be an­nounced in the com­ing days. The move by the In­ter­na­tional Bob­sled and Skele­ton Fed­er­a­tion comes less than a week af­ter the lat­est scathing re­port from World An­tiDop­ing As­so­ci­a­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tor Richard McLaren showed the depth of dop­ing and test-tam­per­ing by Rus­sia dur­ing the 2012 and 2014 Olympic cy­cles. “That’s a mon­u­men­tal de­ci­sion by the IBSF and the right move to pro­tect clean ath­letes and to tell the world that state-spon­sored dop­ing is un­ac­cept­able,” US women’s bob­sled pi­lot Elana Mey­ers Tay­lor said. “I am ec­static about the de­ci­sion.”

Worlds were sched­uled to hap­pen over the last two weeks of Fe­bru­ary in Kras­naya Polyana, Rus­sia, on the track used for the 2014 Sochi Games.

The of­fice of Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin said the move was based on un­founded state­ments, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov call­ing it a “politi­cized de­ci­sion.” But the Rus­sian bob­sled fed­er­a­tion said it ac­cepted the move in the spirit of co­op­er­a­tion, and asked for un­der­stand­ing from other slid­ing teams.

“There are no good de­ci­sions in these cir­cum­stances and our col­leagues have had to choose the lesser evil,” the Rus­sian fed­er­a­tion said. “We un­der­stand that in a sit­u­a­tion of mu­tual dis­trust, which is not of our cre­ation, it is still pos­si­ble to host a com­pe­ti­tion but it’s not pos­si­ble to host a fes­ti­val, and the world cham­pi­onship should re­ally be a fes­ti­val which peo­ple look for­ward to with plea­sure.”

The IBSF worded its de­ci­sion very cau­tiously, not im­pli­cat­ing the Rus­sian Bob­sled Fed­er­a­tion in any way. In­stead, the in­ter­na­tional fed­er­a­tion said mov­ing worlds was the only way “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.” Some of the world’s best slid­ers - in­clud­ing reign­ing Olympic medal­ists Steven Hol­comb, Matt An­toine and Mey­ers Tay­lor of the U.S., Martins Dukurs of Latvia and Lizzy Yarnold of Bri­tain - urged the IBSF for weeks to take the ac­tion. Latvia’s national skele­ton team said Sun­day that it would boy­cott if worlds were held in Rus­sia, and Aus­tria and South Korea were also con­sid­er­ing such a move. — AP

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