Skip to main content

The Russian national flag flies next to the Olympic flag during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Matthias Schrader/The Associated Press

The Kontinental Hockey League may withdraw its players from the Pyeongchang Olympics in protest at doping investigations into Russian athletes, the league president suggested on Saturday.

The Moscow-based KHL, widely considered the strongest league outside the NHL, contains leading Russians but also many players who could represent the United States, Canada, and various European nations.

Canada's current Olympic roster includes 15 players from the KHL including goalie Ben Scrivens (Salavat Yulaev Ufa) as well as forwards Wojtek Wolski (Kunlun Red Star), Brandon Kozun (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl), Eric O'Dell (HC Sochi), and Matt Frattin (Barys Astana). That team begins play in the Karjala Cup in Helsinki, Finland, starting Wednesday.

Story continues below advertisement

In a statement, KHL president Dmitry Chernyshenko said the International Olympic Committee "is destroying the existing world order in sports" by pursuing doping cases against Russians in other sports who are suspected of using banned substances around the time of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Chernyshenko referenced the NHL's absence from Pyeongchang this February after failing to reach a deal with the IOC, and said "the KHL is ready to respond accordingly."

IOC commissions "suspend athletes without a basis of real facts confirming doping," Chernyshenko said. A Russian gold medallist in cross-country skiing was stripped of his title by an IOC panel on Wednesday using evidence of Russian doping coverups and tampering with sample bottles.

Chernyshenko previously headed Russia's organizing committee for the Sochi Olympics, where Russia has since been accused of operating a state-sponsored program of drug use and coverups.

Russians were being unfairly targeted by the IOC, Chernyshenko said. He referred to a recent speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin in which Putin accused the U.S. of lobbying the IOC for Russia's exclusion from the Pyeongchang Olympics or trying to force IOC officials to make Russians compete under a neutral flag.

A KHL pullout from the Olympics would leave Russia with very few players to choose from — if Russia was still allowed or willing to take part in the Olympic ice hockey tournament.

For the U.S. and Canada, it would mean a greater reliance on junior or college players, or those scattered across smaller European leagues. Countries like Finland and Sweden could benefit — they'd lose some KHL-based players, but would be in a comparatively stronger position because of the depth in their national leagues.

Story continues below advertisement

The KHL contains clubs across seven countries from Finland to China, but the vast majority are in Russia. Many teams are funded by Russian state companies, regional governments or businessmen close to Putin. The league chairman is Gennady Timchenko, a billionaire who used to be Putin's sparring partner in judo.

"The KHL won't talk about a ban (on players going to the Olympics), but about reviewing the calendar," KHL board member Alexander Medvedev told Russian news agency Tass. "In that case, contracted players won't be able to go anywhere. Legally, it's absolutely permitted. If Russia isn't taking part in the games, then there's no sense in having a break (in the KHL season)."

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter