Canadian figure skaters have received an unusually high number of random doping tests during the past few days in Sochi, Canadian team officials said, including an order for Kaetlyn Osmond to submit to testing only hours before her competition on Saturday.
The suspicions that Canada is being unfairly targeted came as allegations of a judging scandal unfolded in Sochi. A report Saturday in a French sports magazine said judges from the United States and Russia have agreed to give higher marks for their countries in certain events to secure gold.
French publication L’Equipe has reported that the United States and Russia struck a deal to mutually assure higher marks in the team event and in the ice dance, while also shutting out Canada from the gold in those competitions.
After the first full day of official competition Canada has three medals:
- Sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe won gold and silver respectively in women’s freestyle mogul skiing;
- Despite a broken rib, snowboarder Mark McMorris won bronze in men’s slopestyle;
- The figure skating team is in second place to Russia and poised for a medal;
According to the French report, the pact would see the U.S. judge dish out favourable marks to Russia in the team event, where the United States is not a contender for a gold, in exchange for the Russian judge boosting the scores for Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White in the pairs ice dance next week.
The pact, if true, would essentially lock down gold for each country in those events, while also blocking Canada in the team event and thwarting Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir from repeating their gold medal performance at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
U.S. Figure Skating has strongly denied the reports. “Comments made in a L’Equipe story are categorically false,” the American governing body said in a statement on Saturday. “There is no ‘help’ between countries. We have no further response to rumours, anonymous sources or conjecture.”
Shortly after reports of the pact surfaced, Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada’s high performance director, said Canada has had seven of its skaters selected for random testing since landing in Sochi, including two skaters who were called to the doping lab at around midnight a few days ago. Canadian officials said they have no idea why they’ve had so many skaters tested during the team figure skating event in Sochi, but they are under the impression no other nation has had so many skaters forced to undergo these random doping tests.
Mr. Slipchuk said it is extremely rare for a figure skater to be tested prior to skating on competition day. It is standard for skaters to be tested after their competitions, and skaters know they can be called for random testings at any time, but those usually happen on training days.
“I’ve never seen one on a day of competition,” Mr. Slipchuk said, wondering aloud why it is happening to Canada. “Our skaters don’t complain about it. … It’s just interesting.”
Canada is in a tight battle with the Russians for the gold medal in the team figure skating event. Slipchuk has mentioned the matter to the Canadian Olympic Committee and is expecting it will be raised with Olympic officials. It is unclear who is ordering the tests, he said.
Osmond, who skated her short program in the team event Saturday, said she was taking her usual pre-skate nap and was awoken by a knock on her door in the athlete’s village around noon. Though she had no problem going for the random doping test, which took about an hour, she said it did throw a wrench in her usual competition-day routine.
“The testing is fine, it just surprised me a little, because I was taking a nap in the middle of the day and I just hear someone knock on my door,” Osmond said. “I was thinking, I have the Do Not Disturb sign on my door. Why is someone knocking on my door? They were really nice about it and they walked me to a station.”
Osmond said the closest to a competition she’s previously been tested was two days before.
Moir and Virtue are locked in tight race for the gold in Sochi with their American rivals. Though the Canadians won the ice dance in Vancouver, they ceded last year’s world championship to the American duo. It’s about as close a battle as figure skating will see in Sochi.