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IOC extends provisional measures against Russia

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Two days before the release of a new report into Russian doping, the IOC on Wednesday extended the provisional sanctions imposed on the country over allegations of systematic cheating and cover-ups.

The International Olympic Committee executive board said the measures imposed on July 19 have been extended “until further notice.”

The sanctions, originally designed to apply until the end of this year, were put into place following the first report by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren that alleged state-sponsored doping in Russia.

Under the measures, the IOC will not organize or “give patronage” to any sports events or meetings in Russia. In addition, the IOC urges all Olympic winter sports federations to “freeze their preparations for major events in Russia,” including world championships and World Cups and “to actively look for alternative organizers.”

Separately, the IOC also released its latest figures from this year’s retesting of stored doping samples from the 2012 London Olympics and 2008 Beijing Games, putting the total so far of positive cases at 101, with three new positives recorded since the 98 cases announced in July. Russian athletes and the sport of weightlifting were the worst offenders.

IOC medical director Dr. Richard Budgett said he expects “many more” positives from the London Games to be confirmed in the coming weeks. To date, the retests have caught at least 27 medalists from Beijing and 16 from London, including five gold medalists.

The IOC executive board released a statement that set out its position ahead of Friday’s r release in London of McLaren’s second and final report into the Russian scandal.

The Canadian lawyer’s first report, issued in July, led WADA to recommend Russia’s exclusion from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The IOC rejected the call, instead allowing international federations to decide which Russians could compete.

Friday’s report is expected to focus on evidence of organized Russian doping centered on the Sochi Games, including allegations that tainted samples of Russian athletes — including medalists — were swapped for clean ones through a concealed hole in the wall of the drug-testing lab.

The IOC said the allegations “go to the heart of the Olympic Games and are a fundamental attack on their integrity.”

The committee said “due process” must be followed, meaning McLaren’s evidence must be evaluated and those implicated — including athletes and the Russian Sports Ministry — “have to be given the right to be heard.”

Once the investigations are complete, the IOC will “take all the appropriate measures and sanctions,” including disqualification of athletes from the games and exclusion of implicated officials, entourage or government officials from the Olympics, the statement said.

The IOC’s call for a “freeze” on major events in Russia has been called into question by Russia’s hosting of the 2017 World Bobsled and Skeleton Championships in Sochi. Some athletes have suggested they could boycott the event.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said the resolution did not cover events that were “already planned.”

“As it stands that event was planned beforehand and doesn’t contravene the IOC’s call as far as I understand,” he said.

Questions have also been raised over the recent decision to award the 2021 World Biathlon Championships to Russia in the Siberian city of Tyumen. International Biathlon Union President Anders Besseberg has said the event could be relocated if more evidence of state-backed doping emerges.

Outside of the Olympics, international federations have the authority to sanction athletes and their entourage and potentially suspend national federations, the IOC said.

McLaren’s report will be sent to two separate IOC inquiry commissions. One is looking into the allegations of Russian state involvement in doping, the other is investigating the athletes and the doping samples.

Meanwhile, the IOC said it has so far sanctioned 79 athletes whose samples came back positive this year in reanalysis with improved techniques that can detect use of steroids going back weeks rather than days. The IOC stores doping samples for 10 years, allowing them to be retested when new methods become available.

Budgett said the Beijing testing is now complete, while more samples remain to be reanalyzed from London.

“There will be many more (positives) to come in the future because the program is continuing,” he said. “In the coming weeks and months we should expect more from London.”

Budgett said McLaren is investigating samples for Sochi, and they will be turned over to the IOC for forensic examination and reanalysis. Sixty blood samples from Russian athletes have already been checked and did not produce any positive findings, he said.

Russia has been by far the worst violator in the retesting program, with 16 of its athletes out of the 44 caught from Beijing, and 11 out of the 29 from London so far.

Budgett said it would be “speculation” to conclude that the figures support evidence of an organized Russian doping program.

“It adds some substance to the debate but it doesn’t actually tell us what goes on,” he said.

Weightlifting was the sport with the most positives — 38 out of the 79 from London and Beijing, followed by track and field with 31.

Many critics have called for weightlifting to be kicked out of the Olympics because of its doping record.

“I suppose you could say every sport is at risk,” Budgett said. “Weightlifting has got a good anti-doping program in place at the moment. It’s a judgment as to what went on in the past and what they are doing now.”

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Diana Taurasi opens door for 2020 Olympics

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Diana Taurasi may not be done with the U.S. national team after all.

The four-time Olympic champion “hopes to play through the 2020 Summer Games,” according to ESPN.com.

Taurasi, 34, said playing at Tokyo 2020 “would be incredible” after speaking with U.S. women’s national team director Carol Callan about her Team USA future earlier this month, according to the Arizona Republic. Taurasi recently signed a multiyear extension with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, though the exact contract length wasn’t disclosed.

“It would be probably the biggest accomplishment if I can make it to five Olympics, but that’s so far down the road,” Taurasi said, according to the newspaper. “I’ve always said I’m really worried about these next couple of months with Phoenix then I’ll regroup and talk to USA Basketball again.

“There’s so many great young player that if it’s time to move on and go that direction, that’s great. If they want me to around to help and win another gold medal, I’ll do anything they want me to do.”

New U.S. coach Dawn Staley, an Olympic teammate of Taurasi’s in 2004, said in March that her gut feeling was that Taurasi would return for Tokyo 2020.

Taurasi said in August, right after the Rio final, that she had likely played her last Olympic game, ending her career 32-0 at the Olympics.

“This was probably my last one,” Taurasi said on NBCSN. “I’ll have a talk about it with coach, but, for right now, I’m settled with four, and I feel good about it.”

If Taurasi plays at Tokyo 2020, she can match Teresa Edwards‘ American record of playing in five Olympic basketball tournaments. (So can Sue Bird, who is two years older than Taurasi but hasn’t committed to a 2020 run.)

Taurasi can also take aim at the U.S. Olympic basketball scoring record of 488 points held by Lisa Leslie. Taurasi is in second place with 379 points after Rio. She would need to average 13.7 points per game to surpass Leslie in Tokyo, assuming the U.S. plays its usual eight games. Taurasi averaged a career-high 15.6 in Rio.

Taurasi will be 38 years old in 2020. The oldest U.S. Olympic basketball player of all time was Tamika Catchings, who turned 37 two weeks before the Rio Games. Catchings has retired.

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Julia Mancuso pushes past hip injury for final Olympic run

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When Julia Mancuso was 18 years old, a doctor told the ski racer that she needed to make a choice.

Continue competing (Mancuso had already been to an Olympics at age 17) or live a healthy life.

Mancuso was born with hip displaysia, a misalignment of hip bones that causes the joint to deteriorate faster than normal. The doctor told Mancuso she needed reconstructive surgery.

“I left crying and never went back to that doctor,” she said.

Mancuso went to the slopes instead.

In 15 years since that doctor’s visit, she put together one of the greatest Alpine careers in U.S. history — four Olympic medals (most by a U.S. female skier), five world championships medals and 36 World Cup podiums.

The right hip problems persisted. Mancuso did undergo hip surgery after her breakthrough Olympic giant slalom title in 2006.

The pain returned and, by 2015, became unbearable.

She underwent another hip surgery, this one much more complicated. The operation fixed cartilage damage, cleaned up bone spurs and put more anchors in her labrum because of a slight tear with doctors warning that her hip would probably be 90 percent of what it was, according to The Associated Press.

Mancuso spent six months on crutches. When she returns to the World Cup circuit this fall, Mancuso will have gone more than two and a half years between races.

“It’s really hard for me to walk normally,” Mancuso said last month. “A lot of people ask me why I’m doing it [skiing], because I can’t even walk. Why would I ski? The truth is, skiing is way easier. Skiing is fun because it is easy, and my body loves it. My body loves to ski, and my body needs to ski. … It improves my quality of life.”

Because of her hip, Mancuso said PyeongChang will be her fifth and final Olympics, should she make it there. She might not compete beyond next season.

The U.S. women’s speed team is deep — Lindsey Vonn, World Cup podium finishers Laurenne Ross, Jackie Wiles and Stacey Cook, the young Breezy Johnson. Even Mikaela Shiffrin dabbles. A maximum of four women per nation can start an Olympic race.

The super combined, where Mancuso earned silver and bronze medals at the last two Olympics, appears to be her best shot.

Mancuso is nothing if not dedicated, evidenced by Instagram Stories workout diaries. This complements her laid-back lifestyle, spending half her time in Fiji with her husband of five months and much of the other half in Maui.

She already has post-PyeongChang plans, to honeymoon in Tonga and dive with whales.

Before that, Mancuso hopes to have one more surprise Olympic season.

In 2006, she made her first World Cup podium two weeks before the Torino Winter Games, then won the giant slalom in Torino.

In 2010, she took silver in the Vancouver downhill and super combined despite making zero World Cup podiums in the previous two years.

In 2014, Mancuso snagged combined bronze thanks to the fastest downhill run in Sochi. That came during a season where her best World Cup finish was seventh.

Just making the Olympic team would mean history. No U.S. woman has competed in five Winter Games. Mancuso, halfpipe snowboarder Kelly Clark and cross-country skier Kikkan Randall can become the first.

Mancuso could also become the oldest female Olympic Alpine medalist.

“I’m excited to put my biggest and last effort into these next Olympics,” Mancuso said, “and then see what happens.”

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