Tag Archives: Olympian

After positive test, Canadian Olympian Kelly VanderBeek reflects on stigma of COVID-19

Awaiting round two of their covid tests, my seven-year-old son tells his Dad, “I hope I have COVID, so I can hug mom.”

That statement, so simple, so sad, shows the culmination of what quarantine feels like.

And we’re the lucky ones. The ones with a comfortable, large and well-equipped home. With friends who deliver food and, most notably, an asymptomatic COVID case.

I have COVID-19.

A statement I dreaded ever saying, and not for the right reasons. I feared saying it not because I feared getting it. I feared saying it because of the social judgment I expected to accompany it and for the fear of spreading it to more vulnerable people.

Now, in what I hope is the height of the second wave, I reflect on the social stigma of COVID-19.

Now I’m talking (or rather, writing)

I am a very public figure. Still, I didn’t want to write or talk about this positive test.

We are supporters of mask wearing, with hand sanitizers stashed everywhere. Still, my son goes to school and we’ve partaken in sport and small, socially distanced gatherings.

So, where/how did we get it?

WATCH | VanderBeek wants women’s sports to be a priority in son’s life:

For International Women’s Day we’re asking you to join us and retired alpine skier Kelly VanderBeek in making a commitment to supporting girls in sport. 0:55

Hockey … most likely.

Although the effects of the pandemic have been felt far and wide, our community has been largely untouched by the disease itself. For the most part, our numbers were well under 10 cases in a valley that includes Canmore, Banff and Lake Louise, Alta. Considering that hundreds of thousands of tourists continued to pour through this area over the summer months, this fact was a source of pride.

Then, Halloween came and far too many people partied. The numbers have since skyrocketed and we’re now one of the highest (if not the highest) rate of positive tests per capita in Alberta.

Scary stuff

My husband and I are both on-ice volunteers with my sons U9 team. After a Monday night practice, we received word, late Wednesday evening that someone on the ice had tested positive. We were required to go into 14 days of quarantine — all three of us.

First things first, we booked in for testing the following day, even though we knew it wouldn’t shorten our quarantine period. Thankfully we did.

Test results came back (much later than expected). First for my son and husband on Saturday morning, then mine late that evening. They were negative, I was positive.

I wear a full visor on the ice. This makes it a bit harder to hear and be heard, so I get extra close to the kids. Plus, we were, more or less, told that masks weren’t welcomed on the ice, even though they are mandatory everywhere else in the building.

Thankfully, I’m asymptomatic. However, that fact also showcases why contact tracing is so vital. I would never have gotten tested had I not been told I was exposed.

From what I can tell — and I called everyone I crossed paths with while potentially contagious — I didn’t pass on the disease. Making me extra thankful I was practicing social distancing and mask wearing.

Now what?

For now, I sit in my basement, largely on vacation, as my husband cares for my son and delivers my meals.

I write, thankful for the care I’m receiving and for being the luckiest of COVID patients — asymptomatic.

Still, I am acutely aware of the impact isolation is having on my family. My sons emotions are frayed and my husband is exhausted both from the work load and from the unknown. Did I pass COVID onto them? Will our quarantine be extended? And most notably, the fear of knowing symptoms may be just around the corner.

Now, with bated breath we wait for our second round of test results. Thankful, we have a breath to take.

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CBC | Sports News

‘Polite’ racism infects Canada says Olympian who was on front lines of Oka protests 30 years ago

Protesters standing face-to-face with armed officers from the national guard – it’s a jarring yet all-too-familiar scene playing out across the U.S. on a nightly basis right now, as thousands take to the streets demanding systemic change in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police.

Canadian Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller has been there before and is reminding Canadians how real racism is in this country.

“Canadians are polite racists. They don’t want to acknowledge there is that privilege,” Horn-Miller told CBC Sports.

“When we’re talking about racism in Canada, it’s not like what you face in the United States. It’s more subtle. It’s the indifference. It’s the insensitivity. Or people saying they don’t see colour.”

This summer marks 30 years since Horn-Miller spent 78 consecutive days on the front lines of resistance during the Oka Crisis.

In the summer of 1990, the town of Oka, Que., planned to expand a golf course without consultation onto a piece of land the locals call The Pines. The land is sacred to the Mohawk, who were opposed to the expansion because it is where their people are buried.

A Mohawk from Kahnawake, Que., Horn-Miller was just 14 years old when she was tasked with cooking midnight meals and breakfast to take to the warriors who were in the bunkers. She vividly remembers the escalating tensions between protestors and police – and then the military was brought in.

“It was such a horrific misuse of the military. I’ve met people on both sides who are still traumatized from that to this day,” Horn-Miller said.

“I’d be looking down the barrels of hundreds of guns. I can’t help but think about that as I watch today. Thinking about the national guard being sent in.”

WATCH | Canadian athletes speak out against racism:

Canadian athletes have been speaking out against racism and for change, including tennis youngster Felix Auger-Aliassime, basketball legend Steve Nash, and Olympians Kia Nurse, Karina LeBlanc and Perdita Felicien 2:38

On the evening of Sept. 26, the last night of the crisis, Horn-Miller made her move to escape the area. She was trying to reach the media barricade that had been moved, fearful that if she didn’t reach the cameras in time, soldiers may harm her.

They did.

Horn-Miller was stabbed in the chest by a soldier’s bayonet while racing her four-year-old sister, Kaniehtiio Horn, to safety. The bayonet missed her heart by a centimetre.

“I looked at one of the soldiers and I said, ‘I know you.’ I pointed at him and put my four-year-old sister behind my back to protect her and that’s when I got hit in the chest,” Horn-Miller recalled, fighting back tears.

“I was in such anger and pain and sadness and rage. I thought my body was going to explode.”

Horn-Miller didn’t receive medical treatment for 22 hours, held captive inside a bus in a makeshift military base.

Turning pain into motivation

It took a long time for Horn-Miller to heal from the trauma she experienced in the summer of 1990 — she says that work continues to this day. She was young, confused and frustrated by how unequal and unfair Canada felt for her.

“Being angry was a fundamental part of me for a long time. It was slowly killing me,” she said.

She used that pain to motivate her. A prolific swimmer, Horn-Miller excelled as a water polo player. She was fierce, gritty and tenacious – attributes that landed her on the national team.

She was part of the team that won gold at the Pan Am Games in 1999, before becoming the first Mohawk woman from Canada to make it to the Olympics, doing so in 2000.

Horn-Miller became the first Mohawk woman from Canada to make it to an Olympics, co-captaining the Canadian water polo team in Sydney in 2000. (Jeff De Booy/The Canadian Press)

Horn-Miller’s stardom soared when she was put on the cover of Time magazine for being an Indigenous sporting hero and activist. It brought unprecedented attention to Canada’s water polo program.

“I was their poster girl on the cover of Time. They were getting all this press attention because I’m Native and the Oka Crisis. They were using me, but when I became a problem, I got kicked out,” she said.

Pushed out of Canada’s water polo team

The love affair ended quickly. Horn-Miller started to speak out about abuse from the coach of the program after the Olympics. The team failed to medal. Horn-Miller says the program was in disarray and needed an overhaul.

“There was this push within the team to clear house. The abuse started to rise and rise and rise,” she said.

Sport Canada and Water Polo Canada brought in representatives from York University Ethics in Sport to investigate – Horn-Miller said they found abuse, not sexual in nature, had taken place. Coaches were fired and a new regime was brought in.

“Canadians are polite racists. They don’t want to acknowledge there is that privilege– Waneek Horn-Miller

Not long after, Horn-Miller was told she would no longer be part of the Water Polo Canada team because of “team cohesion” issues.

As a co-captain of the team, Horn-Miller understood leadership from an Indigenous perspective, taught to her by her family and ancestors, about doing something and speaking out against racial abuse.

She believes many within the Water Polo Canada community could not understand why that was so important to her.

“I remember sitting there in a final meeting, with one of my teammates and my uncle on one side of the room, and the entire rest of the water polo team and their lawyers were sitting on the other side,” Horn-Miller said.

“I thought they hated me. They were so indifferent to it. That’s what’s so heartbreaking and lonely, and the worst part of this whole thing is the indifference.”

Horn-Miller is seen following her induction into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2019. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Horn-Miller would never compete for Canada again at an international event in water polo and says racism played a large part in that.

“I remember my teammates saying, ‘Are you calling me a racist?’ They were so angry. I don’t think Canadians truly understand racism and what it means to be racist,” she said.

‘I endured a system’

Last year, Horn-Miller was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. She admits now that on the night of the awards ceremony in Toronto, she was apprehensive about attending.

“I’m up there with [skier] Alex Bilodeau and [NHL goalie] Marty Brodeur and people who have won. I’m there because I endured. I endured a system and came out the other end successful,” Horn-Miller said.

But she went, celebrated alongside some of Canada’s greatest athletes.

Months earlier at the initial announcement gala, Horn-Miller delivered a message that was met with a standing ovation by hundreds. Though she was honoured, she couldn’t help but wonder where that support was before.

“I’m on the stage and said, ‘I don’t think people should leave sport damaged, hurt and in pain.’ That’s not what sport is about,” she said.

“I looked at them as they stood and thought, where were you 20 years ago when I got pushed out?”

Now a mother of three, Horn-Miller understands how important it is to continue to shine light on the injustices facing minorities in Canada.

“Canada, for a very long time, has avoided hard conversations. We have to have hard conversations. Our children deserve a future where they can achieve their greatest potential and live in safety no matter who they are.”

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CBC | Sports News

Retired Canadian Olympian Joannie Rochette to work at Quebec long-term care homes

Former Canadian figure skater and Olympic medallist Joannie Rochette will be working at Quebec’s long-term care homes hit hard by COVID-19.

Rochette, who competed for Canada at the Turin 2006 and Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games — winning an individual bronze at the latter — received her medical degree Friday from McGill University and said she’d be deploying soon.

Rochette, 34, had discussed the end of her studies with The Canadian Press in mid-February, on the 10th anniversary of the Vancouver Olympics.

In response to a message of thanks from Premier Francois Legault, Rochette wrote on her Twitter account Sunday it was only natural to respond to the premier’s frequent call for help at short-staffed nursing homes.

WATCH | Joannie Rochette answers call to assist long-term care homes during pandemic:

Retired Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette will be working at Quebec’s long-term care homes hit hard by COVID-19. The Olympic medallist received her medical degree Friday from McGill University and said she’d be deploying soon. 3:39

“I’m just one of hundreds of graduates to get into the action,” Rochette wrote, adding she’d be one of thousands already committed to the COVID-19 fight.

On Saturday, Rochette told French-language all-sports network RDS while she’s perhaps a little fearful for her health, she’s more afraid about the lack of staff at long-term care homes.

Rochette, of Ile-Dupas, Que., inspired the entire country when she won a medal in Vancouver after her mother Therese, 55, died of a heart attack just two days before the start of the competition.

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CBC | Sports News

Despite boycott of 1980 Games, Anne Merklinger still rues missed shot as ‘Olympian’

Forty years later, the disappointment still haunts Anne Merklinger.

With Canadian athletes trying to untangle the different scenarios created by the one-year postponement of the Tokyo Games due to the coronavirus pandemic, Merklinger still laments her missed opportunity to be selected to Canada’s 1980 team.

“That’s probably the biggest regret I have in my life,” said Merklinger, now chief executive officer for Own the Podium.

Back in 1980, Merklinger was a 21-year-old attending the University of South Carolina on a full swimming scholarship. Even though the Canadian government had made the decision to join the U.S.-led boycott of the Moscow Olympics, Swimming Canada still held a qualifying meet to select an Olympic team.

Competing in the 200-metre breaststroke, Merklinger needed to finish in the top two to make the team. She touched the wall third.

“I was very close to making the team, but I didn’t make it,” Merklinger said. “And that was the end of my Olympic dream.

“Those athletes that made the team, they were Olympians — and once you’re an Olympian, you’re always an Olympian.”

Merklinger can’t guarantee her result would have been different had she gone to the meet knowing a ticket to Moscow was on the line. But she does know her preparation would have changed.

WATCH | IOC selects Olympic dates for 2021:

The International Olympic Committee announced Tokyo 2020 will be held in the summer of 2021, from July 23 to August 8. 2:48

Training in the U.S., with a few other Canadians, she felt isolated and out of contact.

“Once we heard that Canada wasn’t sending a team to Moscow, we kind of took our foot off the gas pedal a little bit, at least I did,” she said.

“And I didn’t have the kind of support and resources available that we have today for Canada’s athletes. And coaches to say ‘stick to your training program, it’ll be important for you 40 years later to be able to say that you were an Olympian.'”

‘It’s gut wrenching’

Earlier this week, the International Olympic Committee and Japanese organizers announced the Tokyo Olympics will begin on July 23, 2021, followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 24.

The delay could force some athletes to rethink their Olympic participation, due to age, family commitments or money concerns. The battle against COVID-19 has postponed Olympic qualifying events and closed training facilities.

“What athletes are going through right now as a result of this crisis, it’s gut wrenching,” said Merklinger. “Some athletes are going to have to revisit and re-evaluate. Do they want to do this for another year because the commitment is phenomenal?

“That is a very personal and difficult decision for every athlete that’s been impacted by Tokyo.”

WATCH | How Olympic families are affected by postponement:

Boxer Mandy Bujold of Cobourg, Ont., has a young daughter, but now the push to 2021 will mean waiting for a second child. 5:22

The difference between now and when Merklinger competed is the resources available to help athletes make informed decisions. They can seek financial guidance, mental health advice and services to help them transform into the working world.

“They have an army of people to reach out and ask their questions and get their feedback and get their guidance and to share their struggles,” said Merklinger.

Looking back, Merklinger wishes someone would have encouraged her to work harder toward achieving her Olympic dream.

“I know what an Olympic ring looks like on a swimmer’s hand,” she said. “You’re an Olympian and a Paralympian forever. No one ever takes that away from you.”

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CBC | Sports News

U.S. Olympian Lolo Jones calls for IOC to postpone Tokyo Olympics

Lolo Jones is 37 — angling for a comeback to the track and well aware that she’s running out of time.

These days, though, earning a spot in the Tokyo Olympics is nowhere close to her No. 1 priority.

The hurdler-turned-bobsledder-turned celebrity, who remains one of the most recognizable and followed Olympic athletes in the United States, is imploring the IOC to send a different message from the one it has thus far about the coronavirus crisis. It has yet to postpone the games, set to start July 24, and by not doing that, Jones believes it is subtly — or not so subtly — telling athletes that they need to be ready, just in case.

“It’s tearing athletes apart,” Jones said Saturday in an interview with The Associated Press. “We want to be like everyone else. We want to be healthy, responsible citizens. But we’re also afraid the IOC is going to say, in a month, that the games are on, and, what, hopefully you’re going to still be in shape?”

Some could be. Even more probably won’t. Such is the state of sports across the globe, where different restrictions exist in virtually every country, and in every state in the U.S. Jones has access to a track near her home in Louisiana, but has been heeding the warnings of health officials and government, opting to shut things down.

“I fear contaminating my coach,” Jones said. “And I fear that we’re not doing our due diligence, as athletes, to send the message: We need to be sticking in our house, self-quarantining. We’ve got bigger things to worry about right now” than training.

Before shifting her focus to bobsled, which allowed her to become one of the rare athletes to compete in both the Summer and Winter Games, Jones was a breakout star in the buildup to the Beijing Olympics in 2008. She caught her shoe on the second-to-last hurdle in the 100-meter finals and finished seventh — and in shock — in a race won by teammate Dawn Harper.

Four years later, Jones came into Olympic trials out of the top three in the rankings, not expected to make the team. She finished third at trials and made it back to the games.

It’s those lessons — there’s a reason they run the races — that also feeds into her desire to see Tokyo postponed. With each day that passes, there’s an increasingly minute chance of a fair Olympic trials. USA Track and Field has long prided itself on taking the top three finishers in each event to the Olympics, regardless of their world ranking or past results.

“In 2012, I was losing every race and went to Olympic trials with one of the slowest times and ended up making the team,” she said. “In 2008, I was winning every race and went to the Olympics and lost the gold medal to someone who got third at trials. There are too many talented athletes to do it politically, or to pick teams based on last year. You cannot do it.”

She took heart in the letter USATF sent to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee on Friday, pressing for a delay.

“Our goal remains to achieve athletic excellence during the Olympic Games, but not at the expense of the safety and well-being of our athletes,” CEO Max Siegel wrote in the letter.

Which is Jones’ point, too.

She said she understands why the outcry from athletes, though growing, isn’t as huge as it could be. There are thousands of athletes across the globe who see this as their first, or last, or best, chance at Olympic glory — and who want to be given every opportunity to compete.

But Jones thinks it’s best to wait until 2021, or 2022, or whenever it’s safe again. And if she’s willing to wait at age 37, maybe others will be, too.

“It’s hard, because obviously, these are dreams we’ve been fighting our whole lives for,” Jones said. “(Olympians) do it out of pure passion. They’re the most devoted athletes in the world and we’re trying to stay motivated and push through. But there’s a human element to this. Seeing this virus kill, and destroy so many cities, it’s hard to keep going on like nothing’s wrong out there.”

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CBC | Sports News

Fighting coronavirus fears in Japan is an Olympian task

The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics were supposed to be a celebration of recovery and a powerful symbol of how Japan has put a run of natural disasters and bad luck behind it.

But it’s looking increasingly likely that the fallout from the coronavirus epidemic will spoil the party.

While there is virtually zero chance the games — which are set to begin July 24 — will be cancelled, tourism operators, spectators and the country’s business community are all growing fretful that Japan’s meticulously planned preparations will suffer.

“I saw a rumour in the news in Japan that there was a possibility no one would come for the Olympics,” said Yoko Haneda, who was taking in a Japanese soccer league match at Saitama Stadium, an Olympic venue, earlier this week.   

Japanese social media sites have been awash in fearful predictions about the impact of the coronavirus and the risk of it spreading throughout the nation.

On Thursday, organizing officials again tried to quell what they called “irresponsible rumours.”

“We would like to clearly reiterate that cancellation or postponement of Tokyo Games are not being considered,” Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori was quoted by Reuters as saying at an International Olympic Committee coordination session on Thursday.

“We … have set up a task force and have started sharing information for the prevention of the infection.”

Health challenges

Canadian Olympic watcher Laura Misener, who’s the director of the University of Western Ontario’s School of Kinesiology, says games organizers are in unknown territory when it comes to handling a major public health issue so close to the start of the competition.

“I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this,” Misener said. “Historically, there have been public health challenges going into games, [such as] the Zika virus in Rio in 2016, but not on the global scale of this.”

Tourism operators, spectators and the country’s business community are all growing fretful that Japan’s preparations for the Olympics will suffer as a result of coronavirus fears. (Pascal Dumont/CBC)

She expects Japanese organizers are immersed in developing protocols to ensure athletes in the Olympic Village are protected as much as possible, including tighter-than-usual controls on access and standards of sanitation.

But she said dealing with tens of thousands of spectators in large venues likely poses the greatest challenge.

“One of the things they have to manage is the crowd control, what happens going in and out of venues,” she said. “We’ve always screened people from a security perspective. I suspect we will start seeing more around health screening as well. Are people wearing masks? Will they be required to wear masks?”

The day our CBC crew witnessed the soccer match at Saitama Stadium, there was no suggestion the virus was keeping fans away. The stands were full, and aside from some hand sanitizer stations, there was no obvious indication of enhanced health screening.

With over 200 positive coronavirus cases, Japan has the most confirmed cases outside of China. But the majority of them are on the Princess Diamond cruise ship that’s been quarantined in Yokohama since Feb. 5.

Japan has the most confirmed cases of coronavirus outside of China, but the majority are on the Princess Diamond cruise ship, which has been quarantined in Yokohama since Feb. 5. (Pascal Dumont/CBC)

There is no evidence the virus has spread significantly beyond the ship — although this week a Japanese health inspector who tested passengers on board later tested positive himself.

Tourism plummets

Nonetheless, like the rest of Asia, Japan’s tourism sector has been hard hit as foreign visitors, particularly from China, either cancel holidays voluntarily or face a ban on tour groups. 

“There aren’t as many tourists coming here anymore,” Tokyo rickshaw driver Taro Sekine told CBC News outside the Senso-Ji Buddhist temple, a popular tourist site lined with souvenir shops. “There were more of them before, but now the number of Chinese tourists has decreased.”

Almost 10 million Chinese visited Japan in 2019 — a record. But the coronavirus has suddenly reduced those huge numbers to a trickle.

The impact on the 11,000 athletes set to attend this summer’s Olympics is unknown. Travel bans by many countries have already begun to affect Chinese athletes competing in events leading up to the Olympics.

Tourists take a rickshaw ride in Tokyo. The number of visitors from China, Japan’s biggest source of tourists, is down dramatically. (Pascal Dumont/CBC)

ESPN reports that competitions in China for soccer, basketball and badminton have all been moved elsewhere. Other upcoming events in golf, rugby and many other sports are also poised to be affected.

‘Clean’ games

At Saitama Stadium, CBC spoke to many people who expressed anxiety about the virus and its implications for the Olympics. But they also suggested that athletes and international visitors who attend the games should feel safe.

“Japanese people are very clean and careful about disinfecting with alcohol spray. I think the same thing will happen during the Olympics, so it’s totally safe for people to come,” said food stall vendor Yoshio Goto.

His customer, Daito Takeshi, agreed. “It’s very safe and very clean in Japan,” he said.

The coronavirus is just the latest public relations challenge organizers have had to overcome in the lead-up to the Tokyo games. Radiation fears are another.

Next month, the Olympic torch will begin its official sprint to the opening ceremonies with a kickoff in Japan’s Fukushima region, which is still recovering from the 2011 disaster at the nearby nuclear power plant.

The Tokyo2020 Olympic BMX Course is seen in the Ariake Urban Sports Park. (Pascal Dumont/CBC)

A 9.0 earthquake — one of the strongest in recorded history — followed by a devastating tsunami knocked out power to the Fukushima Daiichi facility, causing three reactors to melt down and spew lethal radiation over a wide area.

Japan’s government often refers to the upcoming games as the “Recovery Olympics” to emphasize just how far the country has come since then.

It plans to launch the Olympic torch run next month in a previously contaminated area less than 40 km from the nuclear plant. Events in baseball and soccer are also set for venues just outside the former exclusion zone. 

Olympic watchdog

Some environmental groups have questioned whether the sites are really as clean as the Japanese government claims they are. 

Misako Ichimura, a self-appointed Olympic watchdog and social justice advocate, told CBC News she believes the recovery from the 2011 disaster is far from complete, and that the coronavirus represents a significant threat on top of it.

“The administration is always prioritizing the Olympics and abandoning other important issues,” she said in Tokyo. “People are panicking about [the coronavirus] in relation to the Olympics. The things we should be eliminating now are mega-events like the Olympics that are made only to make money and [are] prioritized by the IOC.”

But the momentum toward July’s opening ceremony appears unstoppable.   

Food vendor Yoshio Goto said Japan is a very clean country and visitors shouldn’t worry about the coronavirus. (Pascal Dumont/CBC)

CBC visited several brand new sporting venues, as well as the Athletes Village in Tokyo’s refurbished Harumi neighbourhood on the waterfront.   

The Olympic rings have also been moved into a position on a barge near the city’s Rainbow Bridge.

Misener, the Canadian Olympics watcher, said whatever measures local organizers implement, scaling back on the spectator experience will be a last resort.

“The whole idea is to get as many people there and celebrating as much as possible,” she said. “It’s not a Games without spectators.”

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CBC | World News

Canadian Olympian Alysha Newman drops charges against Steelers linebacker

Misdemeanour charges have been dropped against a Pittsburgh Steelers backup linebacker who had been accused of injuring his girlfriend, Canadian Olympic pole vaulter Alysha Newman, during a fight in their western Pennsylvania hotel room this month.

Anthony Chickillo had been charged with simple assault, criminal mischief and harassment after the Oct. 20 fight at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.

Newman said on social media Wednesday that she had decided to withdraw charges.

“Me withdrawing charges does not mean I take domestic violence lightly,” she said. “There were no payoffs, no behind the scene deals, there has been no contact between Anthony and I since the night of the incident,” Newman said on social media. “I do not condone domestic violence from males or females because it is not right and I will forever stand behind that.

“This incident does not define who I am, I choose to move forward, to focus on me and the next 10 months preparing for the Olympic Games. Part of my choice also means allowing myself to heal, to forgive and grow stronger. Thank you everyone for your support over the last two weeks.”

Neither side moving forward with charges

ESPN and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette said Newman was facing a misdemeanour charge from the incident.

“The two individuals involved have indicated that they obviously do not want to go forward, that they wish the best for each other,” Fayetteville County District Attorney Richard Bower told reporters outside a Uniontown courtroom. “Additionally, they’ve indicated to me that they have both forgiven each other for what has happened.”

Police said the pair got into an argument over table games at Lady Luck Casino that later became physical in their hotel room.

Newman, 25, from London, Ont., is coming off a Diamond League season that saw her set a new Canadian record of 4.82 metres en route to a gold medal at an Aug. 24 meet in Paris.

Chickillo, a 26-year-old Tampa, Fla., resident, has been with the Steelers for five years. He has one tackle and half a sack in three games this season, playing primarily on special teams.

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CBC | Sports News

'American Horror Story': Emma Roberts and Olympian Gus Kenworthy to Play a Couple in Season 9

'American Horror Story': Emma Roberts and Olympian Gus Kenworthy to Play a Couple in Season 9 | Entertainment Tonight

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'This incident will not define me': Canadian Olympian Dave Duncan on Winter Games arrest

Canadian ski cross athlete Dave Duncan says he wants to set the record straight about what happened the night he, his wife and Willy Raine were arrested over a car theft during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Duncan, in an exclusive interview with CBC Sports, is breaking his silence about the incident that captured international headlines as the Games in Pyeongchang were winding down. The 36-year-old paints a very different picture about the circumstances surrounding what had been characterized as a drunken joyride.

"This incident obviously happened in an environment that allowed it to be magnified," Duncan said. "Headlines are sensationalized. We were all just trying to get home that evening. I had no reason to believe we were doing anything wrong or inappropriate."

On Feb. 24 — the second-last day of the Olympics — Duncan and his wife Maja were fined one million South Korean won ($ 1,176) for their roles in the theft of a red Hummer.

Raine, the ski cross high performance director within Alpine Canada, was also fined five million won ($ 5,880) for his involvement, which included driving the stolen vehicle with a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.16, well above South Korea's legal limit of 0.05. For context, Raine's blood-alcohol level at the time of the incident was twice the Canadian limit of 0.08. 

The trio spent about 24 hours in jail and did not participate in the closing ceremony. It was considered by many as a dark cloud hanging over Canada's historic performance at the Winter Olympics. 

But Duncan, who is announcing his retirement, explains they had no idea they were stealing the vehicle in the first place. 

Duncan shares his side of what happened at the Olympics

Duncan speaks out to give his side of the story on his arrest while competing in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. 2:09

He said a group of Canadian ski cross athletes were celebrating their Olympic achievements in a private room at a local bar when a driver with credentials from International Olympic Committee befriended them.

"He showed us his credentials and said he was a fan of Canada and what we've done and that if we were looking for a ride home, to get in touch with him and then he'd take care of us," Duncan said. 

They tracked the man down around midnight and took him up on his offer, he said.

"He escorted us out to the vehicle in question. We loaded in and then he led us to believe that we could take the vehicle and leave it at the Athletes' Village for collection the next day," Duncan said.

"There was no reason to believe that we couldn't trust this person."

Duncan said he, his wife, Raine and an assistant coach got in the Hummer. Duncan said they dropped the assistant coach off at another Olympic House party before making their way to the Athletes' Village. Police stopped them as they approached.

"It wasn't until we were pulled over that we found out that that vehicle was reported stolen," Duncan said. 

"I was kind of in disbelief that we were in this situation to begin with. I thought at some point everyone might realize that there was a big misunderstanding and that would kind of be the end of it."

Reconciling what happened

The Duncans issued a written apology after the incident that said they were deeply sorry and "engaged in behaviour that demonstrated poor judgment and was not up to the standards expected of us as members of the Canadian Olympic team or as Canadians."

Duncan stands by that apology and said it's been a long process reconciling what happened that night. 

"I guess what I've struggled with since this all happened is knowing that if I'm in that same situation again I'm probably making the same decision," Duncan said. "There was no reason to question what was going on or taking that vehicle that evening."

Duncan, pictured at an earlier event, apologized for his actions during the final weekend of the Winter Games. (Alessandro Trovati/Associated Press)

Duncan said he has not been in contact with the IOC regarding the credentialed person. That the IOC has not been in contact with him either, he said.

Duncan said he doesn't know the man's identity.

As for the alcohol consumed that night, Duncan admits to having a few beverages but said he had no idea Raine was intoxicated. 

"We had no indication that he had had too many drinks that evening," Duncan said about Raine, whose mother is Nancy Greene, a Canadian skiing legend and retired B.C. senator. 

"I want to believe that had I not been drinking, there might've been something I picked up on that would have led to to us avoiding the situation."

Ongoing legal issues in South Korea

Initial reports said the Hummer, which belongs to Yong Gil Ahn, was stolen while it was idling outside to charge the battery after it died.

Ahn said he went into a building for a coffee while he waited and called the police after he realized it was gone. It took officers about an hour to call him back saying they found it.

At the time, Ahn said the Canadians were responsible for damaging his Hummer and was wondering who was going to pay for it.

Duncan said there was no damage done to the vehicle. He and his wife are trying to have the car theft fine removed. He said they have another upcoming court date in South Korea. 

"We have legal counsel in Korea helping us with all of this," Duncan said. "We don't feel we're guilty of the charge so we're going ahead and doing our best to fight it."

'This incident will not define me or my career'

Duncan is retiring from the sport he loves after three Olympic Games. That's why he's talking — he doesn't want this one incident he said was taken out of context to be how he's remembered. 

The London, Ont., native finished in eighth in ski cross in Pyeongchang, improving on his 24th-place finish at the Sochi Games in 2014.

"This incident will not define me or my career," Duncan said. "I've prided myself on doing things a certain way my entire life and avoiding the crazy lifestyle. I think my teammates would describe me as quite bland and even boring from that side of things."

Duncan said it's been a long process trying to get over the maelstrom that followed the incident. He said he's received a lot of nasty messages and emails since it happened, and that he's been working through it all with the help of a psychologist. 

It's been a reflective past eight months for Duncan as he ends his career. 

"I want to view this as out of character but when it happens you know you start to question yourself. Am I the person that I think I am? And ultimately I have to rely on my lifetime of decision making and experiences over this.

"I would call this one-off an outlier."

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A Canadian Olympian takes a banned drug to feel 'normal' — should that be allowed?

After years of grappling with mysterious medical setbacks, Canadian distance runner Lanni Marchant believes she has finally found a solution — a way to help her body meet the demands of an elite athlete.

But authorities say that, if she chooses to take the medication that has allowed her to feel "normal" again, she won't be allowed to compete.

"In 10 years, this is the most normal I have felt as a female," says the 34-year-old Olympian from London, Ont. "And they are going take this lifeline away."

Marchant owns the Canadian women's records in both the full and half marathons. She competed in the marathon and the 10,000 metres at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, becoming the first Canadian to complete both those races at the Olympics. Since then, things have not gone well. She was supposed to run for Canada at the 2017 track and field world championships in London, but was scratched just before the event.

Marchant later revealed that she had been hospitalized in the months leading up to worlds. During what was supposed to be an uneventful procedure on her kidney, an infectious cyst was ruptured, sending her body into septic shock and leaving her hospitalized for eight days.

When she emerged and tried to get back into training, Marchant says she felt like "an alien in my own body, and every month it was worse." She would put on weight and feel bloated for long periods of time.

"This isn't a new thing," she adds. "I've been dealing with this since law school [she graduated in 2011]. It became my normal. It sucked, but it was manageable. We would skip races, move workouts to accommodate the extra weight I was carrying that made me run slow."

Marchant took a number of steps, including changing her diet. But her problems, which were caused by a hormonal issue, persisted.

"I was still getting very painful cystic zits across my face," she says. "I was basically going through puberty all over again every month."

'Lifeline' denied

Unable to quickly get an appointment with a Canadian specialist, Marchant sought treatment with an endocrinologist in Minnesota. After a series of tests, Marchant says doctors concluded she has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Women with PCOS may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods and excessive male hormone levels. In some cases, the latter may result in excessive body and facial hair, also known as hirsutism.

For Marchant, the diagnosis and a new medication amounted to a "lifeline." But the drug she was prescribed, Spironolactone, is on the list of banned substances in track and field. In order to compete while using it, Marchant had to seek what is known as a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE).

An athlete who obtains a TUE is allowed to use a drug that is otherwise prohibited. To get one, the athlete must prove that a legitimate medical issue is being addressed by taking the drug in question, and that the banned substance won't act as a performance enhancer.

TUEs are fairly common among elite athletes in a range of sports. Tennis stars Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal and Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles were among the athletes identified as TUE holders when a group of Russian hackers leaked confidential medical files from a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) database in 2016. Biles said the drug she was taking was to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), while Nadal said his drug was for treating a knee injury.

Marchant was under the impression that the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, which oversees anti-doping efforts in Canada, would decide whether to grant her a TUE. She says the agency put her application through intense scrutiny and pushed her to explore alternatives to the banned drug she'd been prescribed.

"Why aren't I trying other methods? What does it mean that I don't tolerate birth control? Where are your Pap smear results? Blood tests? We need to evaluate all of this," Marchant says she was told. 

The whole experience left her exhausted and exasperated, but CCES eventually approved her TUE application. She thought she was clear to compete again.

But in order for her to run internationally, Marchant's TUE still had to receive final approval from track and field's world governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations. Last week, the IAAF denied Marchant's application, telling her to seek alternative treatments.

"If it was supposed to go through the IAAF, then why did I spend six weeks feeling scrutinized and violated by CCES, to feel like you are put up in stirrups and they are looking under the hood," Marchant wonders. "It would be nice to only have to go through that once."

CCES president Paul Melia says it's standard procedure.

"For athletes competing internationally, the IAAF always has the final authority over the TUE," he explains. "Typically, when we grant a TUE, the IAAF recognizes that TUE. But sometimes they may question it. They may ask for more information."

That's what is happening in Marchant's case. The IAAF considers her application incomplete, saying that an athlete living in Canada has access to alternative treatments that should be sought instead.

"I'm just trying to have a human body that works," Marchant argues."They are going to deny me that.

"I don't like the assumption that I haven't tried exhausting other things. [They could] direct me to a specialist that could fix me, but all they do is say no and leave you with no recourse."

The IAAF said it could not immediately comment on Marchant's case.

Still fighting

Melia wouldn't comment directly on Marchant's case, but he says it's important that TUE applications be carefully scrutinized.

"The request for medical documentation has to be very thorough because you can imagine the window of opportunity a TUE might provide for an athlete who may want to cheat the system," he says. "[Officials] have to have the medical documentation that gives them the confidence that this is a legitimate medical condition and that this is the only substance available to treat it."

Melia says if the IAAF ultimately makes a final decision to deny Marchant's TUE application, she can appeal to WADA for a final decision.

Marchant, meanwhile, believes she can still be competitive when the next Olympics come around in 2020. And she'll continue to fight for her right to run.

"Part of my quality of life is running and competing," she says. "They're trying to make me [decide between] pursuing sport in a body that wasn't letting me do much of anything half of the month or taking this medicine and then not being able to pursue sport.

"I shouldn't have to choose. It's a very close-minded approach to women's health and women's health issues."

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