By Robin Short
Telegram Sports Editor-Ottawa
Ottawa - You can count two former Olympic medal winners and current world champions among those who agree with Tuesday’s big announcement that saw the International Olympic Committee bar Russia’s Olympic team from the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Curlers Brad Gushue and Mark Nichols of St. John’s concur 100 per cent with the IOC and the unprecedented punishment following a lengthy investigation into Russia’s systematic doping.
Russian government officials will be forbidden from attending the PyeongChang Games, and the country’s flag will not be displayed at the opening ceremony and nor will its anthem be played.
The door is open to some Russians to compete as neutral athletes, but it’s unclear if Russian president Vladimir Putin will allow that happen.
Competing at the Canadian Olympic Curling Trials in Ottawa, Nichols said, “Based on the research and everything that’s been done to look into this, it’s the right step.
“You have tons of athletes out there training so hard, and here it’s crazy to think what they (the Russian Olympic team) went through to try and maximize results.
“You know what, as dramatic and extreme as the ban is, it’s the right one.”
Some high-profile former Canadian athletes, among them hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser and cross-country skier Beckie Scott, also agreed with the decision.
“The Canadian team,” said Canadian Olympic Committee president Tricia Smith, “will have the confidence that they’re competing on a level playing field.”
Gushue also agreed with the decision, noting it’s the right move, particularly given the depths and the level of the Russian cheating.
“You have to take a hard stance,” said Gushue. “Geez, we’ve been tested four times this fall, and for a whole country to be bypassing that and being able to, frankly, cheat is not right.”
Gushue and Nichols were part of the 2005 Torino Winter Olympics gold-medal curling team, and last spring won the world curling championship.
As a result, Gushue, Nichols, Brett Gallant and Geoff Walker are in the testing pool of the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports, which conducts drug testing of Canadian athletes.
Since the fall, the curling team has been given drug tests four different times.
The latest came last Friday here in Ottawa. And that was just a week after a CCES official showed up at the St. John’s Curling Club demanding a test.
“He just arrived at practice,” Gushue said. “We have to let them (at CCES) know of our whereabouts … when and where we practice, when we travel, where we’re going to be, when we go on vacation.
“We have to let them know where we are going to be each day.
“They tested us all at the (curling) club, and again when we came up here … all within a week. That’s in addition to two other tests earlier in the fall.
“So yes, it’s the right move (banning Russia), and hopefully things will get cleaned up.”