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Olympic champ among 5 Russian canoeists to get Rio bans

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MOSCOW (AP) — Olympic champion Alexander Dyachenko and four other Russian canoeists have been barred from competing at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics after being named in a recent report alleging a state-sponsored doping cover-up.

The International Canoe Federation said Tuesday that the five were mentioned in World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren‘s report last week, which specifically detailed how Russian state officials allegedly intervened to cover up hundreds of failed drug tests.

“This is a bitter blow for the Olympic movement and we are saddened that our sport in implicated,” ICF general secretary Simon Toulson said in a statement. “The ICF will continue its strong zero-tolerance stance and remove all athletes that contravene its rules in anyway … If you step out of line you won’t make the start line.”

While the International Olympic Committee refused Sunday to impose a blanket ban on Russia, it brought in new criteria preventing Russians from competing if they have previously served a ban or were implicated in McLaren’s report.

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

Podolskaya rejected any suggestion of doping, telling Russian news agency R-Sport that “everything written there is pure lies.”

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

Three Russian rowers have also been excluded, taking to at least 15 the number of Russians barred from the Rio Games by various international federations since the International Olympic Committee ruled on Sunday that Russian athletes had to face tougher selection criteria in the wake of the country’s massive doping scandal.

World Rowing said earlier Tuesday that 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.

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

Russia’s track and field team is almost entirely banned from the games under an earlier decision from the IAAF, leaving long jumper Darya Klishina as the only athlete eligible to represent Russia out of 68 who were entered.

Legal challenges also loom for Russia. 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 Tuesday could follow.

“The intention to defend the athletes is there,” she told R-Sport. “We’ve spoken about how we want to defend them at CAS but now we need to go over all the information provided once again.”

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

MORE: Yulia Stepanova, doping whistleblower, appeals her Olympic ban

USA Gymnastics settles sex abuse lawsuit

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — USA Gymnastics has reached a confidential settlement in a Georgia lawsuit that spurred a newspaper investigation into the organization’s practices for reporting child abuse.

A former gymnast filed the lawsuit against USA Gymnastics in 2013, alleging that the organization that trains Olympians received at least four warnings about coach William McCabe, who videotaped her in various states of undress.

The lawsuit revealed that USA Gymnastics wouldn’t forward child sex abuse allegations to authorities unless they were in writing and signed by a victim or a victim’s parent.

A judge in Effingham County, Georgia, dismissed the lawsuit on April 12, according to court records. USA Gymnastics admits no wrongdoing or liability in the settlement, said W. Brian Cornwell of Cornwell & Stevens LLP, the gymnast’s lawyer.

Both parties have declined to comment on the settlement.

“We want to make it clear that the settlement does not prevent the former gymnast from speaking publicly about her experiences,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement Thursday.

McCabe pleaded guilty in Georgia in 2006 to federal charges of sexual exploitation of children and making false statements. He’s serving a 30-year prison sentence.

The suit sparked The Indianapolis Star’s investigation of USA Gymnastics, which exposed abuse by Larry Nassar, a former Michigan State University sports doctor, and spurred the resignations of the organization’s president and board.

Nassar, 54, pleaded guilty to molesting patients and possessing child pornography. He was sentenced this year to prison terms that will keep him locked up for life after roughly 200 women gave statements against him in two courtrooms over 10 days.

USA Gymnastics faces additional lawsuits from women who say Nassar sexually abused them. The suits allege the organization was negligent, fraudulent and intentionally inflicted emotional distress by failing to warn or protect athletes from Nassar’s abuse. The organization has denied the allegations and wants the lawsuits dismissed.

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MORE: Full transcript of McKayla Maroney’s first comments since Larry Nassar case

Max Aaron retires from figure skating

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Max Aaron, a national champion and Skate America winner, has retired from competitive figure skating.

Aaron, 26, ends his career as the only Skate America men’s winner not to compete in an Olympics. He is one of three U.S. men’s champions in the last 55 years not to compete in an Olympics, along with Ryan Bradley and Rudy Galindo.

“Of course, becoming an Olympian, or having an Olympic medal would have been great to say, ride off on my white horse, but having the ability to say that I have no regrets in my entire career of figure skating, for me that is my gold medal,” Aaron said Thursday night.

Aaron, a former top USA Hockey developmental player, also figure skated growing up to help with his skating skills as one of the smaller players on his team.

He stopped playing hockey at 16 due to a broken vertebra but continued full-time with figure skating. By 2012, Aaron considered quitting figure skating after placing eighth at nationals (one year after being U.S. junior champion) and being told he wasn’t artistic enough.

But Aaron kept with it and completed a remarkable bounce back the next year, winning the U.S. title and setting himself up as a favorite to make the 2014 Olympic team.

But Aaron ended up third at the 2014 U.S. Championships. The two Sochi Olympic spots went to Jeremy Abbott and Jason Brown.

Aaron continued, becoming the first U.S. man to win Skate America in six years in 2015 and topping the short program at the 2016 U.S. Championships before ultimately finishing second to Adam Rippon.

Aaron plummeted to ninth at the 2017 U.S. Championships, coming back from offseason hernia surgery, but returned to the Olympic team radar last fall with a personal-best free skate at Cup of China, including three landed quadruple jumps. He went into the 2018 U.S. Championships ranking third among American men for the season.

But Aaron was again ninth at nationals, missing the Olympic team. He was called on to compete at last month’s world championships as the third alternate after Rippon, Ross Miner and Brown all passed.

Aaron had stopped skating and instead was training for a triathlon. He went to worlds in Milan on two weeks of training and finished 11th, a result that helped the U.S. keep three men’s spots for 2019 Worlds. Nathan Chen won the world title, but Vincent Zhou was 14th. The U.S. needed its second man to be 12th or better to go along with Chen’s first place to ensure three spots next year. Aaron reportedly said at worlds that it may have been his last competition.

Aaron said he’s started a job with Merrill Lynch.

“It’s really been a great ride. I have no regrets,” he said. “That’s one thing that I always told myself, in sport, in life, I want to have no regrets, and I can honestly say, with the help from my coaches and friends, that I have no regrets in the sport.”

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