Usain Bolt

Usain Bolt lacking competition in 200-meter final Saturday; preview

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Usain Bolt dropped a starting block on his foot this week, but it’s going to take plenty more than that to worry him in the 200-meter final Saturday.

Bolt, aiming for triple gold at the World Championships, won his first round and semifinal of the 200 meters in Luzhniki Stadium on Friday. The Jamaican is a huge favorite to take his third straight world title in the 200 on Saturday (12:05 p.m. Eastern Time, NBC).

“My foot is feeling better,” Bolt told Reuters. “It was sore, but we’ve been working on it for four days.”

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Bolt has been more dominant in the 200 than the 100 during his illustrious career. He hasn’t lost the event at an Olympics or worlds since taking silver behind Tyson Gay at the 2007 World Championships when he was 21 years old.

The only time a competitor at an Olympics or worlds final lost by less than three tenths of a second since came in London, where Yohan Blake won silver .12 of a second behind Bolt.

This year’s final is missing the Olympic silver medalist Blake and reigning world silver and bronze medalists Walter Dix and Christophe Lemaitre, all due to injuries. U.S. champion Tyson Gay is also absent after failing drug tests, and Justin Gatlin, the silver medalist in the 100 in Moscow, isn’t running the 200.

Bolt was given a copy of the famous lightning bolt photo from Sunday’s 100-meter final by the BBC after winning his semifinal in 20.12.

“This is my 200 meters, means the world to me, so I’m ready to go,” Bolt told NBC Sports reporter Lewis Johnson on Universal Sports.

That leaves Jamaican Warren Weir, who won bronze in London, as the silver medal favorite. Weir is the third fastest man this year behind Bolt and Gay at 19.79 seconds, though he was beaten by American Curtis Mitchell in his semifinal.

“I delivered when I needed to,” Mitchell, who ran a personal best 19.97, told Johnson on Universal Sports. “Right now I’m going to build off this and hopefully carry the U.S. in the 200 meters the next six or seven years.”

Mitchell is in the medal discussion, but it could be a Jamaican sweep with Bolt, Weir and Nickel Ashmeade. Also watch South African Anaso Jobodwana, 21, who was .01 behind Bolt in their semifinal with a personal best 20.13. Brit Adam Gemili, 19, ran back-to-back personal bests in the first round and the semifinals.

If Bolt wins a medal of any color in the 200, he will pass Michael Johnson for the second most career medals by a man at the World Championships with nine. If he wins another medal in the 4×100 relay Sunday, he will match Carl Lewis for the most. If he wins gold in both events, he will also tie Lewis for the most golds won by a man with eight.

Final Field
1. Curtis Mitchell (USA) 19.97
2. Adam Gemili (GBR) 19.98
3. Nickel Ashmeade (JAM) 20.00
4. Usain Bolt (JAM) 20.12
5. Anaso Jobodwana (RSA) 20.13
5. Churandy Martina (NED) 20.13
7. Warren Weir (JAM) 20.20
8. Jaysuma Saidy Ndure (NOR) 20.33

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Russian skeleton stars banned from World Cups

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The two Russians who had their medals from the Sochi Olympics stripped because of doping have been barred from competing in World Cup races, at least temporarily.

It’s the latest sanction against Alexander Tretiyakov and Elena Nikitina, who had their medals — gold for Tretiyakov, bronze for Nikitina — taken away Wednesday after it was determined they were part of Russia’s state-sponsored doping program for Sochi.

They have already been banned from future Olympics and now may have no place to slide.

The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation handed down the suspensions Thursday, effective immediately.

Tretiyakov and Nikitina were both planning to compete in World Cup races at Whistler, B.C., this weekend.

In all, four Russians have been suspended by the IBSF.

Along with Tretiyakov and Nikitina, Maria Orlova and Olga Potylitsyna — who have been racing on the lesser-tier Intercontinental Cup Circuit this season — were also banned, just as they were by the IOC.

All four are expected to appeal, and the IBSF said they will be entitled to a hearing if that happens.

“Sport is all about who’s the best on that day and if anything compromises that, like the situations in Sochi, it taints everything and kind of undermines the fundamental belief in the system and the competition itself,” said USA Bobsled and Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele, also is a vice president with the IBSF. “This is kind of righting the ship.”

The IBSF’s decision is a strong one and is in stark contrast to one made by the International Ski Federation (FIS), which is allowing Russian cross-country skiers found guilty of doping in Sochi to compete in World Cup events this weekend.

FIS wants to see detailed reasons why the IOC disciplinary panel reached its decisions about the Russian athletes.

The IBSF isn’t waiting.

“I understand that it was a difference of culture and that the Russians don’t believe they did anything wrong,” U.S. skeleton veteran Katie Uhlaender said after the IOC decision to strip the medals and issue the Olympic bans was announced Wednesday. “But this was the only way to fix it.”

Uhlaender should be promoted to the bronze medal spot once Nikitina, as the IOC has ordered, surrenders what had been her bronze from Sochi.

Tretiyakov was the men’s gold medalist; the revised results for that event would have Latvia’s Martins Dukurs getting gold, Matt Antoine of the U.S. bumped up to silver and Latvia’s Tomass Dukurs, Martins’ brother, taking bronze.

Uhlaender, originally fourth, would be third behind gold medalist Lizzy Yarnold of Britain and silver medalist Noelle Pikus-Pace of the U.S.

Sliders lauded the IOC for doing the right thing, though noted that racers like Uhlaender and Tomass Dukurs — even once they have medals in hand — will never be able to replicate the moment on a podium that they should have had in Sochi.

“Having the physical medal’s cool, but most of it in my opinion is the experience of everything that happens,” Antoine said. “That’s what you cherish the most.”

Not having the top Russians on the World Cup circuit figures to have a major impact on the points standings.

Nikitina leads after the first two races of the season, including a win last weekend in Park City, Utah.

Tretiyakov is fourth in the men’s standings, including a bronze at the season opener in Lake Placid, N.Y.

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Russian skiers banned from Olympics allowed to race World Cup opener

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GENEVA (AP) — Russian cross-country skiers found guilty of doping at the Sochi Olympics can compete in World Cup races this weekend because the International Ski Federation (FIS) has been unable to prosecute its own cases in time.

Six Russians, including two Sochi medalists, were retroactively disqualified from the Winter Games this month and banned from the Olympics for life by the IOC.

FIS previously blocked all six from competing with interim suspensions, but those expired on Oct. 31. The International Olympic Committee judging panel then reached its verdicts this month.

However, FIS said Thursday that its own judicial body lacks key IOC documents to process cases.

“Consequently, the FIS Doping Panel is obliged to wait until the IOC Disciplinary Commission reasoned decisions are submitted with details of the evidence relied on,” said the governing body, which is responsible for imposing competition bans.

“As a consequence the active athletes are eligible to compete in FIS including World Cup competitions for the time being,” FIS said.

The World Cup season for men and women begins Friday in Ruka, Finland, with sprint and long-distance racing.

Organizers had not published starting lists Thursday for the three-day meeting and it was unclear which of the six intend to start.

Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin both won multiple medals in Sochi but were stripped by the IOC. The others suspended by the IOC were Evgeny Belov, Alexei Petukhov, Yulia Ivanova and Evgenia Shapovalova.

FIS said rules governed by the World Anti-Doping Agency meant it could not re-impose interim bans without “a specific allegation” plus evidence.

Attempting to assure cross-country skiers they will not be competing against doped rivals, FIS said an additional and independent testing program for Russians has been in operation since June and has taken about 250 blood and urine samples.

The three-man IOC disciplinary panel — chaired by Denis Oswald, a Swiss lawyer and member of the Olympic body’s executive board — has not issued detailed reasons for judgments in 10 cases from Sochi so far completed in cross-country skiing and skeleton.

Without positive doping tests, the panel used evidence of state-backed cover-ups and tampering of sample bottles in the Sochi laboratory first gathered last year by WADA investigator Richard McLaren.

At least 18 more Russian athletes are having their cases prosecuted in an ongoing series of hearings in Lausanne, Switzerland.

On Wednesday, the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation said it would update “within the next days” action against four Russians, including the Sochi gold medalist Alexander Tretiyakov and bronze medalist Elena Nikitina.

Nikitina won a skeleton World Cup race last weekend in Park City, Utah — a result which may soon be overturned by the IBSF.

All the Russian athletes disqualified by the IOC can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

On Dec. 5, IOC President Thomas Bach will announce after a board meeting if the Russian team will be banned from the Olympics, which open Feb. 9 in PyeongChang.

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