Curling is an interesting sport for those of us in the United States. It’s not exactly as popular as the more mainstream and highly televised sports like Baseball or Football and every four years when it is held during the winter Olympics, the American media tends to treat it like a quirky sideshow with endless joke filled videos with the hosts trying to explain what it is.
To make things simple, it is sliding stones across an icy surface to have as many stones as close to the center of a target as possible. There are people with “brooms” that try to make the ice as slick or rough as possible to speed up or slow down the stones momentum and control it’s direction so that it hits the target just right. What I’m getting at is that these people aren’t chucking heavy rocks for distance or speed. That’s more like the shot-put in the summer. Curling is far from that. It’s actually one of the most calming and slower speed sports during the entire Olympic Games, winter or summer.
So why did a Russian curler get busted for having a banned substance in his system?
Hearing someone at the Olympics getting caught for having a performance-enhancing drug conjures up images of some roided out muscle monster powerlifting weight or the old story of the East German women’s swim team that who knows what running through their systems or the Olympic track runners of the 1980s that had misshapen bodies who could run faster than anyone alive.
To understand this we need to look closer to what is going on. The first thing is the one who was busted for the failed test. Alexander Krushelnitsky was a part of the Russian (or “Olympic Athletes from Russia” after the much bigger doping issues) mixed doubles curling team in the skip position. Simply, he was the captain of the team where his partner is his wife. They were good and won the bronze medal. He returned the medal after he tested positive for a substance called Meldonium. And there is the rub to all this.
Meldonium is not some muscle building steroid. It’s a drug used to treat coronary artery disease in that it helps improve your body’s blood circulation. So it makes a person run better with getting oxygen to your brain and operating under stress, and since this is the winter games, it probably makes your body feel warmer in those chilly curling arenas. Who knows? The usual polo shirts and slacks worn in the sport makes me think they aren’t THAT cold.
Krushelnitsky is hardly the only one who has been caught with this stuff in his system over the years either. Wrestlers, tennis players, judo fighters, quite a number of people have been found with this, including Maria Sharapova. You might have heard of her and her tennis exploits. It’s not just the Russian team either, many athletes from different sports from many different countries have tested positive for it including the United States and Canada.
So yes, having a curler test positive for this stuff is not as crazy or out of this world as it sounds. It wasn’t to build muscles or improve speed like we’ve seen on the Olympic stage over the years, but no matter what he wanted to get out of it, he broke the rules.
After the positive result, Krushelnitsky returned the medal without much fuss or the “spiked drink” excuse that seems to come up whenever this happens in sports. With Russia already on thin ice (pardon the pun) with the Olympics, this doesn’t help the situation or the idea that Russian sports are fueled by a culture to forgo the rules to win on the biggest of international stages. If anything, let’s hope people learn for this that no matter the sport, cheating can happen.