Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps qualifies for A finals, scratches one event in Charlotte

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Michael Phelps earned spots in the top-seeded finals of both of his events but is dropping out of one of them at the Charlotte Grand Prix on Friday.

Phelps, in the second meet of his comeback after retiring following the 2012 Olympics, finished second overall in the preliminaries of the 100m butterfly and eighth in the 200m freestyle.

He will swim his final race in Charlotte in the 100m fly final on Friday night after opting to scratch out of the 200m free final.

Phelps was second in his 100m butterfly heat in 53.26 seconds and second overall across all seven top-seeded heats, wearing a white cap, gray waist-to-knee swim trunks and a full beard. He was .42 slower than his 100m fly prelim time at his first comeback meet in Mesa, Ariz., on April 24.

An hour earlier, Phelps touched the wall third in his 200m freestyle heat and ninth overall. He moved into the eight-man A final, though, after Olympic and world 200m free champion Yannick Agnel was disqualified for a false start in the same heat, according to media in Charlotte.

“Now we have some real picture of, a little bit, where he is in [the 200m free],” said Phelps’ coach, Bob Bowman. “I think he definitely can go better.”

Phelps clocked 1:51.69 in the 200m free, nearly six seconds slower than his winning time at the 2012 Olympic Trials (he didn’t swim it at the 2012 Olympics). In Charlotte, he was beaten by Michael Klueh (1:51.52) and Agnel (1:51.61), before Agnel was disqualified.

Phelps, the 2008 Olympic 200m free champion, was swimming the freestyle stroke (and the 200m distance) for the first time in competition since coming out of his post-London Olympics retirement. He swam butterfly for 100m and 50m at his first return meet in Arizona in April.

His next meet could be the Santa Clara Grand Prix in California, June 19-22.

“All in all, we’re pleased,” Bowman said. “He hadn’t done a 200 in a while, you’re not training any doubles [for two events in one session]. You’re just trying to get in there, see what it’s like. I think he did a very good job of that.”

Charlotte Grand Prix preview, swimmers to watch

Number of Russian athletes banned from Olympics reaches 86

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 27:  Maria Sharapova of the Russia Olympic tennis team carries her country's flag during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 27, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
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MOSCOW (AP) — At least 86 athletes from the 387-strong Russian Olympic team announced last week have so far been barred from the Rio Games in connection with the country’s doping scandal.

International federations in canoeing, sailing and modern pentathlon ruled out eight on Tuesday, including an Olympic gold medalist, following earlier rulings in swimming and rowing. Some appeals are likely.

Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian media that Putin had discussed the doping issue with his national security council.

“The topic of the recent International Olympic Committee ruling relating to Russian athletes was raised ahead of Putin’s planned meeting tomorrow with the Russian Olympic team,” Peskov was quoted as saying.

The vast majority of the Russian athletes who miss out are in track and field, where 67 athletes were ruled out when a ban on the Russian team was upheld at the Court of Arbitration for Sport last week.

More are falling foul of new rules imposed in the wake of the country’s doping scandal.

While Russia avoided a blanket ban from the International Olympic Committee, it has lost several medal contenders to new IOC rules imposed Sunday banning Russia from entering athletes who previously doped.

Alexander Dyachenko, an Olympic champion in 2012, was among five canoeists ruled out after being named in a recent report by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren alleging a state-sponsored doping cover-up.

McLaren’s report last week specifically detailed how Russian state officials allegedly intervened to cover up hundreds of failed drug tests.

Dyachenko won gold in the men’s double kayak 200 meters at the 2012 London Games.

“The ICF will continue its strong zero-tolerance stance and remove all athletes that contravene its rules in anyway,” said Simon Toulson, the International Canoe Federation’s general secretary. “If you step out of line you won’t make the start line.”

The four other banned canoeists are Alexei Korovashkov – a 2012 bronze medalist in the C2 1,000 meters event – Andrei Kraitor, Elena Anyushina and Nataliya Podolskaya.

The ICF also said that Russia would not be allowed to enter boats in four events in which the excluded athletes would have raced. Therefore, Austria, Germany, Sweden and Iran are in line to receive their places.

World Sailing said Pavel Sozykin, who had been due to race in the 470 class, would be excluded because he was mentioned in the McLaren report. Russia’s other six sailors were approved and Russia is able to nominate a replacement for Sozykin, the federation said.

Meanwhile, the International Modern Pentathlon Union named the two Russians it had suspended as Maxim Kustov and Ilya Frolov, saying they both featured in the McLaren report. Kustov’s place in the men’s event passes to a Latvian athlete, while Frolov had only been entered for Rio as a reserve.

Three Russian rowers have also been excluded. Ivan Podshivalov and Anastasia Karabelshchikova were excluded because they previously served doping bans, while Ivan Balandin from Russia’s men’s eight was implicated in the McLaren report, World Rowing said.

Meanwhile, volleyball player Alexander Markin told local media he had been dropped due to a positive test earlier this year for the banned substance meldonium, even though he had not been banned. The international volleyball federation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The head of the Russian Wrestling Federation told the R-Sport agency that two-time world champion Viktor Lebedev was ineligible because he was given a doping ban in 2006.

On Monday, swimming’s world governing body FINA ruled out seven Russians including reigning world 100m breaststroke champion Yulia Efimova.

Legal challenges are looming.

Efimova’s agent has said he is preparing an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and the Russian Canoe Federation’s general secretary Irina Sirayeva said that the five banned athletes could follow suit.

“The intention to defend the athletes is there,” she told R-Sport.

Triple jumper Ekaterina Koneva – a former world championship silver medalist – told local media she was considering a lawsuit in civil court.

There was good news for Russia as its judo and shooting teams – comprised 11 and 18 athletes respectively – received approval to compete from their sports’ international governing bodies.

Also, Russia also looks set to field a full team of four players in Olympic badminton, the Russian Badminton Federation said Tuesday, citing assurances from the Badminton World Federation.

Previously, archery, tennis and equestrian sport’s world governing bodies said they had no objection to the Russians entered in their sports.

Lists of Russian athletes approved by international federations must still be approved by CAS arbiters who can reject athletes not tested outside Russia.

The IOC refused to accept testing done by Russian agencies because of evidence that the process was corrupted.

MORE: Yulia Efimova among Russian swimmers barred from Olympics

Sanya Richards-Ross, Trey Hardee join NBC’s Olympic track and field coverage

Hardee Richards Ross
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NBC has added a couple decorated Olympians to its coverage of the Rio Games, with the Opening Ceremony a little more than a week away on Friday, Aug. 5.

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross and 2012 Olympic decathlon silver medalist Trey Hardee are set to join NBC Olympics’ coverage of track and field. Both served as guest analysts for the NBC Sports Group’s coverage the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials earlier this month.

“We’re thrilled to bring the expertise of Sanya and Trey to our track and field coverage, where they will take viewers inside the sport and provide specific details and insights about the athletes,” said Jim Bell, Executive Producer, NBC Olympics.

Richards-Ross retired July 1 after injuring her hamstring during a 400m preliminary heat at Trials. She was attempting to make her fourth Olympic team after winning two gold medals at the London Games – her first individual gold in the 400m, and her third Olympic gold in the 4x400m relay. She has the most sub-50 second 400m races in history.

Hardee collected the decathlon silver medal at the 2012 Olympics, finishing behind compatriot Ashton Eaton to mark the first time Americans had finished 1-2 in the event at the Olympics since 1956. Hardee also won world titles in 2009 and 2011, and his score of 8,790 set at the 2009 Worlds ranks behind only Eaton, Dan O’ Brien and Bryan Clay in American history.

Leading NBC’s track and field coverage will again be Tom Hammond for the seventh consecutive Olympics. Ato Boldon returns as an analyst in his fourth Olympic assignment, and Lewis Johnson will be the track and field reporter in his ninth assignment with NBC Olympics.

Kenny Albert will handle play-by-play duties for track events on NBCSN, while Todd Harris will perform play-by-play for field events.

Craig Masback is set to provide analysis on the men’s marathon and distance races, with Tim Hutchings assisting with analysis on the marathons.

Track and field competition at the Rio Games begins Aug. 12.

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