Usain Bolt

Ato Boldon: Impact of Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell positive tests on Usain Bolt, others in track and field

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In the aftermath of one of the lowest days of track and field since the BALCO scandal, OlympicTalk editor Nick Zaccardi reached out to NBC Olympics track and field analyst Ato Boldon for his observations of what’s next after Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell‘s positive drug tests.

I had people asking me today, “How come Usain Bolt‘s not testing positive if all these other Jamaicans are?”

Wait a minute. They may run for the same country, but they’re not all sleeping in the same bed. Bolt and Powell obviously come from rival camps, Racers and MVP.

Bolt has never had anything remotely around him in either his junior or senior career indicating something like this. It’s not exactly fair to him to say, well, look at all these Jamaicans.

You can’t blame Bolt for something Powell does any more than you could have blamed Gay when Justin Gatlin tested positive in 2006.

I was in the sport at the time of BALCO, and I can name three or four guys who lined up with me on a weekly basis, who I considered my peers, who were very much involved in BALCO. Does that mean I was involved in BALCO? No.

I understand the doping questions are going to be asked of Bolt, and it’s unfortunate.

Another question I was asked, back when Veronica Campbell-Brown‘s positive test was revealed in June, was if I would be surprised by anybody failing a drug test in track and field anymore.

I said no, but it wasn’t because of Campbell-Brown’s case. Let me explain this. The fact is that the culture of track and field, especially right now, is that there are a ton of elite athletes who are scared to lose their legacy forever and lose their medals. They will not go into the steroid/human growth hormone area. They will not risk it.

However, they will take supplements. I took supplements every year of my career. It’s not a coincidence that Campbell-Brown, Powell and Gay, assuming this all comes out as stimulants, that they are all pushing the envelope of 30 or older. They’re trying to extend their careers a little bit.

What you’re seeing is people thinking this supplement is fine and are assured it’s not going to register a positive.

I pride myself on being clued into the sport, but I found out about the trainer for Powell and Sherone Simpson who was questioned in Italy with everybody else. And now reports say the hotel they were staying at has been raided.

The bottom line is people seek out these clubs and seek out these stars. It wasn’t always supplements when I worked out at UCLA back in the day. It was, “I have this new thing, and it’s going to help you train better, recover better.” There’s always something that somebody with a product is trying to pass off on elite athletes.

One change I’d like to see from all of this is a distinction to be made between supplements and stimulants and what we call “the hard stuff” — steroids and human growth hormone.

A lot of people are waking up today, seeing the headlines scream “Gay” and “Powell” and “positive.” The average fan thinks, oh, steroids.

On the Olympic testing level, if steroids or human growth hormone are a nine or a 10, what Powell took is in the four or five range.

Today, there are a lot of pro track and field athletes who are saying, “If I can’t be 100 percent sure this supplement won’t test positive down the road, I’m done. I’m not taking any supplements.”

Sixty percent of athletes are doing that today. The other 40 percent are trusting what they’ve been taking, with no issues, sticking to that script and not adding any new stuff. Now you’ve got a divide.

It’s a joke within the track and field community that civilians probably couldn’t pass a drug test because of what’s in their medicine cabinet. Now is the time to make a big distinction, to allow athletes to take certain supplements up to a certain category. Anything past that level, don’t ask for leniency.

As for punishments, I would be surprised to see any of Gay, Powell or Campbell-Brown get more than six months, certainly nowhere near the possible two years. Go away and atone for your sins this year. We’ll see them back next year, hoping the public and the sponsors forgive them and that they’ve learned the error of their ways.

Adidas suspends its sponsorship of Tyson Gay

Olympic pairs’ champs crush world record for world title; U.S. struggles

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Germans Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot added a world title to their Olympic gold with a world-record score, while U.S. pairs’ struggles continued with the Americans’ lowest-ever results at a world championships.

Savchenko and Massot broke the longest-standing record total in figure skating, extending their lead from Wednesday’s short program to win by 20.31 points over Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov.

“It was exactly the season that we wanted,” Massot said. “We reached our goal today.”

Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres took bronze, France’s second Olympic or world pairs medal in 86 years.

Full results are here.

Savchenko and Massot’s free skate — the first to eclipse 160 points under the current judging system — included a side-by-side triple Salchow-double toe loop-double toe loop combination and a throw triple flip and throw triple Salchow.

Their total score — 245.84 points — shattered 2014 Olympic champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov‘s record of 237.71 set at 2013 Skate America. Their winning margin also broke Volosozhar and Trankov’s record for an Olympics or world championships under the 14-year-old points system.

Savchenko earned her 11th world medal — tying the female record held by Norwegian singles legend Sonja Henie — and sixth world title — tying Soviet Alexander Zaitsev for second on the all-time pairs’ list, four behind Irina Rodnina.

This was the French-born Massot’s first world title. Savchenko’s previous five world titles came with now-retired Robin Szolkowy.

Savchenko is 34, a five-time Olympian and the oldest pairs’ gold medalist in Winter Olympic history. The logical question — will she continue competing next season?

“Think about tomorrow,” she said, with Massot adding, “Ask again next week.”

The two U.S. pairs finished 15th and 17th, which means the U.S. drops to one pairs’ spot for the 2019 Worlds, its fewest since 1957.

U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim dropped from 11th after the short program to 15th of 16 pairs after the free skate. Scimeca fell on their death spiral and a throw triple flip, looked distraught skating off the ice and tweeted 10 minutes later, “I’m sorry for losing us a spot” and “Bad day to have a bad day.”

The Knierims made the top 10 in their four previous world championships appearances with a best finish of seventh.

The other U.S. pair, 2000 World junior singles silver medalist Deanna Stellato and 2014 Olympian Nathan Bartholomay, were 17th in Wednesday’s short program, missing the cutoff for the free skate by one spot.

It’s the first time all U.S. pairs finished outside the top 11 at a worlds, granted worlds didn’t regularly have a field greater than 15 pairs before 1990.

It came on the heels of the U.S. having its smallest pairs’ contingent — one pair — at an Olympics since the first Winter Games in 1924. The Knierims were 15th in PyeongChang, marking the first time the U.S. sent a pair to an Olympics and put none in the top 10.

The last U.S. pairs’ medal at worlds came in 2002, making this the nation’s longest drought in any figure skating discipline. The last Olympic medal was in 1988.

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Nathan Chen hits short program, leads world championships

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That’s more like it, Nathan Chen.

After two disastrous Olympic short programs, Chen nailed his jumps at the world championships, taking the lead by 1.86 points over Russian Mikhail Kolyada in Milan on Thursday. American Vincent Zhou is third.

Full results are here.

“I learned a lot from the Olympics, and I used what I learned there heading into the short program in terms of where to place my mind, what to think about throughout the program,” Chen said. “It was great to have an opportunity to come back before the end of the season to try the short program again, sort of hope to redeem myself.”

Later Thursday, Germans Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot backed up their Olympic gold with a world title, shattering the longest-standing world record in figure skating with a record margin of victory. Full recap here.

In Saturday’s men’s free skate, Chen can become the youngest men’s world champion since Yevgeny Plushenko in 2001. Zhou can become the first man to make a senior world podium the year after winning a world junior title since Plushenko in 1998. The U.S. last put two men on a world podium in 1996 (Todd EldredgeRudy Galindo).

This week’s field lacks Yuzuru HanyuJavier Fernandez and Patrick Chan, who combined to win every Olympic and world title since 2011 but ended their seasons at the Olympics.

On Thursday, Chen hit a quadruple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, a quadruple flip and a triple Axel for 101.94 points (2.18 shy of his personal best). It was a reversal from PyeongChang, where Chen’s short programs began unraveling with that opening combination, and he scored 80.61 and 82.27 points.

Chen placed 17th in the Olympic short program and redeemed himself with the top free skate, moving up to fifth. He went into the Olympics as the only undefeated male skater for the season.

“That I was able to bounce back and have the long program that I did, because of that the whole Olympic experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be after the short program,” Chen said Thursday. “Being able to have that, I didn’t have any ghosts of the Olympics following me [to worlds].”

Zhou, the youngest of 37 men in the field at 17, landed a quad Lutz-triple toe loop combination and a quad flip, fist pumping at the end of his skate. He shattered his personal-best short program by 12.25 points. Zhou was sixth at the Olympics.

“I came here to skate a clean program, I did that, and being in the top three is icing on the cake,” Zhou said.

Two other medal favorites — Olympic silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan and two-time world bronze medalist Jin Boyang of China — struggled with jumps. Jin is fourth and Uno fifth.

Uno, competing with a reported ankle injury, performed a triple-double combination rather than the quad-triple he did in PyeongChang. Jin had a quad toe called under-rotated.

The third American, 2013 U.S. champion Max Aaron, is in 15th place. Aaron put his hand down on his opening quad Salchow and turned out of his triple Axel landing.

Key Free Skate Start Times (Saturday ET)
Max Aaron (USA) — 6:05 a.m.
Shoma Uno (JPN) — 8:21 a.m.
Jin Boyang (CHN) — 8:29 a.m.
Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 8:38 a.m.
Vincent Zhou (USA) — 8:47 a.m.
Nathan Chen (USA) — 8:55 a.m.

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