Figure Skating

Malcolm Kelly - Saturday Feb. 8, 2014 23:58 ET

Canadian figure skaters upset over drug testing

Final round goes Sunday

Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in the short dance
Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada compete during the team ice dance short dance event Saturday at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. (David Gray/Reuters)

Canada heads into the final day of the team figure skating competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics on Sunday solidly in position for a silver medal.

And they seem to have an issue that has brought the team together.

On a day when Canadian officials expressed discontent over the number of drug tests their athletes have been forced to undergo – including one just hours before Kaetlyn Osmond took the ice for the women’s short program – the team found itself six points behind the leading Russians for the gold medal.

It’s also seven points up on the United States, 10 on the Italians and 11 in front of the Japanese as the jostling for final position moves into the three long programs in Men’s, Ladies and Ice Dance.

Ten points are earned for a first, down to six for fifth place in the final group. Basically, Canada would need to win all three events and have the Russians finish third or worse, or they would have to see the host side collapse entirely, in order to grab the gold.

Not likely.

Kevin Reynolds, an outstanding fifth at the 2013 World Championships, opens Sunday with his men’s free skate, followed by Osmond for the ladies’ free and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in the dance.

But first, the controversy that peed-off the Canadians.

Seven of the 17 members of the figure skating team have reportedly been tested since arriving in Sochi – a high number – including Osmond on Saturday and another two at midnight the day they arrived.

Mike Slipchuk, Skate Canada’s high performance director, said Sunday he’s “never seen anyone tested before on the day of a competition.”

He’s brought the issue up with the Canadian Olympic Committee.

“At least we’re running out of skaters to be tested, which is a good thing.”

All this while his athletes are trying to deal with a breaking story from France’s L’Equipe sports newspaper that claims the fix is in, thanks to a deal between U.S. and Russian judges that would see the former favour the latter in the team competition and the latter reciprocate for the dance event later in the Games.

Virtue and Moir, the Canadians in the middle of it all with their Detroit club mates and good friends Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the U.S., refused to say much despite numerous questions fromthe media at a Saturday presser.

“The best thing about being an athlete at the Winter Games is that’s none of our concern,” said Moir. “We’re here for our moment, and our moment is what Tessa and I make out on the ice.”

Small bobble throws Canadians off

They had enough to handle after Virtue missed a twizzle element in the middle of their skate, dropping them to second behind the Americans.

"I might have lost a little bit of speed up to the first one,” she said. “It wasn't a mental lapse. I actually recovered. I stayed on the same foot."

When the team figure skating event was first announced as a new event for the 2014 Winter Olympics, reactions from the sport’s community tended to range from a big yawn to concerns over how it would affect everyone’s individual events.

Not a lot of excitement.

It’s taken two days at the Iceberg Skating Palace for the fans to change all that by heating up the atmosphere. Much of that has been the home team support for an outstanding performance out of the Russians.

It started Thursday with Evgeny Plushenko, the 31-year-old former world champ, who came out of retirement to annoy his detractors by finishing a strong second in the men’s short and finishing in front of a discombobulated Canadian champion Patrick Chan.

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov were not a surprise taking first in pairs short, though Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov pulling the trick in the pairs long was.

It was left to Julia Lipnitskaya, all of 15, to steal the show in the women’s short by winning and grabbing the 10 points. She was completely nonplussed by the whole thing.

“My trainers told me people would cry,” she said at the press conferment. “They told me they would be clapping to the music. But I didn’t think the spectators would be so loud. But it helped me to perform really well.”

The whole team, for that matter.

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