Luge

Mihira Lakshman - Friday Feb. 14, 2014 09:52 ET

Did Russian officials tamper with the Sochi luge track?

Canadian coach raises concerns that hosts slowed surface down

Sam Edney (pictured, left), Alex Gough, Justin Snith & Tristan Walker finish 4th with only one-tenth of a second separating Canada from its first-ever Olympic medal in luge team relay.

Canada's Sam Edney (left) is consoled following his team's fourth-place finish in the luge team relay at the Sochi Winter Olympics. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

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Canada's luge team is raising concerns that Russian officials may have tampered with the sliding track at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

The Canadian luge relay team finished fourth in Thursday's event, just 1/10th of a second off the podium. Now, Canada's coach Wolfgang Staudinger has raised concerns that Russian officials may have deliberately slowed down the track for the sleds that went later in the competitions.

The Canadians were the second-last team to go down the track at the Sanki Sliding Center. The Russians, who won silver, drew an earlier starting position, going four spots ahead of Canada. 

The allegation is that track officials manipulated the temperature on the track after the Russians went, creating frost.

"It slows you down," said Jeff Christie, CBC's luge analyst, who competed in the event at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Luge tracks are artificially refrigerated, and most pump carbon dioxide in the surface to keep it cool. Staudinger believes officials turned up the CO2 in time for the later sleds in the competition.

Christie said these kinds of complaints are commonplace in international luge competition, but they are almost impossible to prove. That it comes the day after Canada's luge team recorded another heartbreaking fourth-place finish doesn't help the case.

"The entire [Canadian] luge team worked so hard for eight years, and they didn't get the result they wanted," Christie said. 

"It's a little bit of frustration."

Aside from Staudinger's complaint to the media, there hasn't been a formal protest. And Christie doesn't expect there will be.

"My guess is that this will blow over."

It's worth noting that the Germans, who took the gold, slid right before the Canadians. So they too would have been affected by any adverse conditions. But judging by how the Germans have dominated the World Cup circuit, they may have been strong enough to overcome anything.

For its part, the International Olympic Committee seems to believe it's a case of sour grapes. When it came up at the IOC daily press briefing an official said the Canadians should prove it or let it go.

(With files from The Canadian Press)

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