Canadian athletes react to report showing widespread doping in Russian sport
Canadian star kayaker Adam van Koeverden is one of several members of the Canadian sport community who are calling a new report that shows evidence of state-sponsored doping in Russian sport "ridiculous", "hugely disappointing" and "devastating" for athletes. Van Koeverden claps accepting his bronze medal for the K1 1000m final at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Welland, Ont., in a July 13, 2015, file photo.
Members of the Canadian sport community are calling a new report that shows evidence of state-sponsored doping in Russian sport "hugely disappointing" and "devastating" for athletes.
The independent investigation, commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency and released Monday in Toronto, found a widespread system of doping that spanned some four years, including during the Sochi Olympics when government officials are alleged to have engaged in sample swapping.
Star kayaker Adam van Koeverden said the scope of authorities' alleged involvement in the doping program, which according to the investigation includes the Russian Federal Security Service, is "ridiculous."
"Can you imagine if CSIS was involved in trying to win a water polo tournament, how ridiculous it would seem in Canada?" said the Olympic gold medallist. "Don't they have better things to do?"
He believes the greater sport community isn't necessarily surprised by the results of the report, but he's confident the organizations that work to prevent doping mostly work the way they should.
"I don't think it's to suggest that anti-doping efforts in the world are not working," he said. "I think that there is a calculated, assertive, collaborative attempt to usurp it in one country that's just proven that it's possible if you have all levels of government involved."
Canadian Beckie Scott, chair of the WADA Athlete Commission, called the reports "shocking."
"We feel a little bit vindicated today because we have been calling for this report since last November when the first allegations of doping in Russia surfaced," Scott said on a conference call. "We as a committee were very upset to read about the unprecedented levels of doping, and the undermining and subversion of Olympic values that was taking place."
Scott was awarded a gold medal in cross-country skiing at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games after the two athletes who finished ahead of her were disqualified for doping.
Canadian race walker Inaki Gomez said the investigation should be cause for authorities to think twice about allowing Russia to host future sports events.
"There needs to be some sort of repercussions for this sort of behaviour," he said. "We can't trust them for future events."
Russia is slated to host the next soccer World Cup in 2018.
Russian track and field athletes have already been banned from competing at the upcoming Games, and now the World Anti-Doping Agency's executive board wants all Russian teams banned from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
As a track and field athlete, Gomez said he hopes the report can be an opportunity to expose and tackle other instances of doping in sport.
"It's time to start inquiring into other nations that do have doping culture that continue to affect sport," he said. "What those countries are — I leave that to WADA and other organizations — but it's an opportunity to say, 'This worked, we have a way to do it, and let's start cleaning up the sport.'"
Paul Melia, CEO of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, said barring all Russian athletes from competing in the Olympics would be an unprecedented move. But he notes that the scale of Russia's doping system presents a challenge for WADA's anti-doping code.
"The code, I don't think, contemplated exactly what the sanctions might be when governments or anti-doping agencies commit doping violations by completely subverting the anti-doping code and corrupting sport in a way that we see is going on in Russia," he said.
Melia said while he was bracing for the worst, he was still shocked by the results of the investigation. Now, he worries the evidence in the report might leave athletes who have competed in the past wondering if the results should have been different.
Sport Minister Carla Qualtrough said she is "profoundly troubled" by the evidence presented in the report.
"It is imperative that there are consequences at all levels for those who are cheating the system, not just the athletes," she said. "I support the WADA recommendations following this investigation and agree that more investigation is warranted. As an international sport system, we need to come together for a collective response at all levels."
Star hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser, a member of the IOC Athletes' Commission, felt "a lot of vindication" from the report's release.
"It's definitely a sad day for sport but possibly the biggest turning point for sport," she said.
- Editor:Albert | Source: The Canadian Press
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