The collective response to reports of a Russian medalist in curling failing a doping test could best be captured by the phrase – “Wait, what?”
The Russians have been at the heart of an Olympics doping scandal, which meant they couldn’t march under their own flag during the Olympics opening ceremonies. They’re referred to by the awkward label of Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) during competition.
So, a Russian accused of doping? No surprise.
A curler accused of doping? Huh.
After all, Duff-swilling Homer Simpson and wife Marge and her famous stack of blue hair earned a trip to the Winter Olympics in the episode “Boy Meets Curl.”
Curling athletes, who slowly slide a handled stone across the ice while other curling athletes guide the stone by flailing at the ice with brooms, wouldn’t seem to gain much of a boost from ingesting substances that increase strength or endurance. Yes, sweeping is hard work, and curlers are really good at it. But come on now.
If you’re puzzled, you’re not alone. Even curlers are struggling to come up with an answer.
In a story headlined “Bemused curlers ask ‘why would anyone dope in our sport?’” Reuters wonders “Why would an athlete in one of the Winter Games’ least taxing and physically demanding sports feel it necessary to use performance-enhancing drugs?”
In the article, several Olympic curlers were “left scratching their heads” at the question.
“For me it’s tough to see doping in curling. Maybe as a brusher, but come on, hit the gym you know,” Norwegian silver medalist in the 2010 Olympics Thomas Ulsrud told Reuters.
But wait, there is a 2018 Men of Curling Calendar, and those guys are buff. (Do a Google images search, you’ll see.)
But doping is not required for taut muscles and killer abs. There are plenty of magazines ready to tell you how to get them in just 15 minutes a day!
But all of this lends a certain amount of credence to Russian officials denials of the charge, one going so far as to say someone could have spiked the curler’s food.
The accused curler, bronze medalist Alexander Krushelnitsky, tested clean as recently as January 22, just before he flew to pre-Olympic training camp in Japan, a Russian official told the Associated Press. So perhaps it was there someone slipped him a performance-enhancing Mickey.
OK. Sure. Whatever you say.
Regardless of how it all turns out – and the results could torpedo Russia’s claims of cleaning up their athletes – one can’t help but wonder what’s next. Even though it’s not an Olympic sport, should chess masters be tested?