BEIJING (AP) — Olympic gold medalist Nils van der Poel accused the Netherlands speedskating program of “corruption” over a report that its officials try to influence the ice makers to set up conditions that benefit Dutch athletes.
Van der Poel made his scathing comments during a news conference Wednesday at the Olympic Village, three days after his victory in the 5,000 meters gave Sweden its first speedskating medal since 1988.
“This isn’t my idea of fair play," van der Poel said. “The Olympics is higher, stronger, faster. This is corruption. This is trying to alter the field of play in your favor by using unethical and immoral means.”
Van der Poel said he had read an article on a Dutch website that suggested the world's strongest team is using a scientist to try to make sure the Ice Ribbon oval is set up to its advantage.
While saying he has confidence in Mark Messer, who oversees the ice, van der Poel said the Dutch program deserves to be punished if the report is true.
“This is the biggest scandal in our sport,” he said. "We have doping cases in our sport every now and then. I do not see how this is any less serious.”
Dutch technical director Maurits Hendriks reportedly called van der Poel's comments "unworthy of an Olympic champion.”
“Measuring the ice temperature has been going on for 20 years," Hendriks said in Dutch media. "And anyone who comes to the skating rink more often sees that all countries have contact with the ice master.”
The Netherlands has won three of the first four events at the Ice Ribbon and claimed a total of six medals — matching the combined total of every other country. The Netherlands also dominated speedskating at the last two Olympics.
“I don’t believe that Mark Messer would let himself be duped into doing something with the ice,” van der Poel said. "But knowing that there is (a) guy trying to show him data to get in his head making decisions benefiting the Dutch skaters, that I find very provoking.”
Van der Poel stressed that he was not criticizing his Dutch rivals. He edged Patrick Roest of the Netherlands for the 5,000 gold medal.
“I have the biggest respect for the Dutch speed skaters.” van der Poel said. “I would not be the person I am today if it wasn’t thanks to those guys. They pushed me to push myself.”
Van der Poel said he is eager to see what action the International Olympic Committee and the International Skating Union might take.
In the meantime, his attention turns to the 10,000 on Friday, when van der Poel will be the favorite but is likely to get another strong challenge from the Dutch.
“This is an abomination,” van der Poel said. “I like it to be fair, to be just. I like it to be about sport and competing. I wish it not to be about affecting judges, affecting administrative personnel.
“When you do things like this, we really must question the authenticity of the results.”
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