Vladimir Putin
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Vladimir Putin criticizes therapeutic use exemptions

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that therapeutic use exemptions for banned substances give an unfair advantage, and suggested athletes who use them should be excluded from major competitions.

TUEs allow athletes with medical conditions to take medications that would usually be banned. Their use has been under scrutiny since a hacking group known as Fancy Bears released confidential World Anti-Doping Agency documents listing medical information for many athletes.

“We need to understand what to do about (TUEs), otherwise we could soon face all records and victories going only to people who are ill with, let’s say, chronic illnesses,” Putin said, speaking at a sports forum in Russia.

Putin suggested putting restrictions on athletes with TUEs.

“Maybe they can be put in a special category, or their achievements, points, seconds and honors can be considered in a special way,” he said.

Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called Putin’s stance “laughable, as the entire world has agreed to allow athletes to use medication for documented health needs like birth control, acne, life-saving surgery or established asthma.” When approved as required, Tygart said, none of the medicines gives a performance-enhancing advantage.

“It either shows a clear misunderstanding of the rules or it’s another attempt to smear innocent athletes in response to the uncovering of Russia’s state-sponsored doping system that gave athletes a tremendous performance advantage and corrupted the Sochi Olympic Games,” Tygart said.

Two independent investigations detailed state-sponsored doping inside the Russian sports program, one of which found evidence that dirty Russian urine samples at the Sochi Games had been exchanged with clean ones.

At a later meeting Tuesday with sports officials, Putin said all TUEs should be made public, a move that could face significant resistance from athletes, as well as possible legal obstacles related to the confidentiality of medical records.

“A person should decide, does he want people to know and does he want to do sport?” Putin said.

If athletes don’t want their medical status made public, “then they shouldn’t be competing in high-level sport.”

Putin did not address WADA’s allegation that the documents were released by hackers linked to Russia. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said last month that he would ask “the Russian authorities” for help to put a stop to the hacking.

The Fancy Bears group began posting medical records of Olympians online last month, with U.S. and British athletes making up a large proportion of those targeted. Only selected records have been released. It is not clear how many have been held back and for which reasons.

Many of the athletes named in the files have said their medicines are necessary for their health, while others have pointed to TUEs issued as a result of a medical emergency such as a sudden collapse or anaphylactic shock. A substantial minority of the TUEs that were leaked date back several years and concern substances that were closely regulated at the time but are no longer considered potentially performance-enhancing if not abused.

Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins‘ use of a TUE for three injections of an anti-inflammatory drug has prompted scrutiny in Britain, though he denies gaining an advantage.

Only one Russian, boxer Misha Aloyan, is among the dozens of athletes whose information has been leaked. However, many more Russian athletes are believed to have used TUEs.

Putin said last month that “we don’t support what the hackers have been doing, but what they have done can’t fail to attract public attention internationally.”

The leaks began a month after the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, from which many Russian athletes were banned following the investigations into state-sponsored doping. The entire weightlifting team was excluded, while only one track and field athlete was allowed to compete.

MORE: WADA updates list of prohibited substances

Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

Yuzuru Hanyu
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A sore knee didn’t hold Yuzuru Hanyu back. A record score to open his Olympic season.

The Olympic and world champion from Japan hit a pair of quadruple jumps in his short program at the Autumn Classic, a lower-level event in Montreal.

He was rewarded with 112.72 points, the highest short program score recorded under the 13-year-old judging system. Video is here.

It looked like a home competition for Hanyu.

Upon finishing, he bowed toward one set of bleachers (maybe a dozen rows) at the Sportsplexe Pierrefonds. More than two dozen Japanese flags made it hard to see most of the faces.

He bettered Javier Fernández, a two-time world champion and training partner, by 11.52 points. Fernández also landed two quadruple jumps to tally 101.2.

Full scores will be here upon the conclusion of the short program. The free skate is Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. A live stream is here.

Hanyu now owns the three highest short program scores under the 13-year-old system. The other two were set in the 2015-16 season.

Showdowns like Hanyu-Fernández are usually reserved for, at the earliest, the Grand Prix series in late October and November.

Hanyu and Fernández are very familiar with each other, having shared a coach in Canadian Brian Orser, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist, since 2012. They train in Toronto.

In that time, Hanyu became the first Japanese man to win an Olympic title (and the second teen from any nation to do it). He followed it up with world titles later in 2014 and this year.

Fernández achieved unfathomable success for a Spanish skater — world titles in 2015 and 2016, overtaking Hanyu in the free skate both times.

In PyeongChang, Hanyu can become the first man to repeat as Olympic champion since Dick Button in 1952. Fernández can become the third Spaniard to earn a Winter Olympic medal of any color in any sport, and the first since 1992.

The figure skating season continues next week with Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, the final Olympic qualifying competition. North Korea could clinch its first spots in any sport for the Olympics in the pairs event.

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USOC letter assures Olympians about South Korea security

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The U.S. Olympic Committee’s security chief sent a letter to potential Winter Olympians saying there are no indications that recent developments between the U.S. and North Korea have compromised security in South Korea.

The letter, obtained by The Associated Press shortly after it was sent Friday, makes no suggestion that the U.S. is considering skipping the PyeongChang Winter Games for security reasons.

But Chief Security Officer Nicole Deal does write that provocations that have been volleyed between the United States and North Korea are likely to persist for the foreseeable future, and “should not be dismissed as insignificant nor feared as precursors of an inevitable conflict.”

The letter comes at the end of a week in which France’s sports minister suggested the country’s athletes would stay home if security could not be guaranteed.

The International Olympic Committee, trying to calm concerns, reiterated that in conversations with high-level officials in China and South Korea, none have expressed doubt about the Winter Games proceeding as scheduled, next February.

The USOC also sent out a public statement Friday from CEO Scott Blackmun.

“We will continue to work with our State Department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe,” he said.

The letter, sent to athletes, national governing bodies and other Olympic leaders in the United States, said the USOC’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations.”

Deal writes that the USOC is reviewing crisis management plans that address a range of potential scenarios “to ensure our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe.”

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