Silver surprise, then another unexpected moment for Holcomb

AP News
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Posted: May 13, 2016 2:27 AM
Silver surprise, then another unexpected moment for Holcomb

MONTREAL (AP) — The knock on the door came shortly after Steven Holcomb learned his Olympic bronze medals could be upgraded to silver because of a doping scandal in Russia.

It was drug testers. Holcomb had to give a urine sample.

That no-notice testing policy is a hallmark of the American anti-doping program — an intrusive part of life for thousands of U.S. athletes that, Holcomb says, makes him "Frenemies" with U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart.

"I don't agree with everything he does, but it's a necessary evil," Holcomb said. "But at this moment, with all these people under scrutiny, I welcome anyone to come and say, 'What about Holcomb?' I've taken 113 tests or something. You can check any one. I test clean."

Holcomb is one of around 40 athletes from the Sochi Games who stand to be elevated on the medals table if the latest details about Russia's doping scandal can be proven. A New York Times story Thursday detailed an extensive doping scheme that allowed at least 15 Russian medal winners to get away with cheating after officials replaced their drug-tainted urine with clean samples taken months earlier.

The story illustrated, in the perpetrator's words, a system "broken beyond repair."

That perpetrator is Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Moscow lab director who was fired last November and now lives in Los Angeles, where he has teamed with a documentary maker to tell the story.

Rodchenkov and the filmmaker sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee and World Anti-Doping Agency calling for them to test the Sochi urine samples, with Rodchenkov overseeing the testing because, as mastermind of the plot, he's the only one who can identify which samples were compromised.

He said the documentary quotes a number of anti-doping experts who agreed "that if urine swapping and tampering of this nature ever occurred, the entire testing system would need to be scrapped."

It would, at a minimum, make it more difficult to prove who the real cheaters were in Sochi since, presumably, all the urine Rodchenkov wants tested is clean.

"In some ways, it's crazy," said Olivier Niggli, the incoming director general of WADA, which has declared Russia's lab and anti-doping agency noncompliant as part of an ongoing case involving the country's track team. "It's a continuation of what had started. We have the same actors, the same players we had previously. Now, we're going to have to find what's supported by credible evidence."

If the evidence shows the Russian bobsled teams were involved, they could lose their gold medals, which would move Switzerland and Latvia into the winner's column and give Holcomb two silver medals to go with the gold he won in the four-man event in 2010.

Glad as he would be to get the upgraded medals, Holcomb has trouble looking at this as a reason to celebrate. He's had too many conversations with too many people in his sport to believe the latest scandal will lead to changes he can believe in.

"Knowing what I have to go through to make sure I'm clean, I expect that out of everyone," he said. "But I'm starting to see that's not the case."