‘It’s disgusting and frustrating’: Calgary-based Olympians react to Russian doping scandal

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Calgary-based Olympians react to Russian doping scandal
WATCH: A shocking report from a Canadian law professor details how Russia has been operating a state-sponsored doping scheme for years. The IOC will now decide if Russia will be banned from next month's summer games in Rio. Many Calgary-based Olympians say they aren't surprised by the report. Lisa MacGregor reports – Jul 19, 2016

The International Olympic Committee said it plans on retesting Russian athletes after a scathing report from a Canadian professor revealed a state-wide doping cover-up.

The IOC will also now decide if Russia will be banned from next month’s summer games in Rio de Janeiro.

Many local Olympic athletes said they aren’t surprised by the report; they have always known they were up against a country who was playing dirty.

But the bombshell findings in a report by professor Richard McLaren shed light on details that seem unimaginable.

His findings show urine samples swapped out so tests of Russian athletes always passed.

Some samples contain “quantities of salt significantly exceeding the levels produced by the human body, absent a serious life-threatening medical condition.” While other samples had a different DNA than the athlete tested.

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READ MORE: How Russia pulled off state-sponsored cheating at the Olympics

McLaren said Russia’s National Olympic committee did anything to get around doping after its “abysmal medal tally in the 2010 games in Vancouver.”

“This is a corrupt state that would have gone to any lengths to ensure great performances in Sochi,” Hayley Wickenheiser, a five-time Olympic medallist, said.

Wickenheiser,  who’s a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s (COC) Athletes’ Commission, was also concerned about Russia’s doping procedure after she felt her sample wasn’t being dealt with properly after her semi-final game playing for Team Canada.

“I just got up and opened the door and said, ‘I’ll wait for our team doctor to come back into the room,'” Wickenheiser recalled.

“You’re angry, because you competed in an Olympic games in a country that was doing this right under everybody’s noses and was manipulating the system.”

The scheme lasted at least four years, covered 28 Olympic sports – both summer and winter – and involved at least 312 positive tests that went unreported at the behest of higher-ups in the country’s sports ministry, according to a 97-page report issued Monday.

Wickenheiser says the IOC should close the road to Rio for Russia.

“In this case, the National Olympic committee, Russian Olympic committee should pay the fullest price possible and unfortunately that includes all the athletes in Russia,” Wickenheiser said.

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“The job of the ICO is to protect the clean athletes of the world. It should be principle over politics.”

On Thursday, the highest court in sport will rule on an appeal by 68 Russian track and field athletes, seeking to overturn their ban from the games.

Time is crucial because the Olympics begin August 5, and decisions about Russia’s participation in Rio must be made because thousands of athletes from other countries are waiting to see if spots will open up that they didn’t qualify for over Russia.

“Their lives are hanging in the balance,” Wickenheiser said. “Having a chance to win a gold medal in that moment? There’s nothing like it.”

READ MORE: Rio 2016: Russian ban could boost Canadian track and field team

Calgary track and field athlete Jessica O’Connell, who is competing in the 5,000m in Rio, says she hopes people won’t tune out the summer games because of this controversy in Russian doping.

“I think a lot of people are saying right now that they’re losing faith in the Olympics. They’re saying, ‘I’m not even going to watch this year, this is ridiculous.’ But that’s kind of a slight on our athletes, because I’m a 100 per cent confident that my Canadian teammates are completely clean,” O’Connell said.

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On the bright side, O’Connell says Canadian athletes are still doing incredibly well going up against doped athletes.

“They’re beating doped athletes and that’s incredibly impressive. So we can’t lose sight of the fact that a lot of sport is very pure still,” O’Connell said.

Canadian Olympic bobsledder Jesse Lumsden says athletes have not only missed out on gold medals from past Russian doping, but also the experience of a lifetime.

“It’s disgusting and it’s frustrating. They took away something that is more than just a medal….it’s the experience and achieving the goal. I can only imagine the frustration on the athletes’ behalf that are in those positions now and possibly could move up in a medal position.”

“We believe in true sport, and that’s pushing your own physical limitations to the capacity to be the best that you can possibly be, without drugs,” Lumsden said.

International Olympic officials will “explore the legal options” for a potential total ban on Russia from the games in Rio de Janeiro and are taking measures to punish athletes and officials involved in the state-run doping conspiracy.

With files from the Associated Press

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