The Olympic curling fraternity was reeling from a doping scandal at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Monday – with many wondering why a curler would need performance-enhancing drugs at all.
Russia’s Alexander Krushelnitsky, a mixed doubles bronze medallist, is the curler at the centre of a doping case now with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
A source told AFP he had taken the banned drug meldonium – the same substance that saw Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova suspended.
The revelation sparked disbelief from Olympic rivals in curling, a slow-moving, tactical sport of sliding heavy stones along an ice piste.
Denmark women’s skip Madeleine DuPont pondered what advantages doping might bring in such a precision-based event.
“I was pretty shocked. ‘How can this be?’” DuPont asked.
“I’m sure most people would think, ‘What do they need doping for? What’s the benefit?’ – like I’m thinking.”
The stone-sliding crowd isn’t known for bulking up on muscle power. Meldonium was banned for its ability to increase blood flow, and thereby exercise capacity.
“I’m not even sure what you use drugs for in curling,” DuPont said. “Strength and such? It’s not really up my alley.”
DuPont said she does not see dope cheats when she competes against the Russian women, and is confident of a level playing field.
“I know the Russian girls really well,” she said. “They are good and kind and a benefit to the reputation of the sport.”
Beer and Advil
Switzerland women’s captain Silvana Tirinzoni leaped to defend the fitness level of curlers, saying even the most laid-back of Winter Olympic sports requires above-average levels of strength.
“It’s not like you don’t need any muscles,” Tirinzoni said. “We have to be fit. Everyone is working out five times a week and going to the gym. It can help.”
But she was as stunned as everyone else to learn about the possible doping case.
“I’m sure surprised,” she said. “Things like that shouldn’t happen in curling, or any other sports.”
United States women’s skip Nina Roth backed curling as a sport requiring power as well.
“You need strength but you have to do it the right way,” she said. “Any sort of doping isn’t good.”
Sweden’s Niklas Edin was equally stunned that curling had been dragged into the mire of doping.
“We have stayed away from those kind of topics for a long time,” he said.
“I definitely didn’t think we were going to find a positive test in this crew here... if it is a positive doping test in curling, it is just sad.”
Canada’s Brent Laing was at a loss for words.
“I don’t know the guy at all so I can’t really comment very wisely,” he said.
“I don’t know what that particular drug does for you, but beer and Advil are the only painkillers I’ve ever heard of for curling. I imagine it wasn’t that. Hopefully not, or else I’m in trouble.”