Sochi Olympics Cross Country Sprint

Sophie Caldwell claims best Olympic finish for a U.S. female cross-country skier

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Sophie Caldwell may have finished last after falling in the women’s cross-country sprint final, but her sixth-place overall finish is now the best-ever for a U.S. female cross-country skier at the Olympics.

Caldwell was the lone American to escape the quarterfinals after gold medal contender Kikkan Randall, Ida Sargent and Jessie Diggins were all unable to move to the semifinals.

She then finished second in her semifinal heat, narrowly losing a photo finish to Norway’s Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg, to move into the six-person final.

That same heat featured two more potential gold medalists in Denise Herrmann and Marit Bjorgen, but they finished fourth and sixth respectively and with Herrmann missing a “lucky loser” spot, both were knocked out.

Randall previously had the best Olympic mark for U.S. female cross-country skiers with her eighth-place result in this event four years ago at Vancouver.

Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla won the gold medal over Oestberg by .38 of a second, while Slovenia’s Vesna Fabjan got the bronze. NBCOlympics.com’s Alan Abrahamson confirms that Falla’s gold was Norway’s 100th Olympic medal in cross-country skiing.

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WOMEN’S CROSS-COUNTRY – SPRINT FINAL
1. Maiken Caspersen Falla (NOR), 2:35.49
2. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg (NOR), +0.38 seconds
3. Vesna Fabjan (SLO), +0.40 seconds
4. Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen (NOR), +1.82 seconds
5. Iga Ingemarsdotter (SWE), +6.55 seconds
6. Sophie Caldwell (USA), +12.26 seconds

13. Jessie Diggins (USA), Eliminated in quarterfinals
18. Kikkan Randall (USA), Eliminated in quarterfinals
19. Ida Sargent (USA), Eliminated in quarterfinals

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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