Thomas Bach

IOC president Thomas Bach in favor of doubling doping bans

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New International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach called a change from two- to four-year doping bans “a very important step forward” on Wednesday.

Bach also said the Sochi Olympics will be the most drug-tested Winter Games in history.

He was speaking at the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg.

Later this week, the World Anti-Doping Agency is expected to double the current serious doping violation ban from two years to four years. The new WADA code will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

Bach approves of four-year bans, partly because it means an athlete would be assured of missing an Olympics. That was not assured under the two-year ban.

“It adds to the deterring factor of the sanction because until now there was something in between, they could still come back at the next edition of the Games,” Bach said. “And some may even have calculated with this comeback and therefore it is a very important step forward.”

Bach said he once supported lifetime bans for a first offense, a move that has been ruled out because of human rights issues. Lawyers advised Bach that lifetime bans for first offenses wouldn’t be possible.

“It is a pity but you have to expect this,” Bach said.

For Sochi, the AP reported there will be 1,296 pre-competition drug tests and 2,453 total around the Games. There were 804 and 2,149 at the 2010 Olympics.

The IOC will spend “many millions” on drug testing during competition from Feb. 6-23.

“To be clear, to be very clear: These millions of dollars are not expenses,” Bach said, according to the AP. “They are an investment in the future of our sports.”

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How to watch U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 02: Ashley Wagner of the United States warms up before the Ladies Free Skate program on Day 6 of the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2016 at TD Garden on April 2, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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U.S. Figure Skating Championships coverage continues Saturday, live on NBC and streamed on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app, starting at 3 p.m. ET.

The pairs free skate, free dance and women’s free skate are scheduled in Kansas City.

The NBC Sports All-Access page will provide live scoring and more all week.

Pairs free skate, free dance
3-6 p.m. ET
STREAM LINK | PAIRS SKATE ORDER | DANCE SKATE ORDER

Women’s free skate
8-11 p.m. ET
STREAM LINKSKATE ORDER

In pairs, the first-year team of Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc leads Skate America silver medalists Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier by 3.96 points going into the free skate.

In dance, world silver medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani hold a 2.46-point lead over world bronze medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates after breaking the U.S. Championships short dance record.

Karen Chen, 17, is the surprise women’s leader after the short program. Three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner is third, and defending champion Gracie Gold is fifth. Wagner and Gold might not be able to afford mistakes in the free skate if they want to make the world championships team.

The U.S. will send two pairs, three dance couples and three women to worlds in Helsinki in two months. The team selections made this weekend will be based largely — but not wholly — off U.S. Championships results.

MORE: U.S. Figure Skating boss says Russia shouldn’t be in PyeongChang

Lindsey Vonn wins, cries in second race back from broken bones

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Lindsey Vonn was in tears. It’s easy to see why.

In her second race back after the most painful injury of her career, Vonn notched her 77th career World Cup victory, taking a downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Saturday morning.

Vonn screamed repeatedly after crossing the finish line and seeing she was .15 ahead of Swiss Lara Gut. She cried and then waited as skier after skier tried to beat her time. No one did. Full results are here.

Vonn called it the most emotional victory of those 77, according to the Austria Press Agency.

“I feel like, sometimes, I come back so quickly, everyone forgets how much time and energy and blood, sweat and tears it takes to come back without any training and jump in there,” Vonn said, adding to the BBC, “I just put it all on the line. I tried to risk more. I tried to really believe in myself. I did more than I expected.”

This month marked Vonn’s full return from two injuries — suffering three large fractures in her left knee in a Feb. 27 race crash and breaking her right upper arm in a Nov. 10 training crash. Vonn has said the latter was the most painful injury of her career, causing nerve damage that limited mobility of her right hand.

Vonn’s first race back was last Sunday — after less than two weeks of ski training — and she finished 13th in a downhill in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria. Her lack of training showed. A lack of aggressiveness and speed in turns.

“I honestly wasn’t sure after Zauchensee how long it would take me [to win],” she said. “I definitely struggled finding that confidence, but I did it today. I tried to have as much courage as I could and push myself to the limit. I think I still can ski a lot better, but I think this is more in the direction of what I used to do. So I’m getting back.”

Vonn has two primary goals left in her decorated career — to ski for gold in the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic downhill and to break the World Cup wins record of 86 held by Swede Ingemar Stenmark.

Vonn can go for win No. 78 in a super-G in Garmisch on Sunday, streamed on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app at 6 a.m. ET.

If Vonn stays healthy and continues to win at her normal pace, two big “ifs,” she will break Stenmark’s record next season.

“I still don’t have much training, so, super-G, I really don’t know what to expect,” Vonn said.

MORE: Vonn sets date on proposal to enter men’s race