Kovtun beats Plushenko at Russian Nationals

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As whispers circled around the figure skating world that Yevgeny Plushenko might not make the trip to Sochi for the Olympic Games, the Russian veteran did not help his case with a second-place finish to teenager Maksim Kovtun at the Russian National Championships.

Plushenko had a five-point lead after the short program, but was tight in his free skate, losing it to the 18-year-old Kovtun who outscored the three-time Olympic medalist by 17 points in the technical marks.

Plushenko had told members of the media earlier that he planned to skate only the new team event at the Sochi Games in February and not the men’s singles event, in which Russia has just one spot. But officials said Plushenko may have been incorrect in thinking that two different Russian men can skate those events because of the single allotment at the Games.

PHOTOS: Russia’s top skaters

Kovtun won with a 267.13 overall to Plushenko’s 261.37. The members of the team are not formally announced until after the European Championships, Jan. 14-19.

Adelina Sotnikova won her fourth national title at the age of 17, edging out 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya.

Like in the men’s competition, it was Lipnitskaya who led after the short program, but Sotnikova was more solid in the free skate. Both ladies will compete at the European Championships and look to be the skaters who will represent the host nation come Sochi in the two spots its earned in the ladies singles.

Anna Leonova (fifth), Anna Pogorilaya (eighth) and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (10th) were seen as Olympic hopefuls, but their Nationals performances by and large knock them out of the Olympic conversation.

Reigning world champions Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov sat out the pairs competition, in which Trankov served as a commentator for.

Ksenia Stolbova and Fyodor Klimov won by less than a half point over Vera Bazarova and Yuri Lariyonov. All three teams should make the trip to Euros and the Olympics.

In ice dancing, Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev won by a 10-point margin over Yelena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov.

WADA investigates report that 10,000 Chinese athletes doped

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BERLIN (AP) — The World Anti-Doping Agency is looking into allegations made by a German broadcaster that Chinese athletes benefited from systematic doping in the 1980s and 90s.

“The allegations were brought forward by former Chinese physician, Xue Yinxian, who is said to have looked after several national teams in China during the decades in question,” WADA said Monday.

Xue, who recently arrived in Germany and is seeking political asylum with her son, told broadcaster ARD that more than 10,000 athletes were affected, some as young as 11, and that anyone who was against doping was considered “a danger to the country. And anyone who endangered the country is now in prison.”

The 79-year-old Xue said she lost her job with the national gymnastics team after refusing to treat an athlete with doping substances before the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

She said she had not felt safe in her home city of Beijing since 2012, when she first made her allegations of doping. She first started working with China’s national teams in the 1970s.

“In the 1980s and ’90s, Chinese athletes on the national teams made extensive use of doping substances,” she told ARD. “Medals were showered in doping. Gold, silver and bronze. All international medals should be withdrawn.”

WADA said it will examine “whether such a system may have prevailed beyond these decades.”

The first step, WADA said, was for its “independent intelligence and investigations team to initiate an investigative process in order to collect and analyze available information in coordination with external partners.”

Xue, who continued to work at lower levels after being dismissed from the national team in 1988, said she was only approached afterward when athletes developed problems because of the substances they were given.

“One trainer came to me and said, ‘Doctor Xue, the boys’ breasts keep getting bigger,’” Xue said. “These boys were about 13 to 14 years old.”

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PyeongChang Olympic organizers downplay North Korea concern

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ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece (AP) — PyeongChang Olympic organizers played down concern over ongoing tensions with North Korea and also say work has been completed on all venues for the Winter Games.

Lee Hee-beom, president of the PyeongChang organizing committee, said the International Olympic Committee has made it very clear that the Feb. 9-25 Winter Games will go ahead as scheduled.

Speaking at the birthplace of the ancient Olympics shortly after the last rehearsal for Tuesday’s official flame-lighting ceremony, Lee said “there is no Plan B.”

Lee said South Korean officials are working closely with all relevant parties to ensure the Winter Games are safe and secure.

He said his main concern for the Olympics is the weather.

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