Canada's luge team calls for clean sport in wake of rescinded medal

4-time Olympian Sam Edney says Russian reinstatement is 'disturbing'

Canada's luge team calls for clean sport in wake of rescinded medal
Canada's Sam Edney (left) is consoled following his team's fourth-place finish in the luge team relay at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014. The Court of Arbitration for Sport reinstated Russia's luge result from Sochi, stripping Canada of its upgraded bronze medal. © Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

Canada's luge team wants to put "the medal that is not" behind them to win one that is.

But before the eight athletes headed to the Alpensia Sliding Centre track, four-time Olympian Sam Edney called for the battle for clean sport to be stepped up amid the chaos over doping that continues into the Pyeongchang Winter Games.

Edney, Alex Gough, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith learned in December they would be upgraded from fourth to bronze in the 2014 Olympic luge relay.

A pair of Russian lugers were among almost 40 athletes from that country to be stripped of their 2014 results and banned from the Olympic Games for life by the International Olympic Committee for alleged doping violations.

But the Court of Arbitration for Sport recently overturned the IOC's punishment of 28 of those athletes, including lugers Albert Demchenko and Tatiana Ivanova, citing insufficient evidence. The IOC partially upheld sanctions on 11.

That leaves Canada's lugers wondering if they've already won the country's first Olympic medal in the sport, or if they're still competing for it in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Clean playing field more powerful

"The whole situation is disturbing for our team and we believe a nightmare for clean athletes," Edney said as he read from a prepared statement Monday at a news conference in the Main Press Centre.

"This is not about a medal being taken away from me and my teammates. A clean playing field is more powerful for us than a medal around our necks.

"I ask you to look at the faces of myself and my seven teammates," he continued. "These are the faces of eight clean athletes. Four of us lost the Olympic moment we all trained relentlessly for. A moment to share in celebration with Canadians across the country including our own little sport community."

After the CAS decision, Russia said it wanted to send 15 of the reinstated 28 to Pyeongchang, including gold medal-winning skeleton slider Alexander Tretiakov and cross-country skiing gold medallist Alexander Legkov.

The IOC announced Monday that the 13 Russian athletes and two support people who were athletes in 2014 will not be invited to the Pyeongchang Games.

Edney, Gough, and Snith from Calgary, and Walker from Cochrane, Alta., rode an emotional roller coaster in the months following the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, where as a group they finished fourth three times.

Snith and Walker were fourth in doubles and Gough was also fourth in women's singles before they and Edney were fourth again in the relay.

"After two extremely challenging years getting over the heartbreak of being so close to winning our country's first Olympic medal in luge, we were finally able to move on," Edney said.

Focused on Pyeongchang

What happened in Sochi, Russia, and the accusations that the host country orchestrated a systematic doping system on behalf of its athletes, is dominating the pre-Olympic narrative heading into Pyeongchang.

After reading the statement on behalf of the team, Edney said they didn't want to talk about the rescinded medal any more.

"We've made our comment on the medal that is not right now," he said.

"I'm on the sled here starting tomorrow. That's my focus now is to get back on the track and focus on my six training runs that I'll have before I get into race day on Saturday."

The first two of four runs are scheduled for Saturday when Edney will be joined by Calgary's Mitch Malyk and 18-year-old Reid Watts of Whistler, B.C., in the men's singles field.

Gough, Calgary's Kim McRae who finished fifth behind her teammate in Sochi and Calgary's Brooke Apshkrum, also 18, will race women's singles.

Walker and Snith return in men's doubles. The relay Feb. 15 concludes the luge competition.

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