Rumble on the Rails

Wrestling’s chances of 2020, 2024 Olympic inclusion

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The International Olympic Committee will make the second of three major votes at its session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Sunday.

Nearly 100 IOC members will choose one of three sports — baseball/softball, squash and wrestling — for inclusion in the 2020 and 2024 Olympics from 11-11:45 a.m. Eastern time. For more on what happens Sunday, click here.

OlympicTalk will look at each sport’s pitch. Here is a rundown of wrestling:

Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs gets one question more than any other from young, impressionable wrestlers.

Will wrestling be back in the Olympics?

The definitive answer is about to come down, seven months after wrestling was recommended to be dropped from the Games. Burroughs, 25, fought hard to capture gold in London, winning four matches in one day. He joined a different fight on Feb. 12, when he saw a BBC World News report of wrestling’s axing in a hotel near a German airport where he had a layover en route to Iran for a competition.

“I spent a bunch of time after the Olympic Games telling kids around the nation that if they dream, if they work hard and sacrifice, they can be an Olympic champion as well,” he said in a phone interview. “(After Feb. 12), I told everyone to stay optimistic, continue to work hard. The big picture is, regardless of whether the Olympics continue to keep wrestling or not, it’s still a really great sport.”

Wrestling has long been at the heart at the Olympic movement, which is what made February’s news so shocking. Some thought modern pentathlon would have been dropped. Instead, the IOC executive board tapped a sport that dates to the ancient Olympics and has been part of the Olympic program at every modern Games except 1900.

Squash’s chances at Olympic inclusion

Wrestling’s leaders knew all hope was not lost. In May, the IOC would pick three sports as finalists to fill the opening. In September, it would choose the replacement. Wrestling was eligible to try to get its spot back without missing any Games.

Since February, its international federation (FILA) made sweeping changes and campaigned vigorously. “Keep Olympic Wrestling” and “Save Olympic Wrestling” became mottos at special events where the U.S. and wrestling powers Iran and Russia united.

Swiss Raphael Martinetti resigned as FILA president in February. Nenad Lalovic of Serbia came in and brought the sport to where it is today, a favorite to stay in the Games. The Associated Press dubbed its chances “a virtual lock” to beat baseball-softball and squash.

What could hold wrestling back? Voters may want fresh blood in the Games, or they may not want to reverse February’s decision.

Lalovic, described as a chain smoker, burly and charismatic by media, was asked to rate his confidence level this week.

“Confidence, that’s a hard word,” he said in a phone interview. “Anyway, I’m optimistic, keeping in mind we’ve done everything possible for our sport, for this sport, in six months.”

Madrid’s chances of hosting 2020 Olympics

The changes included a move toward gender equality, recommended by the IOC. It added two weight classes to women’s freestyle, cutting one men’s freestyle and one men’s Greco-Roman class. That makes six classes each for the three disciplines. The scoring system and rules were also simplified.

Retired Olympic wrestlers joined Hollywood celebrities and stars from other spots in supporting the cause. Like 2000 Olympic champion Rulon Gardner, whose work included an appearance with 2008 Olympic champion Henry Cejudo on “The Tonight Show” with wrestling supporter Jay Leno in March.

Istanbul’s chances of hosting 2020 Olympics

Gardner said this week he had zero confidence going into the vote, not that he thinks wrestling will lose but because he’s staying cautious.

“I don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “I know some people are like, ‘Oh yeah, no problem, we’re in.’ Uh-uh.”

Burroughs’ immediate plans won’t change after he sees the IOC decision Sunday. He’ll return to the mat in preparation for another transatlantic flight next week. Destination Budapest, Hungary, for the World Championships.

“I’ll be watching very closely,” Burroughs said. “I know all the wrestling fans will be posted by their computers, by their laptops, waiting for the decision to be made.”

Key information for IOC session in Buenos Aires

Number of Russian athletes banned from Olympics reaches 86

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27:  Maria Sharapova of the Russia Olympic tennis team carries her country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
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MOSCOW (AP) — At least 86 athletes from the 387-strong Russian Olympic team announced last week have so far been barred from the Rio Games in connection with the country’s doping scandal.

International federations in canoeing, sailing and modern pentathlon ruled out eight on Tuesday, including an Olympic gold medalist, following earlier rulings in swimming and rowing. Some appeals are likely.

Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian media that Putin had discussed the doping issue with his national security council.

“The topic of the recent International Olympic Committee ruling relating to Russian athletes was raised ahead of Putin’s planned meeting tomorrow with the Russian Olympic team,” Peskov was quoted as saying.

The vast majority of the Russian athletes who miss out are in track and field, where 67 athletes were ruled out when a ban on the Russian team was upheld at the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week.

More are falling foul of new rules imposed in the wake of the country’s doping scandal.

While Russia avoided a blanket ban from the International Olympic Committee, it has lost several medal contenders to new IOC rules imposed Sunday banning Russia from entering athletes who previously doped.

Alexander Dyachenko, an Olympic champion in 2012, was among five canoeists ruled out after being named in a recent report by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren alleging a state-sponsored doping cover-up.

McLaren’s report last week specifically detailed how Russian state officials allegedly intervened to cover up hundreds of failed drug tests.

Dyachenko won gold in the men’s double kayak 200 meters at the 2012 London Games.

“The ICF will continue its strong zero-tolerance stance and remove all athletes that contravene its rules in anyway,” said Simon Toulson, the International Canoe Federation’s general secretary. “If you step out of line you won’t make the start line.”

The four other banned canoeists are Alexei Korovashkov – a 2012 bronze medalist in the C2 1,000 meters event – Andrei Kraitor, Elena Anyushina and Nataliya Podolskaya.

The ICF also said that Russia would not be allowed to enter boats in four events in which the excluded athletes would have raced. Therefore, Austria, Germany, Sweden and Iran are in line to receive their places.

World Sailing said Pavel Sozykin, who had been due to race in the 470 class, would be excluded because he was mentioned in the McLaren report. Russia’s other six sailors were approved and Russia is able to nominate a replacement for Sozykin, the federation said.

Meanwhile, the International Modern Pentathlon Union named the two Russians it had suspended as Maxim Kustov and Ilya Frolov, saying they both featured in the McLaren report. Kustov’s place in the men’s event passes to a Latvian athlete, while Frolov had only been entered for Rio as a reserve.

Three Russian rowers have also been excluded. Ivan Podshivalov and Anastasia Karabelshchikova were excluded because they previously served doping bans, while Ivan Balandin from Russia’s men’s eight was implicated in the McLaren report, World Rowing said.

Meanwhile, volleyball player Alexander Markin told local media he had been dropped due to a positive test earlier this year for the banned substance meldonium, even though he had not been banned. The international volleyball federation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The head of the Russian Wrestling Federation told the R-Sport agency that two-time world champion Viktor Lebedev was ineligible because he was given a doping ban in 2006.

On Monday, swimming’s world governing body FINA ruled out seven Russians including reigning world 100m breaststroke champion Yulia Efimova.

Legal challenges are looming.

Efimova’s agent has said he is preparing an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and the Russian Canoe Federation’s general secretary Irina Sirayeva said that the five banned athletes could follow suit.

“The intention to defend the athletes is there,” she told R-Sport.

Triple jumper Ekaterina Koneva – a former world championship silver medalist – told local media she was considering a lawsuit in civil court.

There was good news for Russia as its judo and shooting teams – comprised 11 and 18 athletes respectively – received approval to compete from their sports’ international governing bodies.

Also, Russia also looks set to field a full team of four players in Olympic badminton, the Russian Badminton Federation said Tuesday, citing assurances from the Badminton World Federation.

Previously, archery, tennis and equestrian sport’s world governing bodies said they had no objection to the Russians entered in their sports.

Lists of Russian athletes approved by international federations must still be approved by CAS arbiters who can reject athletes not tested outside Russia.

The IOC refused to accept testing done by Russian agencies because of evidence that the process was corrupted.

MORE: Yulia Efimova among Russian swimmers barred from Olympics

Sanya Richards-Ross, Trey Hardee join NBC’s Olympic track and field coverage

Hardee Richards Ross
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NBC has added a couple decorated Olympians to its coverage of the Rio Games, with the Opening Ceremony a little more than a week away on Friday, Aug. 5.

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross and 2012 Olympic decathlon silver medalist Trey Hardee are set to join NBC Olympics’ coverage of track and field. Both served as guest analysts for the NBC Sports Group’s coverage the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials earlier this month.

“We’re thrilled to bring the expertise of Sanya and Trey to our track and field coverage, where they will take viewers inside the sport and provide specific details and insights about the athletes,” said Jim Bell, Executive Producer, NBC Olympics.

Richards-Ross retired July 1 after injuring her hamstring during a 400m preliminary heat at Trials. She was attempting to make her fourth Olympic team after winning two gold medals at the London Games – her first individual gold in the 400m, and her third Olympic gold in the 4x400m relay. She has the most sub-50 second 400m races in history.

Hardee collected the decathlon silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, finishing behind compatriot Ashton Eaton to mark the first time Americans had finished 1-2 in the event at the Olympics since 1956. Hardee also won world titles in 2009 and 2011, and his score of 8,790 set at the 2009 Worlds ranks behind only Eaton, Dan O’ Brien and Bryan Clay in American history.

Leading NBC’s track and field coverage will again be Tom Hammond for the seventh consecutive Olympics. Ato Boldon returns as an analyst in his fourth Olympic assignment, and Lewis Johnson will be the track and field reporter in his ninth assignment with NBC Olympics.

Kenny Albert will handle play-by-play duties for track events on NBCSN, while Todd Harris will perform play-by-play for field events.

Craig Masback is set to provide analysis on the men’s marathon and distance races, with Tim Hutchings assisting with analysis on the marathons.

Track and field competition at the Rio Games begins Aug. 12.

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