By Nataly Pak
SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea, host nation of the next Winter Olympics, is considering pulling out of next year’s bobsleigh and skeleton world championships in Sochi after Latvia decided to boycott the event in protest at Russian doping.
Skeleton Latvia said on Monday it would be boycotting the Feb. 13-26 event after the publication of the second half of the McLaren Report into Russian doping, which alleged an “institutional conspiracy to conceal positive drug tests”.
The Korea Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation (KBSF) said it had yet to make a final decision, and would not do so until their athletes were back in the country on Dec. 19, but were erring toward not going.
“Our tentative decision is not to attend because as Russia was hosting the championship there were several problems with fairness regarding doping,” KBSF Secretary General Sung Youn-teak told Reuters on Tuesday.
“Also, other countries are saying that they won’t attend. Especially for skeleton, Latvia and some other countries are our competitors but they have said they will not attend.
“So we think that there is no significant meaning for us to win medals without our competitors present.”
South Korea are hopeful of some medals on their home track at Pyeongchang in 2018, especially after the bobsleigh pair of Won Yun-jong and Seo Young-woo won the World Cup series earlier this year.
Although the Sochi championships help determine the rankings for the 2018 Games, South Korea are assured of having three bobsleigh and two skeleton entrants as hosts.
“Our goal is the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018 so we don’t see participating this time as crucial considering the circumstances,” Sung added.
Skeleton athletes from the United States are also considering pulling out of the championships in protest at Russian doping.
The Swiss-based International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation could yet move the championships from Sochi, host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
It said in a statement after that it would “act promptly and decisively following the publication of the final McLaren Report” but only after reading and digesting it.
In response, Skeleton Latvia released a statement announcing its boycott on Monday.
“We say enough is enough,” it read. “And while our international federation is still going to: “read and digest the report”, we will do what WE can.
“We will be glad to race in world championships at any track of the world, but WE ARE NOT PARTICIPATING in world championships in Sochi, Russia – a place where Olympic spirit was stolen in 2014.”
McLaren’s report said analysis of samples from four Russians who won gold in Sochi had shown salt readings that were physiologically impossible, while there was evidence of tampering with the samples of 12 Russian Sochi medalists.
(Writing by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by John O’Brien)