Thursday, December 8, 2022

U.S figure skaters, still waiting for medals, outspoken on doping issues

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The night time earlier than, Bates had been locked in his room on the Athletes’ Village, testifying by video to an advert hoc panel from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, one closing probability for him — because the U.S. figure skating staff captain — to pressure the International Olympic Committee to offer the nine-member staff its medals. But someday simply earlier than midnight Saturday, he discovered that CAS had sided with the IOC’s determination to carry off giving medals till its inquiry into Russian skater Kamila Valieva’s constructive doping take a look at is full.

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Given that Valieva was part of the Russian group that gained the Team Event gold, the United States’ silver ultimately might be a gold. But the American skaters’ push to get their medals — which included a gathering with IOC President Thomas Bach, blistering statements from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland and Saturday night time’s enchantment to CAS — has turn into a type of spontaneous anti-doping motion.

“My hope is that this is not taken as pressure around a medal,” mentioned Zacahry Donohue, one other ice dancer. “There is going to be a medal at some point; that’s not my concern … There needs to be more decisive action taking against any kind of doping issue and protecting the integrity of the sport.”

Or as Bates mentioned: “There are multiple things at play with the medal ceremony and then the bigger picture.”

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Asked what these issues are, he replied: “What’s been plaguing our sport for the last however many years.”

It appears an odd group to be taking a stand in opposition to doping within the Olympics. American figure skaters have gained two bronze and now a silver in three Olympic staff occasions. Aside from stars corresponding to Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, the U.S. skating staff just isn’t stuffed with huge names or outstanding voices. But the eye that has include the denial of its medals and the worldwide outrage over the CAS ruling final week permitting Valieva to skate within the ladies’s particular person competitors has given the U.S. staff a platform it didn’t anticipate.

“This is an opportunity for this sport to take strides and it would be a shame if it gets buried under the rug,” Donohue mentioned. “One of the main points [is] to put pressure [on the IOC], like: The world is watching, and we have a chance to stand for something more than just one Games, but for the future of the integrity of the sport.”

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They have been speaking in between performances on the conventional last-day skating exhibition. Normally, this can be a gentle occasion, an opportunity to put on completely different costumes and skate with out the strain that has loomed over the earlier two weeks.

This is an older U.S. staff. Bates and Donohue and their companions are all of their early 30s, Chen is 22 and Zhou 21. They all have been across the sport a very long time and perceive its issues. They are at factors the place they really feel empowered to talk out and have one thing to say.

“Obviously, it’s a much bigger issue than [getting] a medal or not,” Zhou mentioned. “That’s only a surface-level token of the circumstances. The bigger picture is obviously clean sport and the importance of clean competition”

Asked if he thought the U.S. staff’s stand would create a constructive change, he nodded.

“I would hope so,” he mentioned. “I would hope all of this, including the media firestorm … that the bigger picture is everyone can see the importance of clean sport and fair competition.”

Their new energy got here quick, rising within the days after the IOC canceled the medal ceremony simply minutes earlier than it was to start out on the night of Feb. 8. Last Tuesday night time, Bach met the U.S. skaters in a media interview room on the Athletes’ Village. They sat in chairs organized in a circle, two of the Americans mentioned. The dialog lasted for an hour and 40 minutes, with lots of the U.S. skaters making impassioned factors about how they have been being punished for another person’s constructive take a look at and about what they see as failures in the best way doping is policed.

“Emotions are running high, and it was great he allowed us to say exactly what we were feeling and I can say from my own personal standpoint I didn’t hold back,” Donohue’s accomplice Madison Hubbell mentioned. “It’s a tough conversation to have, and so I absolutely felt like he was listening.”

She mentioned Bach promised the U.S. skaters he would “make the [medal] ceremony of our dreams, whatever those might be.”

Bates described what Bach provided as “a dignified medal ceremony.”

When that will probably be, nobody appeared to know. In a method, it didn’t matter. Their final probability to get their medals right here had been turned down late the night time earlier than. They will go away Beijing with out the largest factor most of them has ever gained in skating.

But late Sunday afternoon it was clear that they had discovered one thing else: a voice. So they saved speaking.

“I think it’s going to take awhile to get over this,” Bates mentioned, his voice beginning to crack. “And when we do get our medals, I’m not sure that will sufficiently cure the hurt that’s been caused to all the clean athletes who didn’t get their medal moment.”

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