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Winter Olympics 2022: Russian Ski Association bans entire country’s press after fiery dispute

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A Russian official has gone for the jugular, blasting “halfwits” for slandering athletes before banning an entire country from interviews.

Another frosty feud is developing in Beijing after the Russian Ski Association barred the entire Norwegian press over allegations made in regard to the nation’s ongoing doping saga.

Russian Ski Association President Elena Vyalbe went for the jugular over an article that questioned the validity of cross-country skier Alexander Bolshunov and other athletes representing the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Journalist for Norwegian broadcaster NRK Jan Petter Saltvedt argued that Bolshunov, who took home gold in men’s sprint this week, and other ROC athletes should not be competing.

He cited Russia’s state-sponsored doping scandal from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, claiming the scandal “culminated in the rather incomprehensible verdict”.

Russian athletes have since been forced to compete under the ROC banner as part of sanctions imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The agency initially slapped Russia with a four-year ban, but later reduced the penalty to two years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on appeal.

Speaking to Russian newspaper Sport Express, Vyalbe explained how she told reporters to their face the Russian team would no longer be providing interviews.

“I declared a boycott of the Norwegian media,” Vyalbe said.

“After the sprint, they came up to me, I told them everything. I will not communicate anymore.”

She brought up Norwegian ski star Therese Johaug, who was barred from the PyeongChang 2018 Games after testing positive for doping.

She accused journalists of “making up stories as they go”.

“Neither I nor my athletes have ever remembered the disqualification of their athletes, of which there were many,” she said. “Why don‘t we talk about it? And you come up with news stories as you go. Let them apologise publicly.

“Some halfwits decided to become readable and covered up the failure of the first race in this way. I can‘t take it easy.”

Saltvedt, the man behind the article in question, dismissed Vyalbe banning of Norwegian press as “pure theatre”.

“This is an attack on the cowardly system that failed to bring about the necessary resolution of the insane systematic doping scandal during the Sochi Olympics,” Saltvedt told Swedish newspaper Dagbladet.

“Since she boycotts all the Norwegian press, that says something about the worldview she lives by.”

Gold medallist Bolshunov went into bat for his fellow Russians after his triumph in the men’s 30km skiiathalon, where he finished more than a minute ahead of rival Denis Spitsov.

“We have clean sportsmen, clean athletes who are at the Olympics who do doping tests almost every day,” he said.

“We have to fill out these forms indicating where we will be training, what time, we show the time window when we can take a test, when we are going to be travelling, if I use a plane or a train from one place to another.

“I believe it‘s wrong to ask us these questions – you don’t achieve these results all of a sudden, you don’t become an Olympic champion, because it takes years and years of training.”

The media spat came shortly after the International Olympic Committee refused to comment on reports involving 15-year-old Russian figure skating star Kamila Valieva and a failed drug test.

Valieva reportedly tested positive for trimetazidine, a heart medication that is considered a banned substance.

Mark Adams, a spokesperson for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said in a press conference earlier this week that “because there are legal implications involved, I can’t talk very much about it at this stage.”

Valieva is considered by the World Anti-Doping Agency to be a “Protected Person” because of her age.

Susanne Lyons, chair of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, released a statement stressing the importance of upholding Olympic integrity, the New York Post reported.

“Really the whole credibility of the Olympic Movement and the Paralympic Movement stands teetering on the edge of us saying that we really believe and live the values that we say we stand for,” Lyons told Around the Rings, via Yahoo Sports.

“It is so important to the athletes of the world that the values of this [Olympic] Movement be upheld, and one of the most important values is integrity of sport. And it’s just terribly upsetting to the athletes today to have that wound potentially reopened again.”

Originally published as A Winter Olympics feud is bubbling over Russia’s alleged doping scandals



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