4 Curling Controversies
For anyone who has ever accused curling of not being a real sport, take a look at the controversies that the curlers' competitiveness breeds.
1. The Paralympics Doping Controversy
It was 2010, and the Swedish wheelchair curling team was headed toward the top of the pack in the Paralympics. But just before the semifinals, the team got some bad news. Vice skip Glen Ikonen had tested positive for a banned beta blocker in an earlier random drug test and would be suspended for two years. The substance, later revealed to be Metoprolo, is used to treat high blood pressure, but is abused in competition to quell nerves. Ikonen claimed it was a prescription from his doctor and that he had been taking it for three years, unaware that it was banned. “I am shocked. I couldn’t imagine this. I am an old man. I’m 54 years old. I would never take anything I can’t take," he said in a statement to WorldCurling.org. Although the suspension was open to an appeal, Ikonen was forced to sit out the final matches of the competition. Ultimately, the Swedish team earned a bronze medal.
2. The Other Paralympic Doping Controversy
In those same 2010 Paralympics, the gold medal went to the Canadian team, led by skip Jim Armstrong. Two years later, Armstrong found himself in a doping scandal of his own. The Canadian Curling Hall of Famer tested positive for tamoxifen, a prescription drug usually used to treat breast cancer but often taken in conjunction with PEDs to counteract the hormonal effects brought on by steroid use. Armstrong lobbied a strong excuse in front of the World Curling Federation, claiming that he had accidentally taken some of his late wife's medication. Carleen Armstrong passed away in 2009 from breast cancer. But the World Curling Federation had reason to doubt Armstrong's credibility: Two years earlier, he had been caught smuggling counterfeit erectile dysfunction drugs and fined $30,000 after pleading guilty.
If anyone is keeping a watchful eye on adherence to the nuanced rules of curling, it's the opposing team. In 2009, a Canadian team got called out by their rivals for an illegal move on the sheet. During the 9th end of the final round of the Olympic Trials in Canada, heavily-decorated Ben Hebert was accused of "dumping" by Richard Hart, the third on the opposition. The move involves lifting the brush vertically away from the ice to deposit debris in front of the rock in order to slow it down. Nothing was called on the play and Hebert's team went on to win the opportunity to represent Canada in 2010 Olympic Games.
The next day, Hart told a reporter, "In no way was I trying to call them cheaters. I perceived that a rule was broken and I said something about it." But teammates took a stronger stance. "It’s about time someone said something," an anonymous player said of Hebert's rule-breaking. "He’s brutal, so obvious." Take a look at the video below and decide for yourself if Hebert's "dumping" looks intentional.
4. The Crying Curler Mini Controversy
The 2010 Winter Olympics took place in Vancouver where a Canadian crowd made curling a premier event. The boisterous, sellout stands were great for the sport but not so much for the athletes. Curling is traditionally played in silence, either because there is no one watching to make noise or because those in attendance respect the convention of such a "gentleman's game"—much like golf or tennis. The noise proved too distracting for Danish curler Madeleine Dupont, who blamed the crowd for causing her to miss two potential winning shots against the home team. In a postgame interview, a teary Dupont claimed she was unable to focus amid such raucousness.