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Kazakh weightlifters reportedly refuse to return Olympic medals

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) — Kazakhstan says three medalists are among six of its athletes disqualified from previous Olympics over doping.

The country’s national Olympic committee said in a statement that weightlifters Irina Nekrasova and Maria Grabovetskaya, who won silver and bronze medals respectively at Beijing 2008, and bronze medal-winning wrestler Aset Mambetov, were retroactively disqualified following retests of drug-test samples they gave at those games.

The Kazakhstan Olympic committee said it had received confirmation from the International Olympic Committee that “traces of banned substances were found” in the athletes’ samples.

The International Weightlifting Federation has previously said the Grabovetskaya and Nekrasova cases concerned various anabolic steroids, with Grabovetskaya testing positive for three different banned substances in a single sample. Wrestling authorities have not said what was found in Mambetov’s sample.

Grabovetskaya and Mambetov were quoted in Kazakh media as saying they will refuse to return their medals because they don’t consider themselves guilty of doping.

There are also retrospective disqualifications from the 2008 games for weightlifters Vladimir Sedov and Maiya Maneza, while another weightlifter, Almas Uteshov, has been scratched from the 2012 Olympics.

Kazakhstan has one of the worst records of any country in the retests carried out this year by the IOC, having already been stripped of three gold medals last month in earlier doping cases.

The retesting program has led to at least 98 positive tests from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, many of them down to recent advances in techniques for detecting steroids.

MORE: IOC president answers critics on Russia doping

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