U.S. Figure Skating president: Russia shouldn’t be in PyeongChang Olympics

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KANSAS CITY — U.S. Figure Skating president Sam Auxier said Russia shouldn’t be allowed to participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics due its ongoing doping scandal.

“I don’t think they should be able to,” Auxier said at the U.S. Championships on Thursday. “I mean, it’s state-sponsored. It was a huge program, well-coordinated to cheat, and they should pay a pretty stiff penalty. And I think the only way the IOC and the ISU maintain any level of integrity is to take a strong stand and weigh a strong penalty for those actions.”

In December, a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commissioned report by investigator Richard McLaren accused Russia of a widespread doping cover-up at the Sochi Winter Olympics, including urine-sample swapping.

No Russian figure skaters have been announced as suspended in relation to the Russian doping reports, though Russian athletes in other sports have been banned. Some bans were lifted due to a lack of evidence.

The International Skating Union (ISU) said on Dec. 9 that “if and when there are sufficient elements and evidence to pursue anti-doping rule violations, the ISU will not hesitate to open disciplinary proceedings against bodies or persons subject to infringements.”

On Dec. 23, the International Olympic Committee said 28 Russian athletes faced doping cases in relation to the Sochi Winter Olympics but did not name names.

“At this point it’s really out of our control,” Auxier said Thursday. “It’s up to WADA and the people doing the analysis, and then the ISU will have to decide what type of penalty they will weigh against that, given the evidence.

“It’s important to us that the ISU take a strong stand against doping in making sure our athletes, who are all clean, compete against athletes who are clean. We are very focused on what the decision is and what steps the ISU will take, and we’ll exert any influence we’re able to.”

U.S. Figure Skating executive director David Raith said the federation is “a highly motivated, highly interested bystander in that to see what the ISU and the IOC do.”

Russia had the best figure skating team at the Sochi Winter Olympics and continues to be a world power. It boasts reigning Olympic champions in the women’s and pairs events and the last two women’s world champions.

In Sochi, Russian Adelina Sotnikova earned gold in the women’s event.

American Gracie Gold finished fourth in Sochi and was asked last week her thoughts if Sotnikova, who hasn’t been implicated publicly by an official body, were to be stripped of her medals. That would move Gold up to bronze in the singles event and, potentially, silver in the team event.

“As far as I know, everything is still under investigation, so I can’t really speak,” Gold said. “It certainly is causing some headlines, though. … I competed against Adelina for many years. I loved her. I think she’s still a sweetheart. A lot of the Russians, I’ve found them all to be lovely people, despite maybe what other people [say] their stigma. … I don’t feel like anyone could suspect something so widespread.”

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