GANGNEUNG, South Korea — 2018 has been the Blood Doping Olympics, with the entire Russian Olympic Team officially banned for their state run doping operation, and their athletes forced to compete independently.
But they may not have learned their lesson. One Russian has already tested positive for blood doping in these games, and in the most improbable sport imaginable: Curling!
Yeah, Alexander Krushelnitsky actually won the mixed doubles curling bronze medal, but now that result may be stripped after his positive test.
So here’s the obvious question: How on earth could blood doping help you in a sport like curling?
“[Blood doping] keeps your muscles from tiring or fatiguing quickly,” explained Dr. Chad Stephens with Noble Sports Medicine. “For muscles to continue to function at a high rate such as a competition they need to have a continual oxygen flow. And so the more hemoglobin you have, the higher oxygen content you have and the more functional muscles you have for endurance.”
And curling may just take more effort than it seems. American curler Matt Hamilton told reporters at the games that, “Curling's a finesse game, but there's a lot of strength and endurance and when you have more strength and endurance, you have a larger window to throw your shot into.”
Of course blood doping comes with much bigger dangers than just getting banned at the Olympics.
“Really the worst thing that can happen is something called a pulmonary embolism,” Dr. Stephens said. “And that is where a blood clot forms somewhere in the body, usually in the lower extremities, and it works it’s way all the way back into the lung and that can cause immediate death.”
So yeah, side effects include international condemnation and death! Hardly worth it for a bronze medal, but it seems to be enough for certain Russians to train like Ivan Drago for a curling match.