In the aftermath of Russia being banned from the 2018 Olympics, Hayley Wickenheiser was thinking of some of her fellow Olympians.
“I look at our Canadian luge athlete Sam Edney who finished fourth in Sochi in 2014 and lost a medal to the Russians. Christine Girard, our Canadian weightlifter, who lost two medals to the Russians and is still waiting for one to be delivered both in 2008 and 2012. These are the athletes that I think about on a day like this, all of these athletes that have had moments stolen,” Wickenheiser told 980 CJME’s Green Zone Wednesday afternoon.
Wickenheiser is a four-time Olympic gold medallist in hockey and has since retired. She’s now part of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Athlete’s Commission and was able to get one-on-one time with the IOC’s secretary general to convey her opinion on Russian doping. Even so, she said she was surprised by the decision made by the governing body.
“I didn’t expect it to be as in depth and severe of sanctions as it was … I guess I breathed a sigh of relief for the world,” she said.
Clean Russian athletes will be able to compete in the Olympics under a neutral flag and after they’ve been assessed by a committee who will approve their attendance.
Wickenheiser said she does know some athletes who didn’t want to be a part of the doping program, including some on the women’s hockey team that she knows wouldn’t have the means to do it.
“In some ways, I have the empathy but I’m very happy that it was harsh sanctions today,” she explained but added she wouldn’t have been upset if the ban went even further.
“I would have been okay with that ruling given the light of all of the evidence … It’s irrefutable the length and the depth the Russian system went to protect and to dope athletes.”
Wickenheiser now hopes that this strong punishment will send a message to the world that cheaters, even when they come from one of the biggest sports powerhouses in the world, won’t prosper.
“I think it allows a cleanup and for the world to get a fair stage to compete on as much as we possibly can possibly can,” she said.
“I really do feel that the IOC felt the weight of the world, pressure of the world on this decision that they couldn’t get it wrong. It may have forced their hand to even more of a stronger sanction than maybe they would have done.”