The Tuesday Morning quarterback checks out PyeongChang – and doesn’t much like what he finds.
Russia just saved the Winter Olympics.Well, technically, not Russia, but an Olympic athlete from Russia, or OAR, as they are known thanks to a raft of anti-doping sanctions so stingingly non-punitive that even curlers regard them as pointless.
To recap: things that have been interesting about the Winter Olympics so far
-Two wardrobe malfunctions in the ice dancing
-American news anchor Katie Couric saying the Dutch are good at speed skating because they all skate to work on the canals in winter
-An Australian commentator saying all Chinese look alike (it takes an Australia to botch pointing out that athletes from a totalitarian state have competitive similarities so badly that it comes across as racist)
Things that haven’t been interesting at the Winter Olympics
This column spent four hours scanning six Winter Olympics-dedicated TV channels in a desperate search for something of interest. Three of the channels seemed to show nothing but curling. Another screened skiers practising, while another interspersed ‘highlights’ with interviews, masterfully conducted by Scotty Stevenson, with Kiwi athletes who failed to achieve even their own goals.
“I’ve loved watching you work,” has become Stevenson’s seemingly ingenious catch-phrase, which serves as both a metaphorical arm around the shoulder (the safest option post -Weinstein) and a public confessional from a man who has watched far too much rugby for a living.
Unfortunately, most of us can’t say the same this time, Sumo.
By far the most compelling Winter Olympics channel on SKY is the medal table channel – which is saved by being a static graphic of zero relevance to New Zealand by the stylised blue SKY triangles that drift slowly across the screen.
It’s quite hypnotic, and certainly more entertaining than the curling.
Or, at least, it was. Until bronze medallist OAR curler Alexander Krushelnitsky failed a doping test. He really did. The B-sample hasn’t been tested yet and all that, but as it stands Krushelnitsky has returned a positive test for meldonium, a drug popular with athletes as it boosts blood circulation.
Meldonium was the drug that caused Maria Sharapova to be banned from tennis when she kept taking it when it was added to the WADA banned list in September 2015. She was far from alone, although many athletes had their bans overturned after successfully arguing that they took the drug before it was banned and it remained in their system after the ban.
It is not believed possible that Krushelnitsky could test positive now having ingested the drug in 2015. Which means he’s either the world’s unluckiest man – or a doper.
The reaction to Krushelnitsky’s positive test has been a combination of unbridled mirth and bafflement.
Doping? In curling? By a guy who plays mixed doubles with his wife? Come on.
The New York Times did its best to convince itself that doping could enhance curling performance because the ‘athletes’ spent a lot of time on their feet and vigorously swept their brooms during play.
If this is true – that someone has in fact taken a PED to increase the effectiveness of their sweeping – then this is a new low, and one from which humanity may well not recover.
We can only hope that this is instead some husband and wife kinky sex thing gone wrong; that on the even of the games Mr and Mrs Krushelnitsky indulged in a Fifty Shades of Grey role-playing marathon and Alexander felt he simply couldn’t live up to his part without a circulation booster.
For Russia and the IOC, however, this is no laughing matter.
Consisting of athletes being called OARs, a fatwah on the playing of the Russian national anthem and an unpaid $US15 million fine, Russia’s ‘ban’ at these Olympics for state sponsored doping was a joke long before Krushelnitsky popped his positive.
Almost impossibly, the IOC now looks even more weak, craven and foolish. Meanwhile Russia, despite technically not even competing at these games, has managed to appears unrepentant, unchanged and undaunted in its commitment to cheating at sports.
Russia has saved the Winter Olympics, all right. From irrelevance. But it has smacked another nail into the coffin of sporting purity while doing so.
Thanks a bunch Alexander Krushelnitsky. It’s been great watching you work.