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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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Yuzuru Hanyu opens Olympic season with record score

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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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