Doping scandal hits the Winter Olympics… in curling

Curler Alexander Krushelnitsky faces allegations of doping.
Image: Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

It’s hardly the most physically demanding of sports, but a Russian curling athlete has left the Winter Olympics under suspicion of doping.

Alexander Krushelnitsky, who won a bronze medal in the mixed doubles curling event with his wife last Tuesday, has been suspected of testing positive for meldonium. 

He now awaits a test of his B sample before a ban can be implemented, a Russian official told Reuters. Used primarily to treat heart conditions, meldonium helps to increase blood flow, resulting in increased exercise capacity. 

It is the same drug that resulted in the ban of tennis star Maria Sharapova back in 2016, shortly after the World Anti-Doping Agency added the drug to its banned list.

The allegations certainly don’t help Russian sporting officials, still dealing with the consequences of its athletes participating in a state-backed doping program for years: It’s why you’re seeing its countrymen compete as Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR) at the Winter Olympics.

Of course, the craziest part of this debacle is that a curling player considered doping to gain an advantage. Curling is often referred to as “chess on ice,” requiring balance and mental dexterity from players, rather than brute strength or endurance.

“We were all shocked when we found out yesterday. Of course we very much hope it was some kind of mistake,” Russian curler Viktoria Moiseeva said, as reported by the wire service, who added that the team believed Krushelnitsky was innocent.

“With us it’s not faster, higher, stronger; it’s about being more accurate. I can’t imagine what kind of drugs you could use in curling … so it’s very hard to believe.”

It’s certainly left the internet scratching their heads, too.

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