Sports

Shock at Russian curler's drug case

The Olympic curling fraternity was reeling from a doping scandal at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics yesterday, with many wondering why a curler would need performance-enhancing drugs at all.

Russia's Alexander Krushelnitsky, a mixed doubles bronze medallist, is the curler at the centre of a doping case now with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

A source told AFP he had taken the banned drug meldonium - the same substance that saw Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova suspended.

The revelation sparked disbelief from Olympic rivals in curling, a slow-moving, tactical sport of sliding heavy stones along an ice piste.

Denmark women's skip Madeleine DuPont pondered what advantages doping might bring in such a precision-based event.

"I was pretty shocked. How can this be?" DuPont asked.

"I'm sure most people would think, 'What do they need doping for? What's the benefit?' - like I'm thinking."

The stone-sliding crowd isn't known for bulking up on muscle power. Meldonium was banned for its ability to increase blood flow, and thereby exercise capacity.

Switzerland women's captain Silvana Tirinzoni, though, leapt to defend the fitness level of curlers, saying even the most laid-back of Winter Olympic sports requires above-average levels of strength.

"It's not like you don't need any muscles," Tirinzoni said.

"We have to be fit. Everyone is working out five times a week and going to the gym. It can help."

Canada's Brent Laing was at a loss for words.

"He said: "...beer and Advil are the only painkillers I've ever heard of for curling.

"I imagine it wasn't that. Hopefully not, or else I'm in trouble."

Russian athletes and sports officials voiced their disbelief on a scandal that could jeopardise Russia's efforts to regain full Olympic status.

"It's stupid, but Alexander is not stupid, so I don't believe it," Russian women's curling coach Sergei Belanov said. - AFP, REUTERS

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