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IOC: 28 Russians from Sochi Olympics face doping cases

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GENEVA (AP) — On yet another doping-tainted day for Russian sport, 28 athletes now face IOC cases linked to cheating at the Sochi Winter Olympics and a major cross-country skiing event was removed from the country.

The IOC said Friday it has opened 28 disciplinary proceedings against Russian athletes whose urine samples were likely tampered with at the 2014 Olympics.

Six cases involve cross-country skiers who are now provisionally suspended by the International Ski Federation (FIS), which did not identify them. Six Russian men won five medals, including one gold, in cross-country skiing on home snow at Sochi.

The new wave of Olympic doping cases is set to produce a flow of verdicts and disqualifications next year that could fuel calls for some or all of the Russian team to be banned from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The cases are based on evidence provided this month by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren.

McLaren detailed vast state-backed cheating in Russian sport that included swapping athletes’ tainted samples for clean urine through the testing laboratory at Sochi.

The Canadian law professor offered evidence of a method for state intelligence officers to break open supposedly tamper-proof glass sample bottles which had scratches behind the lid. Urine samples retained by the IOC since Sochi included some with unnatural levels of salt in healthy humans.

In further fallout from McLaren’s report, the world ski body said Russian officials have handed back hosting rights for the end-of-season World Cup finals in cross-country skiing.

The event was scheduled in March in Tyumen, which on Thursday also lost the right to host a biathlon World Cup event in March.

“The findings in the McLaren Report have seriously damaged the integrity of sport and we are determined to ensure the necessary measures are undertaken to punish the offences,” said FIS President Gian-Franco Kasper, who is also a member of the IOC’s executive board.

The IOC said the 28 new cases being examined by its disciplinary commission are not positive doping tests. However “the manipulation of the samples themselves could lead to an Anti-Doping Rule Violation and sanctions.

Samples from Russian athletes at Sochi are now being re-tested at the WADA-accredited lab in Lausanne, Switzerland, the IOC said.

The IOC cites legal reasons for not identifying the athletes.

FIS said it was the responsibility of the Russian ski federation and the athletes themselves if they wished to be identified.

On Thursday, the International Biathlon Union said it provisionally suspended two Russians whose cases from Sochi were opened by the IOC.

The re-testing of Russian athletes’ samples for traces of steroids and other banned substances now involves all four Olympic Games from 2008 through 2014.

The IOC said Friday that it already disqualified 27 Russian athletes, stripping an array of titles and medals, in re-tests of samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics. All Russian samples from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics are now being re-analyzed.

At Vancouver, an underachieving Russia team placed 11th in the medals table. That performance is often cited as the motive for Russia to orchestrate a doping program to ensure better results in the home Sochi Olympics, which cost $51 billion to build and run.

Russia did top the Sochi medals table, but looks certain to lose that place to Norway when the IOC processes the disciplinary cases announced Friday.

MORE: IOC president wants life bans for Russian cheats

USA Gymnastics closes Karolyi Ranch

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USA Gymnastics said it will no longer use the Karolyi Ranch in Texas as its training center, where athletes said Larry Nassar sexually abused gymnasts.

“USA Gymnastics has terminated its agreement with the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas,” USA Gymnastics CEO and president Kerry Perry said in a press release Thursday. “It will no longer serve as the USA Gymnastics National Team Training Center.

“It has been my intent to terminate this agreement since I began as president and CEO in December. Our most important priority is our athletes, and their training environment must reflect this. We are committed to a culture that empowers and supports our athletes.

“We have cancelled next week’s training camp for the U.S. Women’s National Team. We are exploring alternative sites to host training activities and camps until a permanent location is determined. We thank all those in the gymnastics community assisting in these efforts.”

MORE: Nassar calls hearing ‘media circus’ as Olympic gymnasts testify

World champions Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols said that Nassar sexually abused gymnasts at the ranch.

“When I was 15 I started to have back problems while at a National Team Camp at the Karolyi Ranch,” Nichols wrote in a victim impact statement read at one of Nassar’s sentencing hearings on Wednesday and published last week. “This is when the changes in his medical treatments occurred.

“I trusted what he was doing at first, but then he started touching me in places I really didn’t think he should. He didn’t have gloves on and he didn’t tell me what he was doing. There was no one else in the room and I accepted what he was doing because I was told by adults that he was the best doctor and he could help relieve my pain.

“He did this ‘treatment’ on me, on numerous occasions.”

Raisman, a three-time Olympic champion, urged USA Gymnastics to close the ranch in a Tuesday interview on ESPN.

“I hope USA Gymnastics listens because they haven’t listened to us so far,” she said. “I hope they listen, and I hope they don’t make any of the girls go back to the ranch. No one should have to go back there after, you know, so many of us were abused there.”

Simone Biles did not specifically name the Karolyi Ranch in her Monday statement, but Raisman said Tuesday that Biles was referring to that site.

“It is impossibly difficult to relive these experiences and it breaks my heart even more to think that as I work towards my dream of competing at Tokyo 2020, I will have to continually return to the same training facility where I was abused,” was posted on Biles’ social media.

Jamie Dantzscher, a 2000 Olympian, said Nassar was alone with her in her bed at the ranch.

“There was no one else sent with him,” she said on CBS last year. “The treatment was in the bed, in my bed that I slept on at the ranch.”

USA Gymnastics said in July 2016 that it reached an agreement with former national team coordinators Bela and Martha Karolyi to purchase the training facility the couple owned.

The national governing body backed out of the purchase in May “for a variety of reasons” but continued under its current lease agreement while exploring alternative locations for camps. It held national team camps there in September and November.

The Karolyis established the ranch in 1983 after defecting from Romania. It had been a national team training center since 2001.

Larry Nassar calls hearing ‘media circus’ as Olympic gymnasts testify

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A statement from McKayla Maroney read Thursday repeated that sexual assault by Larry Nassar “left scars” in her mind that may never fade as a judge heard a third day of testimony from victims.

Nassar could be sentenced Friday in Lansing. Since Tuesday, Judge Rosemarie Aquilina has been listening to dozens of young women who were molested after seeking his help for injuries.

Aquilina started the hearing Thursday by saying Nassar had written a letter fearing that his mental health wasn’t strong enough to sit and listen to a parade of victims. He called the hearing “a media circus.”

The judge dismissed it as “mumbo jumbo.”

“Spending four or five days listening to them is minor, considering the hours of pleasure you’ve had at their expense, ruining their lives,” Aquilina said.

Nassar, 54, faces a minimum sentence of 25 to 40 years in prison for molesting girls as a doctor for Michigan State University and at his home.

He also was a team doctor at USA Gymnastics for nearly two decades. He’s already been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes.

“Dr. Nassar was not a doctor,” Maroney said in a statement read by a prosecutor (Maroney’s statement was previously posted in the fall). “He left scars on my psyche that may never go away.”

USA Gymnastics in 2016 reached a financial settlement with Maroney that barred her from making disparaging remarks. But the organization this week said it would not seek any money for her “brave statements.”

A 2000 Olympian, Jamie Dantzscher, looked at Nassar and said, “How dare you ask any of us for forgiveness.”

“Your days of manipulation are over,” she said. “We have a voice. We have the power now.”

Nassar wasn’t the only target. Victims also criticized Michigan State and USA Gymnastics.

Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon attended part of the session Wednesday. The school is being sued by dozens of women, who say campus officials wrote off complaints about the popular doctor.

“Guess what? You’re a coward, too,” current student and former gymnast Lindsey Lemke said Thursday, referring to Simon.

The judge has been praising each speaker and criticizing Nassar.

It’s “about their control over other human beings and feeling like God and they can do anything,” Aquilina said of sex offenders.

On Jan. 31, Nassar will get another sentence for sexual assaults at a Lansing-area gymnastics club in a different county.