The White House is pulling its planned Paralympic delegation four days before the Opening Ceremony in Sochi, citing the situation in Ukraine.
“In addition to other measures we are taking in response to the situation in Ukraine, the United States will no longer send a Presidential Delegation to the upcoming Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi,” said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, in a statement.
The move came one day after Great Britain announced it would not send government officials to Sochi, also because of the Russia-Ukraine situation. Russian troops took over the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine on Saturday, leading U.S. President Barack Obama to call for Russia to pull back its forces, according to The Associated Press.
The White House’s planned group would have been led by congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, who lost both her legs in Iraq. It also was set to include three-time Paralympic bronze medalist Sandra Dukat and wrestler Anthony Robles, who won an NCAA title after being born with one leg. That group was announced Feb. 7.
“We will continue to fully support the amazing men and women that comprise Team USA at the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, and we encourage all Americans to support our athletes by watching them compete on NBC, NBCSN and on TeamUSA.org.” said Patrick Sandusky, U.S. Olympic Committee Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer, in a statement.
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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 seven 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.
MORE: Russia track and field boss: ’50-60 percent’ chance of Olympics
Katie Zaferes was announced Tuesday as the sixth and final member of the U.S. Olympic triathlon team seeking its first medal since 2004 and first gold medal in the sport’s 16-year Olympic history.
Zaferes, 26, was named to her first Olympic team 10 days after the final Olympic selection race in Yokohama, Japan.
Zaferes comfortably led the qualifying standings for the third and final U.S. Olympic women’s spot behind World champion Gwen Jorgensen and Sarah True, who qualified for Rio on Aug. 2.
USA Triathlon decided not to bypass Zaferes in discretionary selection for a less-accomplished triathlete that would be used as a domestique to improve Jorgensen and/or True’s medal chances in Rio.
Jorgensen, True and Zaferes are the only active U.S. women to make a World Triathlon Series podium, all having done so at least five times in the last two years.
Jorgensen won in Yokohama, with Zaferes placing sixth and True not competing.
The U.S. Olympic men’s triathlon team includes Greg Billington, Ben Kanute and Joe Maloy, all first-time Olympians who have never made a World Series podium.
MORE: Gwen Jorgensen returns to top of podium