Latvian stand prompts rethink on skeleton championships

Principle appeared to have won a notable triumph over personal ambition December 13 with the announcement that the right to host the World Championships in skeleton, due to take place in Sochi next February, is to be taken away from Russia. 

The news came just one day after Latvia's skeleton team, led by the multiple world champion Martins Dukurs, announced they would not participate at Sochi in protest at the systematic use of doping by Russian athletes, as revealed in a string of World Anti Doping agency (WADA) reports in recent years.

The principled stand came despite the likelihood Latvia would win several medals at the championships.

A statement released December 13 by the world governing body the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) said:

"The IBSF decided to move the IBSF World Championships 2017 from Sochi, Russia to another location which will be determined in the coming days. 

"The IBSF Executive Committee felt that during this difficult time it is prudent not to organize such an event in Russia. This decision was made for two primary reasons:

·         1st: to allow athletes and coaches from all Nations to participate in a competition that focuses on sport rather than accusations and discussions – whether justified or not. 

·         2nd: The Russian Bobsleigh Federation has put a great effort in the preparation of the World Championships, but the current climate would make it nearly impossible to appreciate the efforts of the Organizing Committee to host a great event or the quality of the Sanki Sliding Center as one of the best tracks in the World. 
 

As recently as December 9, the World Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation said

"The IBSF deplores any action that attacks the values of sport and of clean athletes.

"At today´s meeting its Executive Committee decided to act promptly and decisively following the publication of the final McLaren Report. Therefore the IBSF will need to read and digest the report, the IP Evidence Disclosure Package (EDP) and gain IBSF-specific information from WADA. Highest priority and urgency is given by the Executive Committee to this matter.

"Once all information has been collected and evaluated the IBSF will report on actions related to the McLaren Report."

However, it seems that the action of Latvia's skeleton team - taken independently of the Latvian Olympic Committee (LOK) which says it is still thinking things over - has hurried things along considerably.

LOK simply said it "respected" the decision of the skeleton team.

With Latvia leading the way in the boycott, several other countries said they would be prepared to do likewise - and that seems to have decided the minds of officials much more quickly than would otherwise have been the case.

 

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