KANSAS CITY - U.S. Figure Skating President Sam Auxier said Thursday that Russia should not be allowed to compete at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games because of the doping scandal that has enveloped the country's athletes.
Auxier added that the integrity of both the International Olympic Committee and the International Skating Union hinged on issuing a stiff penalty against the Russians.
"I mean, it's state sponsored. ... It was a huge program, well coordinated, to cheat, and they should pay a pretty stiff penalty," Auxier said during a press conference at the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. "I think the only way the IOC and the ISU maintain any level of integrity is to take a strong stand and weigh a strong penalty for those actions."
Auxier joins Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, as one of the few sports federation heads in the world to take such a strong position on the issue of Russia's Olympic participation.
In saying all Russian athletes should be excluded, Auxier even went a step further than IAAF leader Coe, who called only for Russia's track and field athletes to be banned from the Rio Summer Olympics. Only one Russian track and field athlete was allowed to compete in Rio.
No Russian figure skaters have been officially implicated in doping allegations that could involve as many as 1,000 Russian athletes in summer and winter sports, according to an independent investigation commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
But 2014 Olympic ladies champion Adelina Sotnikova is reportedly one of 28 athletes under investigation by the IOC for a doping sample that was among those allegedly manipulated in the Russian anti-doping lab in Sochi.
The manipulation allegedly involved tampering with sample bottles to fill them with drug-free urine. Scratches on the bottles are seen as evidence of tampering, and the Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that a bottle containing Sotnikova's sample had been identified as one of those with the scratches.
There is no evidence she was involved in or aware of any such tampering.
Sotnikova is the first Russian woman to win Olympic singles gold.
Should Sotnikova be banned, Gracie Gold would inherit the bronze medal, with Yu-Na Kim of South Korea getting gold and Carolina Kostner of Italy the silver.