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Far From the Games, a Canadian Skater Says Russia Cost Him a Spot

February 18,2018 15:11

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — It will be in the predawn hours in western Canada when William Dutton settles in to watch the men's 500-meter speedskating event at the Winter Olympics. That Dutton is on the couch and not at his second Games owes in part to ...

Canada uses a complex formula to select members of its team, but if a skater is among the top 16 in the world, finishes in the top three at the national championships, and has skated a time that is faster than the Olympic cutoff standard, qualification for the Olympics is automatic.
Dutton says he will watch the Olympic 500-meter race from a couch at his father’s house in Vancouver, British Columbia. Credit Dean Mouhtaropoulos/ISU, via Getty ImagesThe Russia ban figured to rule out two Russian skaters ranked ahead of Dutton, who was ranked 18th when the I.O.C. announced the ban. That put him in the top 16, he thought. Also, Dutton had finished second in the 500 meters at the Canadian nationals. His best time in the 500 meters didn’t meet the qualifying standard, but that number was determined in part by the times of those two Russian skaters who appeared likely to be barred. Eliminate them, and he met the standard.
However, the I.O.C. took more than a month to decide the exact criteria for barring the Russians. The I.O.C. president, Thomas Bach, has said the time was necessary to provide the Russians with due process and figure out a complicated procedure for approval.
With time short to select its Olympic team, Speed Skating Canada decided to pick the three Canadians ranked ahead of Dutton, even though Dutton had skated to second place in the trials and would have made the top 16 if the Russians didn’t figure in calculations.
Dutton took the speedskating selectors to court. The matter was referred to arbitration. That created uncertainty and tension within the team as Dutton’s potential inclusion would have imperiled the participation of another athlete, Laurent Dubreuil.
David Bennett, an arbiter with the Sport Dispute Resolution Center of Canada, ruled that Canada’s Olympic selection panel should reconsider its decision because Dutton “would meet the criteria if the ineligible Russian athletes were not included.”
Bennett asked the panel to consider the results of the two most detailed investigations into the Russian affair: A 2016 report by the Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren that first laid out the scale of the cheating scheme, and a similar study on behalf of the I.O.C. by Samuel Schmid, a former president of Switzerland, that confirmed many of those findings late last year. Bennett also argued that the two Russians placed above Dutton, Pavel Kulizhnikov and Artyom Kuznetsov, would most likely be ruled ineligible from the Games when the I.O.C. issued its decision.
Still, when the selection panel met to review its decision on Jan. 23, the I.O.C. had not publicly disclosed how it would determine which Russian athletes would be picked. Several barred athletes, including Kuznetsov, were appealing to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport. According to documents reviewed by The New York Times, this lack of clarity played a role in the panel’s decision to stick with its original selections and not assume the Russian skaters would be eliminated, which they eventually were.

Selectors “could not determine that Russian athletes should be removed from the determination of the Qualifying Standard,” said one of the documents. The selectors also felt Russian athletes should receive the same “due process, natural justice and procedural fairness” as Dutton while their appeals had yet to be ruled on.
Susan Auch, Speed Skating Canada’s interim chief executive, is adamant that the selection body made the right decision, saying that Dutton was simply a victim of fierce competition. She conceded, however, that the delay in dealing with Russia created a “murky situation” for all sports governing bodies.
“We had to make a decision with the information we had at the moment,” she said.
Dutton described the six-hour arbitration hearing as worse than anything he’d experienced in nearly 10 years of speedskating. “I think my heartbeat went to 190,” he said. “Four years of training come down to that.”
The irony of a Canadian being ensnared by the Russian scandal isn’t lost on Dutton. The process that led to Russia’s ouster is inextricably linked to Canada.
McLaren’s investigation exposed the scale of the scheme, and since then, some of the biggest voices demanding tough action against Russia have come from Canada. Richard W. Pound, a Canadian who once led the World Anti-Doping Agency and is the I.O.C.’s longest-serving member, has urged the organization to take the hardest of lines against Russia.
The former Canadian cross-country skier Beckie Scott, the leader of the agency’s athlete committee, has also been a prominent voice.
“It’s been a Canadian-led fight, really,” Dutton said.
Pound said that Dutton should be at the Games and not sitting more than 5,000 miles away from his teammates.
“It was a very confusing situation, handled very confusingly by just about everybody involved, and it’s too bad some of the kids get caught up in the machinations,” said Pound, who’s skipping the closing ceremony in protest at what he perceives as a weak punishment meted out to Russia.
Auch, the chief at Speed Skating Canada, questioned Pound’s judgment. “It’s a pretty bold statement from someone who is not in our sport,” she said.
Dutton has been keeping in touch with friends at the Games. The uncertainty around his fate has strained Dutton’s relations with his former teammate Dubreuil, who will line up for the 500-meter race at the Gangneung Oval on Monday.
“I’m on very good terms with almost all of my teammates, except one person, who is an affected party,” he said. “Speed Skating Canada ended up putting us in that position by not excluding times of Russian cheaters.”
Auch said she had sympathy for Dutton, though she insisted that the team in Pyeongchang was the strongest, explaining that Dubreuil had won a gold medal at a world championship meet earlier this year. Dutton beat Dubreuil to second place at the Canadian nationals.
“If we could have taken four, we would have,” Auch said.
Russia has the third-largest presence at the Olympics after the I.O.C. ruled that nearly 170 athletes could participate under the banner “Olympic Athletes From Russia.”
Dutton and others are frustrated that several sports governing bodies, including those for speedskating, luge and ice hockey, have yet to discipline tainted Russian athletes, meaning they can continue participating in events outside of the Olympics.
“Why are these people who are banned from the Olympics still competing against us?” he asked. "We are competing with them in World Cups, and they are banned from the Olympics.”

Speedskating,Steroids,Dutton William,International Olympic Committee,Court of Arbitration for Sport,McLaren Richard (Attorney),Pyeongchang (South Korea)

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