Elvis Stojko

Elvis Stojko not a fan of new Olympic figure skating team event

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Elvis Stojko, the two-time Olympic silver medalist, is known for expressing strong opinions on the state of figure skating.

At the 2010 Games, Stojko wrote that Evan Lysacek‘s performance was not “Olympic champion material” in a column titled, “The night they killed figure skating.” The retired Canadian lamented the absence of a quadruple jump in Lysacek’s arsenal.

The quad is now more prevalent in men’s skating, but all is still not right. Stojko is unimpressed with the new figure skating event for the Sochi Olympics — the team competition.

The team event will begin the night before the opening ceremony (Thursday, Feb. 6) and wrap up two nights after the cauldron is lit (Sunday, Feb. 9).

Each nation entered will have men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance skaters perform one short program and one free skate each (total of eight). The event will include 10 nations with a cut down to five after the short programs. The highest cumulative scores will determine the medals.

Two skaters (or two couples or one skater and one couple) may be subbed out after the short program. For example, the U.S. could enter Ashley Wagner in the women’s short and Gracie Gold in the women’s free skate, granted Wagner and Gold make the Olympic team in singles.

Stojko wasn’t fully familiar with the particulars of the event but, upon being told details, didn’t like the premise.

“I don’t know if that’s such a great thing,” he said at the opening The Rink at Rockefeller Center in New York on Monday. “It makes for audience, one way it can work. But for skaters, to be able to do another competition right before the Olympics, if they’re trying to get trained, it’s great. If they’re at their peak, it might be tough. The ones that will be able to balance it out, they might not push very hard because they’re going to save it for the next week because that takes a lot out of you, for sure, to be able to be at that level, and then have to do it right before the Olympics, right before their actual competition.

“It’ll be tough. I don’t know if it’s such a great choice if they want to have good skating for the actual (individual) events.”

Stojko, 41, said he probably wouldn’t have done the team event if it was part of the Olympic program when he competed in 1992, 1994, 1998 and 2002.

“Because I would be so focused on my individual stuff,” he said. “It’d be really tough. If I was not in medal contention for Olympics in solo, then maybe I would consider it, but still then it would be really tough. It’s really hard for us to do the technical stuff we’re doing to do it once and then do it again like a week later.

“Year after year, we know our schedule, and then, all of a sudden, they’re like, ‘OK, we’re doing a team event this year.’ It’s kind of tough. I’d still probably veer away from it.”

The coach for Germany’s top pairs team agrees with Stojko. Ingo Steuer said four-time world champions Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy will not take part in the team event.

The pairs short program is three nights after the pairs free skate in the team event.

“It is too close to our own competition,” Steuer said, according to icenetwork.com. “The gold medal in our individual event is more important to us. It is why we have been working so hard since 2010.”

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Vladimir Putin argues against tampered Sochi samples in latest doping denial

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. President Vladimir Putin says Russia will close its military base in Kyrgyzstan if the government of the Central Asian nation asks it to. Putin was speaking on Tuesday in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, as part of a Central Asian tour. (Alexei Nikolsky/Pool Photo via AP)
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In his latest denial of state-run doping, Vladimir Putin dismissed reports that tampering of Russian urine samples at the Sochi Olympics marked evidence of an organized doping program.

“Of course, and naturally enough, there is this issue of claims regarding scratches of some kind on some of the test samples,” the Russian president said Wednesday. “We do not understand what kind of evidence can we talk about because when we provided the test samples [to authorities] there were no complaints. If there was a problem with scratches of whatever kind, this should have been noted in the relevant reports, but there was nothing of this sort.

“In other words, these samples were stored somewhere, and we cannot be held responsible for the storage conditions.”

During the Sochi Olympics, doping samples of Russian athletes were opened and replaced with clean urine, according to a World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned independent report headed by Dr. Richard McLaren last year.

McLaren’s reports said that scratches and marks were found on the sample bottles upon further examination two years after the Winter Games, but the marks were not visible until microscopic examination. The samples were taken from a laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, where they were stored after the Sochi Winter Games.

McLaren’s reports said the conspiracy involved the Russian Sports Ministry, national anti-doping agency and the FSB intelligence service, the current version of the Soviet Union’s KGB.

Putin has denied a state-run doping system in Russia in the months since the McLaren reports. On Dec. 23, he said such a program was “absolutely impossible,” while also saying the nation has a doping problem “like any other country.”

“Let me say again, and we said it repeatedly, that Russia has never had, and I hope never will have, a state system supporting doping,” Putin said Wednesday. “On the contrary, Russia will only combat doping.”

While denying, Putin added that Russia needed to heed the McLaren reports’ findings, “despite the shortcomings in its work.”

“We must pay heed to its work and its results, and to WADA’s demands, because we need to acknowledge that there are established and identified cases of doping here, and this is a totally unacceptable situation,” Putin said. “What this means is that our existing anti-doping monitoring system has not worked effectively, and this is our fault, and is something we need to admit and address directly.”

WADA said later Wednesday it was encouraged by Putin admitting that Russia’s anti-doping system failed, calling it a sign of progress.

Putin noted that Russia is putting a new anti-doping system into place.

“I hope that we will no longer have any swindlers, who organize doping programs themselves and then flee abroad,” Putin said, intimating whistleblower Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, whose evidence of Sochi sample tampering was supported by the McLaren reports. “I hope that our independent specialists and foreign specialists will help us to develop a strict and effective anti-doping system.”

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Another Beijing Olympic medal stripped as total nears 50

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 12:  Viktoriya Tereshchuk of Ukraine riding Walk This Way competes during the Riding Show Jumping in the Women's Modern Pentathlon on Day 16 of the London 2012 Olympic Games on August 12, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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The tally of 2008 Olympic medals stripped moved closer to 50 after Ukraine modern pentathlete Victoria Tereshchuk lost her bronze for doping via retesting of her samples from the Beijing Games.

More than 80 athletes from the Beijing Olympics have been disqualified for doping, according to Olympic historians. More than 40 medals have been stripped.

Tereschchuk’s samples came back positive for the anabolic steroid turinabol, a common substance found in retesting that has led to stripped medals.

The fourth-place finisher in the 2008 Olympic modern pentathlon, Anastasiya Samusevich of Belarus, is in line to be upgraded to bronze.

The list of stripped 2008 Olympic medals is wide-ranging, in sports including cycling, track and field, weightlifting and wrestling. The athletes have primarily come from Russia and Eastern Europe.

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