American, Russian skeleton racers not on speaking terms

With the training heats underway in skeleton, the competition is not exactly friendly between the American and Russian racers this week in PyeongChang.

According to Reuters, racers from the two countries are not on speaking terms in a dispute that centers on the widespread doping among the Russian contingent. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) banned Russia from competition due to “systematic manipulation” of doping tests during the 2014 Sochi Games. However, the IOC allowed Russians without doping violations to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” under a neutral flag.

That hasn’t erased the tension.

“Obviously there is some language barrier that exists between all nations,” U.S. skeleton athlete Matt Antoine said. “Do I believe they’ve competed fairly? No, and I’ve been very vocal about that. So I don’t really have a need to have a conversation with those athletes.”

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American skeleton racers at the 2018 Olympics
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 12: Katie Uhlaender of the United States slides down the track during Women Skeleton training at Olympic Sliding Centre on February 12, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 08: United States skeleton athlete Matt Antoine attends a press conference at the Main Press Centre during previews ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 8, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 08: United States skeleton athlete John Daly attends a press conference at the Main Press Centre during previews ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 8, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 08: United States skeleton athlete Kendall Wesenberg attends a press conference at the Main Press Centre during previews ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 8, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 08: United States skeleton athlete Katie Uhlaender attends a press conference at the Main Press Centre during previews ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 8, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 13: Matt Antoine of the United States trains during the Mens Skeleton training session on day four of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Olympic Sliding Centre on February 13, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 07: John Daly #11 of the United States in action during the Men's Skeleton training run ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Olympic Sliding Center, Alpensia on February 7, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 07: Katie Uhlaender #7 of The United States in action during a Women's Skeleton training run ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Olympic Sliding Center, Alpensia on February 7, 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 12: Kendall Wesenberg of the United States slides down the track during Women Skeleton training at Olympic Sliding Centre on February 12, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Nikita Tregubov said he and countryman Vladislav Marchenkov have been “scolded without evidence” by American and British skeleton racers.

“We used to get along great. People have changed abruptly,” Tregubov told Reuters.

Two Brits, Jerry Rice and Dom Parsons, attributed the apparent coldness to a language barrier.

From Reuters:

“I’m friendly with everyone around the track,” Rice said. “There’s always the language barrier with obviously some nations. I don’t speak Russian, they don’t speak English.”

Parsons said athletes were also focused on the competition, not each other. “I think when we’re at the track all of us are very focused on what we are doing anyway,” he said.

A ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) led to the IOC overturning doping bans for 28 Russian athletes earlier this month. Many of those athletes filed appeals to compete in South Korea. However, just before the PyeongChang Games began, the CAS ruled that they would not be eligible for competition.

In all, 169 Russians are competing as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” That includes Tregubov and Marchenkov.

The skeleton training heats continue through Wednesday before the men’s competition begins Thursday. Medals for the men will be awarded on Friday with the women’s final coming on Saturday, Feb. 17.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!

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