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NHL and IOC still talking, schedule becoming an issue

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An announcement from NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman about whether players will be able to participate in the Sochi Games was expected sometime this month, but May is drawing to a close with no word yet from the league.

Now Bettman’s top deputy Bill Daly is saying that talks are still ongoing between the NHL, NHLPA, IOC, and IIHF over everything from media rights to accommodations. And if things drag too long, it will eventually become a problem of scheduling.

“We need to know what we’re doing with the Olympics next year to issue our schedule,” Daly said. “It’s important that we make a decision one way or the other by the time we normally release our schedule.”

The NHL schedule is usually released in June. But with new division alignments and an unbalanced schedule coming next year, the significant changes will be more difficult to incorporate.

Word about Sochi was supposed to come last week, after the IIHF Worlds, and Daly has previously said that the league was “proceeding under the assumption that the NHL will participate.” But talks are taking longer than expected, and the new major issue is which body will pay to insure the players.

“There is obviously a risk involved when you bring over a projected 160-180 NHL players, where the total contract value would be around $3 billion,” Daly said earlier this month. “This is a risk which must be insured, especially in cases of season-ending or career-ending injuries.”

The NHL is expected to break for a little more than two weeks starting Feb. 8. Players will then fly charters to Sochi in time for a practice day before the tournament begins on Feb. 12, and then NHL games would be scheduled to resume on Feb. 25, two days after the gold medal game in Russia.

Chris Froome eyes Tour-Olympic double; cyclists face quick turnaround for Rio

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 24:  Chris Froome of Great Britain and Team Sky (C) celebrates finishing first, Romain Bardet of France and AG2R La Mondial Team (L) celebrates finising second and Nairo Quintana of Colombia and Movistar Team (R) celebrates finishing third as they stand on the podium following stage twenty one of the 2016 Le Tour de France, from Chantilly to Paris Champs-Elysees on July 24, 2016 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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PARIS (AP) — Chris Froome didn’t indulge in big celebrations on the Champs Elysees. After securing a third Tour de France title in four years on Sunday, the Kenyan-born British rider turned his focus to the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

He finished safely at the back of the main pack in the final stage, arm-in-arm with his teammates during the mostly ceremonial leg ending on the cobblestones below the Arc de Triomphe.

At the start of the stage, Froome dropped back to his Team Sky car to collect bottles of beer and distributed them to each of his eight teammates for a celebratory round. Later, they enjoyed the traditional flute of champagne.

But then it was time to look ahead. Froome, a bronze Olympic medalist in the time trial four years ago in London, will once again be among the favorites in the race against the clock in Brazil.

Froome even beat specialist Tom Dumoulin in his favorite discipline in Thursday’s second time trial.

“I think it’s a course (in Rio) that suits me well, there’s almost a thousand meters of climbing and it’s almost 60 kilometers in length,” said Froome, who will also compete in the road race in Rio. “It’s going to be an extremely tough event. I won a bronze medal in the last Olympics in London and it would be absolutely incredible to win another one this year.”

The 54.5-kilometer (34-mile) men’s time trial in Rio, which features four climbs, is on Aug. 10.

Froome traveled to Rio during the winter to preview the Olympic circuit and has changed his preparations this year to maintain peak form until the games.

Four years ago, Froome’s former teammate Bradley Wiggins managed to secure a Tour-Olympics double, triumphing in the London 2012 Games’ time trial ahead of German Tony Martin and Froome after posting the first British win at the Tour in July.

Froome’s hopes of victory in Rio have been boosted by Dumoulin’s injury at the Tour on Friday. The Dutchman pulled out of the Tour after fracturing his wrist and might not recover in time for the Olympics.

Martin also was injured in France, but he says he will be in Rio. He experienced knee pain and pulled out of during stage 21.

“I left directly after the stage,” he said on his Facebook page. “That was not because of my exit from the race, but had been planned all along with an eye to Rio and my further preparation.”

Nairo Quintana of Colombia, however, is expected to miss the Olympics with an illness picked up at the Tour, according to Cycling Weekly. The 26-year-old finished third overall behind Frenchman Romain Bardet in second and Froome in first. Quintana will undergo tests with an eye on returning for the Vuelta a España later in August.

Froome said he will take some days off to recover before competing in a one-day race in London next weekend.

Then it’s off to Rio.

“We’ll be there about a week before the race to start training a bit more again,” Froome said.

Yulia Efimova among Russian swimmers barred from Olympics by FINA

Yulia Efimova
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Seven Russian swimmers, including its most decorated active swimmer, are ineligible for the Rio Olympics, the sport’s international governing body said Monday.

FINA ruled out of Rio reigning world 100m breaststroke champion Yulia Efimova, plus Olympic or world championships medalists Vladimir Morozov, Nikita Lobintsev and Daria Ustinova.

Efimova, who has previously served a doping ban, was ruled out after the International Olympic Committee mandated Sunday that any Russian who has previously served a doping ban is ineligible for Rio.

Efimova’s agent said she would take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if she’s ruled out of Rio, according to Russian media.

Efimova ranks No. 2 in the world this year in the 100m breast, behind U.S. Olympic Trials winner Lilly King, and No. 2 in the 200m breast, behind Japan’s Rie Kaneto. Efimova took 200m breast bronze at the 2012 London Olympics.

Morozov, Lobintsev and Ustinova were barred by FINA for corresponding to doping samples mentioned in an independent report into Russian doping published last week.

MORE: Five Russian track and field stars set to miss Rio Olympics