TV View: Steroids and cursing? That's just not curling

Russian Alexander Krushelnytsky claims drink was spiked by team-mate

  Aleksandr Krushelnitckii with his wife Anastasia Bryzgalova during the medal ceremony for the curling mixed doubles event at the Olympics.  “They’ll be divorced by March.” Photograph: Antonio Bat/EPA

Aleksandr Krushelnitckii with his wife Anastasia Bryzgalova during the medal ceremony for the curling mixed doubles event at the Olympics. “They’ll be divorced by March.” Photograph: Antonio Bat/EPA

 

Initially it didn’t quite rank up there with the news Des Lynam so dramatically delivered to us back in 1988, when he uttered the immortal line: “I’ve just been handed a piece of paper that, if it’s right, will be the most dramatic story out of these Olympics or perhaps any others . . . ”. A failed drugs test and Ben Johnson’s career went the way of our innocence: banjaxed.

But when Hazel Irvine started with “an Olympic athlete from Russia is suspected of failing a doping test at these Games . . .”, the shock, to be honest, measured about 0.0 on the Richter scale.

It was when the sport was identified, that it went to about 9.6. Curling.

CURLING!?!?

This, along with the cursing and controversial hog line violations the sport had experienced earlier in the morning meant that it was not one of curling’s better days. It was only last week that the mother of one member of the US team in Pyeongchang, Mae Polo, hailed curling for its sense of fair play, camaraderie and decorum that set it apart from almost all other sports. “The world needs to take a lesson from curling,” she said, “let’s just love each other”.

“F**K!”

“Apologies again for the foul language,” said Jackie Lockhart in the BBC commentary box. It turns out that foulmouthery has been an issue in the sport for a while now, Canadian Heather Nedohin once caught on camera shouting “shitballs” when she under-chucked a stone, her compatriot Chris Schille actually sent off for allegedly telling an official to “f**k off”.

Coarse

So it’s just as coarse as any sport, which made us revise our view that the description given to it by Nate Jones of Vulture magazine was perfection: “Curling Is the Great British Bake Off of the Olympics.” It’s not, expletive-wise at least it was more akin to Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares on Sunday morning.

Then there was the controversy surrounding the British women’s defeat by Sweden when Eve Muirhead was adjudged to have double-touched her stone. “It was the first stone I’ve probably ever hogged in my life,” she told the BBC, wearing the look of a broken woman.  

Steve Cram felt aggrieved. “That leaves a little bit of a bad taste in the mouth,” he said, reckoning curling had to introduce something like football’s VAR (video assistant referee), as if the often three-hour long matches didn’t take long enough.  

The sport is, then, still a bit of a mystery to him. In fairness he’s done some homework in his effort to be informative, telling us during Britain and Canada’s match, for example, that “essentially stealing a shot means just that, stealing a shot”. Our education was complete.

But then the day’s biggest bombshell, Alexander Krushelnytsky had tested positive for meldonium having won bronze with his wife Anastasia Bryzgalova in the mixed doubles – which means if his B sample is positive too, she’ll also lose her medal. They’ll be divorced by March.

The meldonium route

Hazel’s face said what the rest of us were thinking. HUH? But if you had to intermittently and feverishly sweep your kitchen floor for three hours solid, you’d probably be tempted to go down the meldonium route too.

Krushelnytsky is alleging that his drink was spiked by a team-mate who missed out on Olympic selection, which has the makings of the mother of all movies, kind of like curling’s I, Tonya. But, it turns out, the sport has had doping problems before, the whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of Russia’s national anti-doping laboratory, once declaring: “Now curling is turning into a pain in the ass too!” And back in 2013 a Canadian curler tested positive for anabolic steroids, which meant he must have left a crater in the ice when he swept it.

So maybe curling is just like any other sport. Unlike snowboarding, which is clearly not. “Chloe Kim is not human,” said the BBC’s Radzi Chinyanganya after the American teenager rather spectacularly won that halfpipe thingie. “She is so far ahead of the curve that when Alexander Graham Bell first invented the telephone, he picked up the receiver to two missed calls from Chloe Kim.” The altitude might just be messing with Radzi’s head.

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