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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.

Russian Olympic champion positive in Beijing retest, coach reportedly says

Anna Chicherova
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London Olympic high jump champion Anna Chicherova is one of many Russians among 31 athletes overall who tested positive in recent retests of Beijing Olympic samples, according to Russian news agency TASS.

TASS named nine 2008 Olympic medalists among 14 Russian athletes, citing a Russian TV report, including seven in track and field, with Chicherova being the superstar of the group.

“Three days ago, Anna received a notice that her doping sample from the Beijing Olympic tested positive after a re-check, and she called me,” Chicherova’s coach said, according to TASS. “So far, this is at the development stage and this has not yet been finally confirmed. But all are aware of this and are dealing with the issue.”

Last week, the International Olympic Committee said 31 unnamed athletes from 12 nations across six sports failed drug tests in retesting of 454 samples from 2008 using the latest drug-testing methods.

Chicherova, 33, took high jump gold at the London Games and bronze in Beijing. She is one of two track and field athletes to earn an individual-event medal at the last five World Championships and last two Olympics. The other is Usain Bolt.

Chicherova, who has had no previously widespread reported doping history, would be one of Russia’s top Olympic track and field medal hopes in Rio, should the ban on Russian track and field athletes competing be lifted before the Games.

Russia is expected to learn if it will be allowed to send a track and field team to Rio on June 17.

MORE: Russia track and field boss: ’50-60 percent’ chance of Olympics

Katie Zaferes completes U.S. Olympic triathlon team

Katie Zaferes, Gwen Jorgensen, Sarah True
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Katie Zaferes was announced Tuesday as the sixth and final member of the U.S. Olympic triathlon team seeking its first medal since 2004 and first gold medal in the sport’s 16-year Olympic history.

Zaferes, 26, was named to her first Olympic team 10 days after the final Olympic selection race in Yokohama, Japan.

Zaferes comfortably led the qualifying standings for the third and final U.S. Olympic women’s spot behind World champion Gwen Jorgensen and Sarah True, who qualified for Rio on Aug. 2.

USA Triathlon decided not to bypass Zaferes in discretionary selection for a less-accomplished triathlete that would be used as a domestique to improve Jorgensen and/or True’s medal chances in Rio.

Jorgensen, True and Zaferes are the only active U.S. women to make a World Triathlon Series podium, all having done so at least five times in the last two years.

Jorgensen won in Yokohama, with Zaferes placing sixth and True not competing.

The U.S. Olympic men’s triathlon team includes Greg BillingtonBen Kanute and Joe Maloy, all first-time Olympians who have never made a World Series podium.

MORE: Gwen Jorgensen returns to top of podium