Latvia's skeleton team to boycott worlds in Sochi over Russian doping scandal
Martins Dukurs, of Latvia, competes in a world cup men's skeleton race in Whistler, B.C., on Saturday December 3, 2016. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press
Published Sunday, December 11, 2016 3:44PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, December 11, 2016 3:45PM EST
Latvia will not send its skeleton athletes to this season's world championships in Sochi, the first such announcement by any national team in response to the Russian doping scandal.
The world championships for bobsled and skeleton are scheduled to be held on the 2014 Olympic track from Feb. 13-26. A number of athletes, including some past Olympic medallists from the U.S. and Britain, have said in recent weeks that they will consider skipping worlds unless officials move the event out of Russia.
But no other national team had taken such an official stance, until Sunday.
"Enough is enough," the Latvian skeleton team said in a statement.
If worlds are going to be moved out of Sochi, a decision by the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation would have to come quickly. The IBSF said it will "act promptly and decisively" after World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren's latest report detailing the scope of the doping program in Russia was released on Friday.
U.S. officials have said they will support any American athlete who chooses not to race in Sochi.
Among the concerns some sliders have expressed about going back to Russia is a fear that food and beverage supplies could be tampered with and that athletes could unknowingly ingest a banned substance. If they were subsequently tested and that test came back positive, they would likely be ineligible to compete in the 2018 Olympics.
The Russians are scheduled to compete this weekend in a World Cup bobsled and skeleton competition in Lake Placid, New York, as are sliders from most other nations on the circuit.
"I want to compete in a World Championships that's drug free and safe for all," U.S. women's bobsled pilot Elana Meyers Taylor said on Twitter. "Sochi, Russia, is not an option."
The British Bobsled and Skeleton Federation is among those taking a wait-and-see approach for now, not making any decisions until the IBSF decides if worlds should be moved.
"I hope too that they will want to join the fight," said Lizzy Yarnold, the Olympic women's skeleton gold medallist from Britain.
Latvia has seven Winter Olympic medals in its history -- all of them in sliding sports. The Latvian team is led by Martins Dukurs, the seven-time defending World Cup overall champion who has gotten silver medals at the past two Olympics. At the Sochi Games in 2014, Dukurs entered as a gold-medal favourite but was beaten by Russia's Aleksandr Tretyakov.
McLaren's report released on Friday said that Russians who won 15 medals in Sochi had their drug-testing samples tampered with, including two athletes who won four gold medals. McLaren's report did not include names.
"While our international federation is still going to 'read and digest the report,' we will do what we can," the Latvian skeleton team wrote. "We will be glad to race in World Championships at any track of the world, but we are not participating in World Championships in Sochi, Russia -- a place where Olympic spirit was stolen in 2014."