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Russia loses World Cup biathlon, speed skating events over doping

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Russia has lost speedskating and biathlon events it was due to host this winter following allegations it ran a vast state-sponsored doping scheme.

World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren‘s report has prompted Western athletes to campaign for boycotts in several winter sports in Russia after 12 medalists from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi were implicated.

It’s not yet clear where the events will be held instead.

The International Skating Union said it was stripping the Russian city of Chelyabinsk of the final round of this season’s World Cup because, following McLaren’s report, “the focus of the event would not be on the sport but rather accusations and controversies.”

Other concerns included “a substantial amount of critical evidence” of doping in Russia “and the uncertainty relating to the attendance of the athletes,” the ISU said.

Russian biathlon officials voluntarily gave up their rights to host a World Cup round in March and the world junior championships, due to start late February. It was “impossible” to hold the events in the circumstances, the Russian Biathlon Union said.

The International Biathlon Union welcomed the move.

“This is a first important step by the Russian Biathlon Union to show to the IBU and to the world of sport that the current situation is taken very seriously,” the IBU said in a statement. “This will now allow the international biathlon family to focus on biathlon during these events.”

Russia had previously lost the world bobsled and skeleton championships in the fallout from McLaren’s report, which alleged more than 1,000 athletes, including Olympic medalists, had benefited from a state-backed plan to cover up drug use.

MORE: IOC president wants life bans for Russian cheats

Laurie Hernandez plans on competing in 2019, agent says

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Olympic gymnastics champion Laurie Hernandez plans on competing in 2019, her agent said.

Hernandez has not competed since taking team gold and vault silver at the Rio Olympics, followed by winning “Dancing with the Stars” later that fall.

She said in October that she hoped to compete in 2018 but would not rush a comeback. Hernandez since decided not to compete at the U.S. Championships this August.

No member of the Final Five has competed at the elite level since Rio, though Madison Kocian is in her sophomore season at UCLA and Simone Biles plans to return this summer.

Aly Raisman said in September 2016 that she planned to take one year off, then return to training for a Tokyo 2020 run. But her focus shifted in the last year to something more important — taking on USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee after Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes.

The last member of the Final Five, 2012 Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas, has not said in widely reported comments if or when she will return to competition.

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MORE: Nastia Liukin among gymnastics Hall of Fame inductees

Sonja Henie record at stake; figure skating worlds pairs preview

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When Aljona Savchenko won her first gold medal at her fifth Olympics with her third different partner in PyeongChang, she said she “wrote history.”

She can write some more this week.

Savchenko, who at 34 became the oldest female figure skating champion in Winter Olympic history, and partner Bruno Massot are the only pairs medalists from PyeongChang who are back for the world championships in Milan.

The Germans headline the field for the short program Wednesday and free skate Friday.

MORE: World Champs TV Schedule

Savchenko can tie Norwegian Sonja Henie for the female record of 11 world championships medals. She can grab a share of second on the all-time pairs list with a sixth world title, four shy of Soviet Irina Rodnina‘s record.

Savchenko, who won four crowns with now-retired Robin Szolkowy, goes for her first world title with Massot. They’re clear favorites.

Olympic silver medalists Sui Wenjing and Han Cong withdrew from worlds due to Sui’s foot injury. Olympic bronze medalists Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford retired.

It’s arguably a surprise that Savchenko and Massot chose to compete in Milan. They’re the first Olympic pairs champions to compete at a post-Olympic worlds since 1992.

Their top challengers are Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who outscored Savchenko and Massot in the Olympic short program but dropped off the podium in the free skate with a fall on their throw.

U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Christopher Knierim, 15th at the Olympics, made the top 10 in all of their four world championships appearances with a best finish of seventh. The last U.S. pairs medal came in 2002, the nation’s longest drought in any figure skating discipline.

The Knierims were the only U.S. pair in PyeongChang, but in Milan they’re joined by Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay.

Stellato earned singles silver at the 2000 World Junior Championships, then retired at age 17 due to hip injuries. She came back at age 32 in 2016 in pairs and, with the Sochi Olympian Bartholomay, took bronze at this year’s nationals.

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MORE: Best figure skating moments from PyeongChang