Tough-talking Canada stands to gain from diminished Russian team in Pyeongchang
Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith responds to a question during a news conference at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Thursday, February 8, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Paul Chiasson)
Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, February 9, 2018 6:44AM EST
PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of -- Canada had a loud voice in the fight against doping, and by extension Russia's Olympic participation, in the days leading up to the Pyeongchang Games.
And the Canadian team stands to benefit in the medal count from an arbitration court's ruling Friday that the International Olympic Committee has the right to not invite 45 Russian athletes and two coaches.
From IOC member Richard Pound criticizing his own organization for inaction on addressing the problem of doping, to reports of verbal sparring in a cafeteria between a member of the Canadian and Russian teams, Canadians seem to want feet held to the fire in Pyeongchang.
Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith says Canada isn't the only country that wants accountability.
"We're at a time where people want this thing fixed," she said. "It's very uncomfortable. It's not where we want to be in sport, but we're catching people who are cheating now."
Speaking at an IOC session earlier this week, Smith said: "When we're tough on nations, that makes those nations change."
Canada's agitating hasn't gone unnoticed in Russia.
Citing material from the hacker group Fancy Bear, the news agency Sputnik headlined a story "Fancy Bears Reveal Canadian Conspiracy Against Russian Sport."
The content of the story includes a letter written by Luge Canada executive director Tim Farstad to the international governing body in January asking how to appeal a decision to allow Russian lugers to keep racing on the World Cup circuit.
Another letter from Biathlon Canada president Murray Wylie calls for Russia be stripped of the 2021 world championship.
Just hours before Friday's opening ceremonies, the Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed appeals by Russian athletes looking to gain entry into the Games.
CAS also rejected appeals by six Russian athletes and seven support staff Thursday, saying it lacked jurisdiction to hear the cases. That brought the number of the "uninvited" this week to 60.
The IOC says it decided who to exclude using a Moscow laboratory database with evidence of past doping offences.
It also didn't invite some other Russians even after their disqualifications from the 2014 Olympics were reversed by CAS last week.
There were still 168 Russians who passed the vetting process. They'll compete wearing neutral colours under the banner of "Olympic Athletes from Russia" or "OAR" in Pyeongchang.
Gold medallists from Russia will hear the Olympic anthem as part of the sanctions the IOC slapped on Russia for alleged state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Among those excluded were 2014 medallists in luge, women's skeleton, short and long-track speedskating and men's cross-country skiing, as well as 2018 medal contenders in bobsled.
Canada has strong medal potential in those events.
"I think it's one of the most clean Games we've seen in a few years," said Canadian cross-country skier Alex Harvey, who is the reigning world 50-kilometre champion. "That's good motivation for me."
Figure skater Ksenia Stolbova, one half of the Russian pair that won silver four years ago, was not invited so she and partner Fedor Klimov were missing from Friday's short program in the team event.
"In terms of our mental preparation, it doesn't matter who else is skating here. We have our own job to do," Canadian pairs skater Eric Radford said.
"We pride ourselves on being clean athletes, and that's how we really hope the sport remains, that all sports remain."
Radford and Meagan Duhamel won back-to-back world titles in 2015 and 2016.
"We want to fight for clean and fair sport, whatever that means, for every athlete from every country, and I think that's the goal of every athlete," Duhamel said.
Pound, the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said in Tuesday's IOC session "the IOC has not only failed to protect athletes, but has made it possible for cheating athletes to prevail against the clean athletes."
Smith, an Olympic silver medallist in rowing in 1984, also spoke at the session.
She championed a system in which automatic sanctions on countries kick in when a set number of doping infractions happen in a calendar year.
"That would take it to a place where it's not personal," Smith said. "The idea that I proposed at the IOC is a very constructive way to move the dial on how sport can improve."
With files from Lori Ewing, Alex Geoffrion-McInnes and The Associated Press