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

USA Hockey to start reaching out to potential replacement players

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USA Hockey will begin reaching out to “alternate players” to determine their interest in playing for the U.S. at the women’s world championship next week amid a potential boycott by its national team.

The contact is taking place in the event a resolution cannot be reached between USA Hockey and the women’s national team in a wage dispute.

“It’s important for everyone to understand clearly that our objective is to have the players we named as the U.S. women’s national team be the ones that compete in the world championship,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, in a statement. “Productive conversations have taken place this week and are ongoing in our collective efforts to reach a resolution.”

The alternate players are in the professional NWHL and college, according to USA Today, a report that USA Hockey would not confirm.

U.S. captain Meghan Duggan has said every player in the U.S. national team player pool, plus under-18 national team players, committed to not playing at worlds unless the wage dispute is resolved.

“We are confident that they [potential replacement players] would choose not to play,” the U.S. players said in a statement.

The world championship tournament starts March 31 in Plymouth, Mich.

As of Thursday evening, no resolution has come between USA Hockey and its women’s national team. They met formally on Monday for more than 10 hours, with both sides calling it productive.

“We ask that they approve the original agreement that, the players believed, was acceptable to both parties after Monday’s meeting,” the players said in a statement. “Unless there is an agreement, the players remain resolved to bypass the defense of the world championship.”

Neither side has said when the next meeting will take place.

On Tuesday, USA Hockey said it postponed a pre-worlds camp that was to run through next Tuesday in Traverse City, Mich., and canceled a scheduled Friday exhibition against Finland.

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MORE: NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

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International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

The head of the NHL Players Association, Donald Fehr, says the players want to participate and hopes the league will take advantage of the chance to market the game in Asia.

However, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says without “material change to the current status quo, NHL players will not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics.”

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MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey groups set