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Winter Olympics Weekend Wrap


There could be some big news out of the Winter Olympics in South Korea, but it's not good. Remember - the International Olympic Committee banned a bunch of Russian athletes from the games because of the country's massive doping system. They then let in more than 160 others because they were supposedly clean. Well, now we're getting word that one of those Russian athletes has failed a drug test. NPR's Tom Goldman has been covering the Olympics in Pyeongchang, and he's with us now. Hi, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi, Michel. How are you?

MARTIN: I'm well, thanks. So what can you tell us about this report of possible doping?

GOLDMAN: Well, first, let's get our terms right. We are not supposed to call Russian athletes Russian athletes. We call them Olympic Athletes from Russia because they're supposed to be neutral as part of Russia's doping punishment - right. So a spokesman for the Olympic Athletes from Russia, or OAR says, they got word about a possible failed drug test. They're not saying who it is or what sport, but several reputable media outlets say it's a male athlete who won bronze in the mixed doubles curling. Now the drug reportedly is meldonium. It was banned in 2016. And if you remember the doping suspension of tennis star Maria Sharapova, it was the drug she took. And a lot of Russians - excuse me - reportedly take it. It's a heart medication that athletes use to help blood flow.

MARTIN: Well, if it turns out that this Olympic Athlete from Russia - air quotes...

GOLDMAN: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: ...Exactly - took a banned substance, what's the fallout?

GOLDMAN: OAR athletes here are under a strict code of conduct. They can't waive the Russian flag. They can't sing the national anthem in public. And certainly, they can't break anti-doping rules. A positive drug test would be a code violation, and it would mean Russia wouldn't be able to march in the closing ceremony with its own flag. That carrot was dangled by the IOC to ensure good conduct by Russian athletes and to show hey, guys, we're bringing you back into the fold, kind of. Then it would be a huge embarrassment for the IOC, which, as you mentioned, said it put the Russian athletes it invited through a rigorous, multi-step process of drug screening, and this would make a mockery of that basically.

MARTIN: Well, before all this broke, we had wanted to talk to you about the sports going on at the games, so let's still do that in the little bit of time we have left. What's happening this weekend?

GOLDMAN: Well, I can't talk enough about Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic - OK? - so I'm going to do that again. Easily the surprise of the games. If you didn't see it, she was competing in the ladies' Super-G alpine ski race. She started 26th. Racers starting that late rarely do well. In fact, that's why NBC broke away a few skiers before Ledecka. Oops. Of course, she has the run of her life, crosses the finish line one hundredth of a second faster than the person who was in first place at that time, and Ester wins a gold. And her reaction, of course, was priceless. She was stunned, her mouth hanging open, no celebration. A cameraman came up to her and said, you won, and she said no. Here's the deal about her. She already made history as the first ever athlete to compete in alpine skiing and snowboarding in the same games. She's a world champion in snowboarding, parallel giant slalom. So she won a gold in her weaker event.


GOLDMAN: The parallel giant slalom is later this week. You can bet there'll be a ton more attention paid to that now.

MARTIN: OK, only about 30 seconds for us and one more week to go for you there. What are you most looking forward to?

GOLDMAN: Well, other than Ester, interestingly, the first OAR gold medal. Amazingly, we're halfway through the games. The OAR has no golds. That seems to be a direct effect of the IOC ban of scores of Russian athletes. Many of them were medal contenders. But a gold should come either in men's hockey, women's figure skating or both.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Tom Goldman in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Tom, thank you.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.