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Metro skater weighs in on Russia's Olympics ban

Posted: 7:31 PM, Dec 05, 2017
Updated: 2017-12-05 23:42:16-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Following the announcement on Tuesday that Russia will be banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, a former Olympic alternate from the metro said the decision sent a strong message.

John Coughlin served as an alternate on the United States figure skating pairs team for the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia.

The honor came after years of training and hard work.

"I grew up on the ice as far back as I can remember," he explained. "Growing up in Kansas City, I was skating a lot of times at six o'clock in the morning on the ice."

Coughlin went on to win both the 2011 and 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships before being named as an Olympic alternate.

During his time practicing at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Coughlin had to adhere to a strict anti-drug policy and unscheduled tests.

"There were times I would get a knock on the door at six o'clock in the morning and they'd wake us up to administer that test," he told 41 Action News. "It has to be that clean aspect for us to appreciate what people are going through." 

After learning of the ban against Russia due to doping allegations, Coughlin said he supported the decision.

"Personally, I respect the IOC's (International Olympic Committee) decision," he explained. "The Olympics has a purity to it and that's what we want to protect."

News of the ban brought surprise to winter sports athletes and coaches on Tuesday.

At the Kansas City Ice Center in Shawnee, 15-year-old figure skater Sophie Semaan spoke to 41 Action News about how she has learned the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs.

"I just know it's kind of at the high levels," she said. "It's something bad." 

Her coach, Carrie Greene, said she makes a point to tell athletes about the importance of healthy lifestyles.

"The one thing we want is for our athletes to train in a healthy environment. We want them to have good nutrition, we want them to have balanced lifestyles," she explained. "We stress good nutrition, proper sleep, proper technique, proper warmup, proper cool down." 

As for the Russian ban announcement on Tuesday, John Coughlin said it would have a positive impact on the 2018 games.

"Having that level playing field is integral to the entire Olympic ideal," he explained. "That's why today was important." 

Despite the ban, Russian athletes will still be able to compete in neutral uniforms at the 2018 games.

However, government leaders will be barred from attending, the country flag will not be flown at the opening ceremony, and the anthem will not play the games.