The doping scandal
December 2014: As many as 99 per cent of Russian athletes guilty of doping, German TV documentary alleges.
November 2015: Wadacommissioned report alleges widespread corruption in Russian track and field. Its anti-doping agency, Rusada, is declared non-compliant.
May 2016: Whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov says dozens of Russian athletes cheated at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
July 2016: Russia operated four-year state-sponsored doping programme across "vast majority" of summer and winter Olympic sports, says Professor Richard McLaren.
August 2016: International Olympic Committee decides against blanket ban on Russians at Rio Olympics. Individual sporting federations rule instead, with 271 Russians competing.
December 2016: Wada publishes second part of McLaren report, which says more than 1000 Russian athletes benefited from doping.
January 2017: Russian sport authorities given list of criteria to achieve before Rusada can win back recognition.
February 2018: Russia banned from 2018 Winter Olympics, but 169 athletes who prove they are clean allowed to compete under neutral flag.
May 2018: Wada writes to Rusada offering "compromise".
September 2018: Wada executive committee votes 9-2 to reinstate Rusada. -25C at night.
Ruapehu barely gets below freezing. Uncle Bruce persevered and a track of sorts emerged — “a bumpy, lumpy thing, hilariously homemade but also amazing because he did it” — and TV turned up to film the world champion make a run.
“He’s saying how everyone should come and experience skeleton and how it’s safe and it’s fantastic but all the while he’s grabbing his arm [and] as soon as they stop filming he’s off to the medic centre.
“An icicle had pierced an artery. If you look carefully you can see blood squirting out between his fingers.”
SANDFORD, WHO is a specialist in sports law, misses the actual sliding more than the competition. He put up his hand in politics for the same reason he became an athletes’ representative: fairness.
He’s lived in a lot of countries, some were “incredibly unfair and unequal”, and some he thought were on the right track and pursuing policies based on evidence.
New Zealand, he thought, was heading the wrong way.
“I could see the policies we were following and where we were going and I didn’t want to live in a country that took that route.” A more selfish country? “We were becoming a more divided country, a country no longer looking after the pillars that made us what we are, around housing, education, healthcare, making sure we give people a fair chance, making sure people have opportunity.”
People often compliment him, he says, for succeeding in an individual sport practised on the other side of the world. But, he says, he came from privilege: supportive family and friends and an uncle who had blazed the way.
“I’ve been able to get by only through the generosity of people around me, and I’ve been lucky too.”
Claims that Wada was targeted by Russian government hackers will appal but not surprise him. Nor will official denials. “This entire [doping] system has been found out but the Russian authorities have still denied that it existed.”
Has Wada been hijacked by business interests? Certain people in the Olympic movement, says Sandford, have been pushing to have Rusada back for a long time.
“Those people have got their way. That’s really unfortunate. I think it is enormously damaging to the credibility of Wada and what it stands for, or what Wada should be standing for.” But it’s not a “death blow”. “You need an organisation like Wada to regulate anti-doping on an international level.
“If people are suggesting getting rid of Wada, you are going to have to recreate it in a similar fashion.”