Despite a couple positive tests, Russians showed progress

John Cherwa, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Olympics

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It was a scene played out in packed arenas throughout the United States. Nikolai Volkoff, said to be a professional wrestler from Russia, would have the ring announcer ask everyone to stand as he sang the Russian national anthem.

The crowd would go wild in protest, often throwing things into the ring. Volkoff, whose real name is Josip Nikolai Peruzovic from Croatia, would then belt out some version of that song, and then his frequent tag-team partner, the Iron Sheik from Iran, would say: "Russia, No. 1! Iran, No. 1! U.S.A ...," and then he would spit on the mat.

Their manager, "Classy" Freddie Blassie, claimed that Volkoff had won an Olympic gold in "prize fighting." No such medal or Olympic sport exists.

It was the early 1980s and wrestling had tapped into the jingoism that is the foundation of the Olympic movement. The Olympic motto is "Citius, Altius, Fortius" (Faster, Higher, Stronger) but it should be "Quam multas nobis vincere hoc gestet insignia?" (How many medals did we win?) Doesn't quite roll off the tongue, though.

Four years after Sochi, where the Russians clearly won the gold, silver and bronze in systematic drug cheating, there has been no Russian national anthem or Russian flag or Russian anything in Pyeongchang. It's not as if its national anthem would have been played very often anyway, with only one gold in women's figure skating won by a Russian athlete so far.

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The International Olympic Committee banned Russia from these Olympic Games, but not its athletes. They are competing under the flag of the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR). That will sure show them and make a point.

The athletes that competed were thoroughly vetted as nondopers. OAR had won 15 medals through Friday, but had to give one back because of a positive drug test in mixed curling. And now, a woman bobsledder has tested positive for trimetazdine, which is used by people who have angina but is a banned substance.

So, what does Russian Bobsled Federation president Alexander Zubkov have to say?

"She confirms she took no such medication and the team confirms she was not issued any medication," Zubkov said.


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