Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps beaten by Olympic champion at Santa Clara

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Michael Phelps finished second to Olympic champion Yannick Agnel in the 200m freestyle at the Santa Clara Grand Prix, the third meet of his comeback, on Saturday.

Phelps, who took 20 months away from competition after the London Olympics, clocked 1 minute, 48.20 seconds in the 200m free. France’s Agnel, his training partner at North Baltimore Aquatic Club, won in 1:46.99 (video here).

“I got left like I was standing still the last 50 [meters] by this guy,” Phelps said on Universal Sports, gesturing to the 6-foot-8 Agnel standing next to him. “That wasn’t really the funnest last 50 ever. It felt good to get my first 200 under my belt, in a final at least.”

Phelps continued to improve his 200m free in his third time racing the event this year, and first final. He swam 1:51.69 in Charlotte, N.C., in May and 1:49.61 in the preliminary heats earlier Saturday.

Phelps beat training partner Conor Dwyer for second place by .16, which was notable given Dwyer won silver behind Agnel in the 200m free at the 2013 World Championships.

Rising California sophomore Missy Franklin won the 200m freestyle and finished third in the 200m backstroke 22 minutes later.

Frankin, who became the first woman to win six golds at a single World Championships last year, finished in 1:56.96 in the 200m free (video here), beating a field that included Olympic champion Allison Schmitt. Schmitt and World Swimmer of the Year Katie Ledecky have both gone faster than 1:56.96 this year.

Franklin came back to finish third behind Elizabeth Beisel and Liz Pelton in the 200m back. Beisel won in 2:09.11, followed by Pelton in 2:09.73 and Franklin in 2:09.86. Franklin is the Olympic and World champion in the 200m back and the world record holder.

Phelps and Franklin are expected to swim the 200m individual medley on the final day of the meet Sunday. Franklin is also entered in the 100m backstroke.

U.S. swimmers are gearing up for the summer’s two biggest meets in August, the U.S. Championships in Irvine, Calif., and the Pan Pacific Championships in Gold Coast, Australia.

In other events Saturday, Beisel blew out the 400m IM field by 6.26 seconds, posting 4:33.52. Beisel, who has won 400m IM medals at four straight major international meets, improved to No. 4 in the world this year.

World silver medalist Chase Kalisz cruised to win the men’s 400m IM by 5.78 seconds in 4:11.71. That’s the fifth fastest time in the world this year.

“I actually wanted to be a little bit faster,” said Kalisz, who came to Santa Clara from altitude training with Phelps and other North Baltimore Aquatic Club in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Three-time Russian Olympian Arkady Vyatchanin beat U.S. Olympic champion Tyler Clary in the 200m back, 1:55.5 to 1:58.41.

Brazil’s Bruno Fratus captured the men’s 50m free in 22.03, which was a comfy .55 better than second place Anthony Ervin, the 2000 co-Olympic champion. Fratus finished fourth in the 2012 Olympic 50m free and is Brazil’s second best sprinter behind Cesar Cielo.

Cheyenne Coffman took the women’s 50m free in 25.12.

Missy Franklin can’t help but notice Katie Ledecky, Rio

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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