Canada's hockey players wear masks, hinting at distrust of Russia

Follow our latest Winter 2022 coverage Olympic Games . BEIJING — The concern was most evident in the masks, those worn suddenly on the ...

Follow our latest Winter 2022 coverage Olympic Games.

BEIJING — The concern was most evident in the masks, those worn suddenly on the benches, by referees and, particularly, by women playing Olympic hockey.

The Beijing Games, masked by rhetoric about sportsmanship, shared values ​​and unity at last week’s opening ceremony, abruptly veered into an exhibition of suspicion on Monday, when uncertainty over the The Russian team’s coronavirus tests resulted in a 65-minute delay of a game against Canada. . When the match finally began, after a Canadian player was removed from her team’s roster due to what her coach called an inconclusive test, she did so under a health precaution rarely seen in a match. an elite competition: each player wore a mask.

The episode, which the International Ice Hockey Federation officially attributed to “safety and security concerns”, was also a glimpse into lingering Western skepticism of a Russian Olympic fixture with a long history of bend or break the rules.

Although Canadian officials avoided accusing their Russian counterparts of any misconduct, they had reason to be concerned: the Russian team spent part of the last week in quarantine after a series of positive tests among members of the team.

“We wanted to make sure everyone who participated was healthy and to make sure we reduced the risk, so we just decided to wear a mask and delay the game a bit so that we could organize ourselves and just put on masks. . and it would be safe,” said Rebecca Johnston, a Canadian forward. When asked if the Canadians feared active cases in the Russian team, she replied: “I think we weren’t sure what was going on.

Sports leagues around the world insist that viral transmission is unlikely during competitions, and cases directly linked to games are considered rare. However, with strict health protocols in force at the Games, where the authorities imposed a so-called bubble To isolate the Olympic participants from Chinese society, the Canadians apparently saw little room for potential error, especially for a team expected to contend for the gold medal.

There were indications that the Russian team remained affected by the virus. Players were missing from its bench, and Alexandra Vafina, a Russian striker, suggested the team remain subject to Olympic protocols for close contact, which include being tested twice a day.

The team, Vafina said, “was trying to follow all these strict rules and prevent any spread of disease.” Another player, Anna Shibanova, suggested lab delays may have contributed to the late arrival of the team’s latest test results, which arrived after the game had started.

Yevgeni Bobariko, the Russian coach, said he was told the Canadian team had asked both teams to wear masks. He added that he did not sense a “shadow of mistrust”.

But mistrust of Russian teams for one reason or another is now an Olympic rite, with doubts and apprehensions commonplace due to Russia’s years-long reliance on a sophisticated state-orchestrated doping operation. In 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency awarded Russia a four-year ban of international competition — arbitrators later reduced the sentence to a largely symbolic two years – although caveats have always allowed Russian athletes to participate in the Games and other major events.

Monday’s turmoil was revealed to the public when the Canadian team did not leave their locker room to start the match as planned. The Russian team, waiting on their bench and apparently ready to play, finally returned to their locker room.

The teams only emerged once they reached what seemed like a fragile and unusual compromise: athletes wore masks, even during play.

That plan came to an end early in the third period, when the Russians returned to the ice at Wukesong Sports Center without face coverings. Canada’s Natalie Spooner said she was told the Russian team’s test results came back negative. Canada was leading 4-1 at the time, but the team opted to stay hidden.

“It was as simple as, ‘We wore it for 40, let’s wear it for another 20,'” Canada coach Troy Ryan said. “If health and safety is a concern, it just doesn’t change.”

The frustration and mistrust, however, apparently went both ways. In a tweet that included an emoji of a monkey covering its eyes, the Russian Olympic Committee tipped Canadians later in the day on the status of Emily Clark, the player who was pulled from roster. And a Russian TV channel has accused the ice hockey federation, which administers the Olympic tournament, of “unilaterally” changing testing procedures ahead of Monday’s game.

A spokesperson said the international federation “did not change any of the testing protocols during the tournament”. In a separate statementthe federation said the match had been delayed “with a view to ensuring the teams’ full understanding of the health and safety measures in place”.

The outcome of Monday’s game – once it was clear it would happen – was never seriously in doubt. Canada dominated the game and beat the Russian team, 6-1. It was the second consecutive defeat for the Russians, who fell in the United States5-0, Saturday.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Canada's hockey players wear masks, hinting at distrust of Russia
Canada's hockey players wear masks, hinting at distrust of Russia
Newsrust - US Top News
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