U.S. Figure Skating president: Russia shouldn’t be in PyeongChang Olympics

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KANSAS CITY — U.S. Figure Skating president Sam Auxier said Russia shouldn’t be allowed to participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics due its ongoing doping scandal.

“I don’t think they should be able to,” Auxier said at the U.S. Championships on Thursday. “I mean, it’s state-sponsored. It was a huge program, well-coordinated to cheat, and they should pay a pretty stiff penalty. And I think the only way the IOC and the ISU maintain any level of integrity is to take a strong stand and weigh a strong penalty for those actions.”

In December, a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) commissioned report by investigator Richard McLaren accused Russia of a widespread doping cover-up at the Sochi Winter Olympics, including urine-sample swapping.

No Russian figure skaters have been announced as suspended in relation to the Russian doping reports, though Russian athletes in other sports have been banned. Some bans were lifted due to a lack of evidence.

The International Skating Union (ISU) said on Dec. 9 that “if and when there are sufficient elements and evidence to pursue anti-doping rule violations, the ISU will not hesitate to open disciplinary proceedings against bodies or persons subject to infringements.”

On Dec. 23, the International Olympic Committee said 28 Russian athletes faced doping cases in relation to the Sochi Winter Olympics but did not name names.

“At this point it’s really out of our control,” Auxier said Thursday. “It’s up to WADA and the people doing the analysis, and then the ISU will have to decide what type of penalty they will weigh against that, given the evidence.

“It’s important to us that the ISU take a strong stand against doping in making sure our athletes, who are all clean, compete against athletes who are clean. We are very focused on what the decision is and what steps the ISU will take, and we’ll exert any influence we’re able to.”

U.S. Figure Skating executive director David Raith said the federation is “a highly motivated, highly interested bystander in that to see what the ISU and the IOC do.”

Russia had the best figure skating team at the Sochi Winter Olympics and continues to be a world power. It boasts reigning Olympic champions in the women’s and pairs events and the last two women’s world champions.

In Sochi, Russian Adelina Sotnikova earned gold in the women’s event.

American Gracie Gold finished fourth in Sochi and was asked last week her thoughts if Sotnikova, who hasn’t been implicated publicly by an official body, were to be stripped of her medals. That would move Gold up to bronze in the singles event and, potentially, silver in the team event.

“As far as I know, everything is still under investigation, so I can’t really speak,” Gold said. “It certainly is causing some headlines, though. … I competed against Adelina for many years. I loved her. I think she’s still a sweetheart. A lot of the Russians, I’ve found them all to be lovely people, despite maybe what other people [say] their stigma. … I don’t feel like anyone could suspect something so widespread.”

MORE: U.S. Championships broadcast schedule

Gymnastics doctor’s lawyers want trial moved, cite media coverage

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Attorneys for a former Michigan State and USA Gymnastics doctor accused of molesting dozens of athletes are pushing to have his trial moved out of the Lansing area.

The Lansing State Journal reports that attorneys representing Larry Nassar filed a change-of-venue request because of what they called “inflammatory and sustained media coverage” that they say has made it difficult for Nassar to get a fair trial in the area.

The media attention grew more intense this week when 21-year-old 2012 Olympic gold medal gymnast McKayla Maroney wrote on Twitter that Nassar started assaulting her when she was 13.

Nassar has pleaded not guilty to nearly two dozen charges in Michigan. He has pleaded guilty to three child pornography charges in an unrelated case but has not been sentenced.

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MORE: Aly Raisman speaks out about USA Gymnastics scndal

Nathan Chen holds off Yuzuru Hanyu to win first Grand Prix

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U.S. champion Nathan Chen opened the Grand Prix season by beating Olympic gold-medal favorite Yuzuru Hanyu.

Chen, 18, held off Hanyu at Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, totaling 293.79 points to win by 3.02 over the Japanese megastar.

Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva easily won the women’s title despite a rare fall in her free skate. Medvedeva is undefeated since 2015 Rostelecom Cup.

Full scores are here.

Chen landed four quadruple jumps in a strong but imperfect free skate for his first Grand Prix title in his second senior international season.

“I got a little tired halfway through the program and started faltering a little bit on the second quad toe – that was a big mistake,” Chen said, according to the International Skating Union .”I can’t let things like that happen in the future. But this is my first Grand Prix win, and I’m very happy with that.”

Hanyu outscored Chen in the free skate, but the American benefited from his 5.69-point lead from Friday’s short program.

Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world champion, has never won his opening Grand Prix start in eight tries.

He did three quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate rather than the planned five, but did not fall as he did in the short program.

Chen has now outscored Hanyu in three of their last four head-to-head events dating to February. Hanyu got the better of Chen at the most important event — winning the world championships, where the American was sixth.

Also Saturday, two-time world medalists Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani won the ice dance with 189.24 points, sweeping both the short and free programs.

The siblings and U.S. champions have now won four straight Grand Prix titles (not counting the Grand Prix Final).

They won by 4.5 points over Russians Yekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviyev.

The world’s top two couples were not in the field — Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

Russia swept the pairs podium, led by world bronze medalists Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov.

The top pairs teams from the rest of the world — including world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong — were not in the field.

The Rostelecom Cup women’s free skate is later Saturday.

The Grand Prix season continues next weekend with Skate Canada, headlined by three-time U.S. champion Ashley Wagner and three-time world champion Patrick Chan.

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MORE: Figure skating season broadcast schedule

Rostelecom Cup
Men
1. Nathan Chen (USA) — 293.79
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN) — 290.77
3. Mikhail Kolyada (RUS) — 271.06
11. Grant Hochstein (USA) — 206.09

Women
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 231.21
2. Carolina Kostner (ITA) — 215.98
3. Wakaba Higuchi (JPN) — 207.17
6. Mariah Bell (USA) — 188.56
9. Mirai Nagasu (USA) — 178.25

Ice Dance
1. Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani (USA) — 189.24
2. Yekaterina Bobrova/Dmitry Soloviyev (RUS) — 184.74
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 179.35
7. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons (USA) — 148.75

Pairs
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 224.25
2. Ksenia Stolbova/Fedor Klimov (RUS) — 204.43
3. Kristina Astakhova/Aleksey Rogonov (RUS) — 199.11
7. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 170.53