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World bobsled and skeleton championships, stripped from Sochi, get new host

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Germany will host this season’s bobsled and skeleton world championships, which were pulled out of Russia after numerous competitors considered a boycott in response to that nation’s widespread doping program.

Koenigssee was the track selected by the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation for the championships, which will be held Feb. 13-26 — even though some nations felt they could be moved a week earlier. Koenigssee will also host a weekend of World Cup racing in January.

Sochi lost the hosting rights last week in the fallout of the Russian doping scandal. The track at Krasnaya Polyana was used for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren concluded was corrupted by a state-backed doping program.

That led to a number of athletes and teams talking boycott.

“For me personally, I’m just happy that it was moved and we will still get to have a world championships with full participation from all nations,” said U.S. skeleton slider Matt Antoine, who was going to boycott if the event was in Russia as scheduled. “I still want to compete in the world championships. I just wasn’t going to do it in Russia.”

Koenigssee has a history of stepping in as a replacement site. The 2011 World Championships were originally awarded to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, then moved to Koenigssee two years before the event because of track concerns.

This time, they’re moving with worlds less than two months away — an unprecedented scramble following an unprecedented scandal.

The Russians have said they will not boycott worlds, even going as far as to say that they understood why the IBSF made the decision.

Many athletes cited the integrity of the doping process as their primary concern about competing at the worlds in Russia, especially after the second McLaren report was released showing the depth of the doping program there.

McLaren’s report showed that some Russian gold medalists from the Sochi Games were tainted by doping. Russia won gold medals in two-man bobsled, four-man bobsled and men’s skeleton at the Olympics, though none of the athletes who got those victories has been implicated by any known positive or tampered-with tests.

“We will come and prove that we are able to fight at any championship,” Russian Bobsled Federation president Alexander Zubkov, a winner of two gold medals at the Sochi Games, told reporters from Russia last week.

Park City, Utah, was also under consideration to host.

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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