Tim Howard

Obstacles for Tim Howard to return to Brazil for Olympics

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If U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard makes his fourth World Cup team in 2018, he will be the oldest American World Cup player (at 39, by two years) since the U.S. returned to the tournament in 1990 for the first time in 40 years.

But what about 2016? Howard back in Brazil for the Rio Olympics would be intriguing, but the prospect faces hurdles.

In 2000, Howard made his only U.S. Olympic Team but did not play as a backup to Brad Friedel. The U.S. finished fourth.

Ever since, Howard’s age limited his Olympic chances. Olympic men’s soccer rosters are made up of players under 23 years old, with three exceptions per nation.

Recent Games have seen stars among those exceptions — Andrea Pirlo in 2004, Javier Mascherano and Ronaldinho in 2008 and Ryan Giggs and Luis Suarez in 2012.

Another obstacle is qualification. The U.S. cruelly missed the 2012 Olympics, giving up a stoppage-time goal in CONCACAF qualifying to El Salvador when it was seconds away from advancing to a winner-goes-to-London game.

Another issue is the Copa America Centenario in 2016, which runs June 3-26. The 2016 Olympics are Aug. 5-21, creating a possible scheduling conflict.

Copa America, which crowns South America’s soccer champion but also invites two non-South American nations, is traditionally not held in Olympic years. But CONMEBOL wanted to celebrate its 100-year anniversary by holding a special tournament in 2016.

So special that it’s allowing a non-South American host for the first time. That host is the United States, as if the U.S. Men’s National Team needed any more incentive to field its best possible squad.

Howard’s age, U.S. qualification and a crammed schedule aside, he does have domestic goalie competition in his favor.

His World Cup backup, Brad Guzan, already got his Olympic experience playing in 2008.

The third U.S. keeper at the Brazil World Cup, Nick Rimando, is only three months younger than Howard and therefore less likely to be near Howard’s form two years from now.

The top two goalies from 2012 qualification, Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson, were big reasons why the U.S. failed to make the Olympics for the second time since 1976.

While three overage players are allowed at the Olympics, the qualification rosters must be all U23s. Should the U.S. qualify for 2016 with a strong U23 goalie effort, it might be tough to bench him for a player who did not help the nation qualify. And what would the purpose be of using one of those three overage roster spots on a backup goalie?

There’s plenty of time for changes, though. We won’t know if the U.S. will qualify for Rio de Janeiro and, if it does, the final makeup of the Olympic roster until 2016.

Photos: World Cup stars who played in Olympics

Anna Pogorilaya to miss Olympics

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Russian figure skater Anna Pogorilaya, who at this time last year was an Olympic medal favorite, will miss the rest of the season including the Pyeongchang Winter Games with a back injury, according to Russian media.

Pogorilaya, 19, was the world’s second-best skater in last fall’s Grand Prix series but dropped off and then plummeted to 13th at the world championships in March.

She fell three times in a disastrous free skate and hasn’t recovered.

She was unlikely to make the three-woman Olympic team for Russia, which should include two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, world junior champion Alina Zagitova and Maria Sotskova.

Medvedeva, who missed last week’s Grand Prix Final with a broken foot, plans to compete in next week’s Russian Championships, according to R-Sport, quoting a Russian figure skating federation official.

Pogorilaya was the 2016 World bronze medalist, sharing the podium in Boston with Medvedeva and American Ashley Wagner.

Pogorilaya also made the exclusive six-skater Grand Prix Final three times in four years, including in the 2013-14 Olympic season.

But she was eighth at Russian nationals that season and bypassed for the two-woman Olympic team. She was named to the March 2014 World Championships team and was fourth.

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Chris Froome returns abnormal doping test result

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PARIS (AP) — Chris Froome, a four-time Tour de France winner, has been required by cycling’s governing body to provide information after he returned an abnormal doping test for an asthma drug at the Vuelta a España.

Froome’s Team Sky said in a statement that Froome, who has not been suspended, has been informed by the UCI that a urine test on Sept. 7 revealed a concentration of salbutamol of 2,000 nanograms, twice the permissible dose.

“Thank you for all the messages of support this morning,” was posted on Froome’s social media Wednesday. “I am confident that we will get to the bottom of this. Unfortunately I can’t share any more information than I already have until the enquiry is complete.”

Sky said that the Kenyan-born rider had to take an increased dosage of salbutamol after he “experienced acute asthma symptoms” during the final week of the race.

Salbutamol is a drug that helps expand lung capacity. It can be used as a performance-enhancing drug to increase endurance.

After successfully defending his Tour de France title in July, Froome went on to win the Spanish Vuelta for the first time.

“My asthma got worse at the Vuelta so I followed the team doctor’s advice to increase my Salbutamol dosage,” Froome said in a statement. “As always, I took the greatest care to ensure that I did not use more than the permissible dose. I take my leadership position in my sport very seriously. The UCI is absolutely right to examine test results and, together with the team, I will provide whatever information it requires.”

The UCI said in a statement that both Froome’s ‘B’ sample confirmed the result, but stressed that “the presence of a specified substance such as salbutamol in a sample does not result in the imposition of such mandatory provisional suspension against the rider.”

Sky stressed the abnormal result does not mean Froome has breached anti-doping rules and team principal Dave Brailsford insisted he has the “utmost confidence that Chris followed the medical guidance in managing his asthma symptoms, staying within the permissible dose for Salbutamol.”

Froome’s abnormal sample was returned after Stage 18. He was notified of the doping test result Sept. 20, the day he took bronze in the world championships time trial.

“As race leader, Chris was tested after every stage through this period and he declared his use of the medication as part of the process,” Sky said, adding that none of the 20 other urine tests taken by the Briton “required any further explanation.”

If found guilty of doping, the 32-year-old Froome could lose his Vuelta title and be suspended.

He said last month that he was planning to ride the Giro d’Italia next year in an attempt to win his third Grand Tour in a row.

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