Benjamin Raich

Alpine skiing injuries, retirements pile up

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The Alpine skiing World Cup season doesn’t start for more than a month, but several notables are already sidelined.

Start with Austrian Benjamin Raich, the four-time Olympic medalist from 2002 and 2006. Raich, 35, is attempting to make his fourth Olympic team in 2014. He’ll have to come back from a motorbike accident to do so.

Raich’s 175-pound bike landed on his right leg in an early August crash, tearing a muscle in his thigh, according to The Associated Press. He didn’t join the Austrian team for preseason training in Chile, a decision he said was made before the accident.

Raich, the overall World Cup winner in 2006, said he considered retiring and that the Sochi Olympics will be his last, should he make the team.

Austria, long an Alpine power, is home to the world’s best slalom skier, Marcel Hirscher, and medal threats in speed events Klaus Kroell and Hannes Reichelt. But its depth is not too much that Raich couldn’t make it at his advanced age, if fully recovered.

Raich’s longtime girlfriend is three-time Olympic medalist Marlies Schild, not to be confused with Martina Schild, who announced her retirement this week.

Martina, 31, won silver in the 2006 Olympic downhill but had not made the podium in a World Cup or a World Championship race since before the 2010 Olympics. She missed all of last season with a back injury, the same pain forcing her retirement.

“Mentally, I’m no longer ready to push myself to the limit,” she said, according to the Swiss Ski Federation.

Canada’s Kelly VanderBeek, 29 and fourth in the 2006 Olympic super-G, also retired, citing knee problems stemming from tearing her MCL and PCL in a December 2009 crash.

France’s Marion Rolland, the reigning downhill world champion, was set to have an MRI this week after injuring her right knee in a training fall in Chile on Sunday. Rolland, 30, had surgery on her right knee in 2007 and 2010.

Though Rolland won the world title, she may not be among the biggest threats to reigning Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn in Sochi. Rolland has never finished better than sixth in the World Cup downhill standings, a better indicator of Olympic prospects than the World Championships.

Finally, there’s Swede Jens Byggmark, the 2011 World Championships silver medalist in the slalom. Byggmark tore knee ligaments in a training fall earlier this month and announced he would miss the Olympics. The 28-year-old’s best World Cup season came six years ago, but he was top 10 in the slalom the last two years.

Rent out Bode Miller’s house

U.S. Olympic tennis player refuses to answer meldonium questions

Varvara Lepchenko
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Varvara Lepchenko, a 2012 U.S. Olympic tennis player, reportedly refused comment eight times Tuesday on a report that she tested positive for meldonium earlier this year.

“At the moment I have no comment on any of this,” Lepchenko said after losing her first-round match at the French Open, according to multiple reports. “I’m here just to answer tennis questions. If you have any questions about my match, I would gladly answer them, but otherwise, I just have no comments.”

Lepchenko, a 30-year-old who lived in Uzbekistan until 2001, was found to have meldonium at about the same time as Russian Maria Sharapova, a physiotherapist who worked with Sharapova said, according to Russia’s Sports-Express last week.

Sharapova announced on March 7 that she tested positive for meldonium in January.

Lepchenko didn’t play on the WTA Tour from late February until early May, withdrawing before the BNP Paribas Open in March with a left knee injury and the Sony Open two weeks later with a right knee injury, according to the WTA.

The World Anti-Doping Agency relaxed meldonium punishments in April, allowing bans to be lifted. Sharapova’s ban has not been lifted.

Lepchenko, who lost in the second round at London 2012, is ranked No. 64 in the world and will not qualify for the Rio Olympics.

MORE: Djokovic calls for rankings points at ‘arguably the fifth Grand Slam’

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 eight medalists 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.

“The Ministry of Sport is extremely disappointed to hear the speculation that Russian athletes are among those found to have violated anti-doping rules at the 2008 Beijing Olympics after re-testing their samples,” the Russian Ministry of Sport said in a statement through Burson-Marsteller public relations firm. “Any athletes found cheating should face corresponding sanctions.

“We have taken numerous steps to eradicate the issue of doping, and understand that the roots of the problem, particularly in athletics, go back to the past.”

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