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Speed skater’s case drawing notice in the political arena

Mathieu Giroux

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

It's nominally a divergence of views concerning training, but now Speed Skating Canada's decision to exclude gold medal-winning skater Mathieu Giroux from the national team is drawing notice in the political arena.

Opposition MP Matthew Dubé, the NDP's amateur sports critic, wants the federal government to ask the skating body to justify its "inflexible" stance concerning Giroux, whose situation was first revealed in the Globe.

"Young athletes who represent Canada at the Olympic Games shouldn't be asked to sacrifice their studies and therefore their post-athletic professions," Dubé said in a statement released by his office Monday.

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The NDP has sent a letter to Bal Gosal, the federal Minister of State for Sport, in hopes he will press Speed Skating Canada for explanations, Dubé said "we would like the decision-making process concerning elite amateur athletes to be as flexible as possible when it comes to reconciling sports and studies."

The 26-year-old Giroux, who won gold in the men's team pursuit in Vancouver 2010, is working towards a doctor of pharmacy degree, which is why he declined to relocate to the national training centre in Calgary, as the governing body wanted. The former short-track athlete has spent the last two years training in Montreal and studying - if he fails to finish his degree by 2015, which will be difficult given his intention to compete in the Sochi 2014 Winter Games, he'll have to start over again.

The federation, meanwhile, insists it is simply following the rules, and that Giroux's decision to return to Montreal to train - against the wishes of the long-track program's wishes - forced its hand.

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