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Norway Olympic champion tearfully pleads innocence after positive drug test

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OSLO, Norway (AP) — Speaking through her tears, cross-country skier Therese Johaug denied knowingly taking a banned performance-enhancing drug.

Johaug, a three-time Olympic cross-country medalist from Norway, has tested positive for the steroid clostebol. The Norwegian ski federation said Thursday the drug came from sun lotion given to her by team doctor Fredrik Bendiksen.

“I am not guilty. I asked the doctor and he said it was not on the doping list,” Johaug said at a news conference, wiping tears away with her hands (video here). “And he said no.”

Bendiksen, who was also at the news conference, stepped down from his job after taking the blame for the positive test.

“It is my personal mistake as a medical doctor,” said Bendiksen, who said he only read the ingredients that were printed on the box. “It is my responsibility.”

Bendiksen said he had given Johaug the cream Trofodermin to treat sun burns on her lips after altitude training with the Norwegian cross-country team in Italy in late August.

“She has told the whole truth,” Bendiksen said. “I take responsibility for Therese using the balm that has the illegal drug clostebol. … In my opinion, she is innocent.”

Johaug had a urine test on Sept. 16, and the Norwegian anti-doping agency informed her of the finding on Oct. 4.

Torbjorn Skogstad, the head of Norway’s cross-country committee, said a meeting has been called to discuss “any immediate measures.”

Norwegian ski federation secretary general Stein Opsal said it was “too early to say” if she would be suspended, saying they were awaiting word from Anti-Doping Norway.

Johaug, a seven-time world champion, won gold in the 4×5-kilometer relay at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. She took silver and bronze medals at the 2014 Games in Sochi.

MORE: Ole Einar Bjoerndalen eyes 7th Olympics

Chinese lead, star pairs struggle in world championships short program

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China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong recorded the highest pairs short program score in the world since the 2014 Olympics, topping the world championships field in Helsinki on Wednesday.

Two-time defending world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada and Olympic silver medalists Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov are well behind in seventh and 13th place, respectively.

Sui and Han, in just their second event this season, tallied a personal-best 81.23 points.

They lead by 1.39 over Germans Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot going into the free skate Thursday (1 p.m. ET, NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov are in third.

The Chinese will go for their first world title after giving up a short-program lead last year and taking silver for a second straight time.

Full worlds short program results are here.

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Sui and Han missed the fall season after Sui underwent right ankle and left foot surgeries last spring. They returned at the Four Continents Championships in February and posted personal-best free skate and total scores, ranking only behind Tarasova and Morozov for the season.

Duhamel and Radford, looking to become the first pair to three-peat in 40 years, came in slowed by Radford’s hip injury suffered in the last week. Radford was off-balance on his triple toe loop landing Wednesday. Duhamel’s hand touched the ice on her throw triple Lutz landing.

They scored 72.67 points, which is 8.56 behind Sui and Han.

Stolbova and Klimov both suffered falls in their short program and scored 65.59, qualifying for the 16-pair free skate by four points. The Russian champions missed the autumn season due to Stolbova’s left leg injury.

The top U.S. pair was Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, who posted a personal-best 72.17 points for eighth place. The husband-and-wife pair are competing for the second time this season after Scimeca Knierim’s serious abdominal injury.

U.S. champions Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier suffered two falls and placed 20th, matching the worst U.S. pairs finish in worlds history. They did not qualify for the 16-pair free skate.

Therefore, the Knierims must finish 10th or better after the free skate to ensure the U.S. earns two pairs places at the 2018 Olympics.

Pairs is the U.S.’ weakest discipline. The last U.S. medal in pairs at worlds came in 2002. The last Olympic medal was in 1988.

North Korean pair Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik placed 14th in the short program, the highest of any pair expected to compete for one of four final Olympic quota spots in September.

North Korea sent no athletes to the Sochi Olympics, and it’s not a guarantee it will qualify any athletes for PyeongChang, or if it will send athletes to South Korea in February. But Ryom and Kim’s personal best by nearly 11 points on Wednesday was very encouraging.

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MORE: U.S. pairs skater back from life-threatening condition

Pairs Short Program
1. Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN) — 81.23
2. Aliona Savchenko/Bruno Massot (GER) — 79.84
3. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 79.37
8. Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Christopher Knierim (USA) — 72.17
20. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier (USA) — 56.23

Missy Franklin out due to shoulder surgeries

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Missy Franklin is sidelined from swimming competition for an undisclosed period of time to recover from surgeries on both of her shoulders due to bursitis, according to her social media.

“This is what’s best for me to come stronger than ever,” was posted on Franklin’s Instagram. “I’m so far from being done with this sport.”

The five-time Olympic champion was diagnosed in early January following an MRI, underwent surgeries that month and has returned to limited training.

Franklin, who has not raced since the Rio Olympics, will not compete in the next USA Swimming Pro Series meet in Mesa, Ariz., in two weeks.

Her return date is not set.

The U.S. Championships are in June in Indianapolis and serve as a qualifying meet for the world championships in Budapest in July.

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