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USOC boss calls for immediate action on Russian doping

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The leader of the U.S. Olympic Committee called on his international counterparts to act immediately on allegations of Russian doping, with now less than four months until the start of the Winter Games.

“The time for action is now,” Scott Blackmun, the CEO of the USOC said in an address Thursday to the USOC Assembly.

In his speech to more than 200 members of the U.S. Olympic community, Blackmun said “it is beyond frustrating” that no action has been taken on the now-15-month-old McLaren Report, which documented a Russian doping system that tainted the Sochi Games in 2014.

International Olympic Committee leaders launched two investigations after the McLaren Report was released and expect results before the end of the year.

But Blackmun noted that U.S. athletes are getting frustrated, with so far not a single Sochi medal forfeited nor a single Winter Olympics-bound athlete sanctioned as a result of the McLaren Report.

The Olympics start Feb. 8.

“I believe the IOC is pursuing the findings of the McLaren Report, both in earnest and in good faith, and I believe the IOC when they say there will be consequences for the bad actors,” Blackmun said. “But at some point, justice delayed is justice denied, and we are fast approaching that point.”

This was one of the strongest statements the USOC has made about the long-running anti-doping scandal in Russia.

It was met with a burst of applause usually reserved at these meetings for announcements about medal counts and other big accomplishments, such as landing the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Several U.S. athletes and sports leaders have expressed frustration with both the IOC’s time-consuming process and with what they had viewed the USOC’s less-than-aggressive push against the IOC’s handling of the Russian investigation.

In one of the assembly meetings Thursday, sports leaders heard from Yulia and Vitaly Stepanov, the first two Russians to blow the whistle on corruption inside the Russian system.

“Obviously, it’s very much welcomed as you could tell by the loud applause,” said Edwin Moses, the chair of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. “As the global voices continue to unite and grow to protect clean athletes, having the commitment from a powerful NOC and host of the 2028 Games supporting justice and reform could be a real game-changer.”

While Blackmun took up the anti-doping topic, USOC chairman Larry Probst was equally forceful in denouncing a growing list of IOC corruption scandals.

Most recently, Brazil’s Carlos Nuzman, who spearheaded the effort to stage the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, is in prison during an investigation into a vote-buying scheme to bring the Games to Brazil. The IOC has suspended Nuzman, and he resigned this week as head of the country’s Olympic committee.

Probst said the bad actors have “been tolerated for too long.”

“To be sure, a global movement requires diplomacy and due process. But it also demands an aggressive and timely response to unacceptable behavior,” Probst said.

Blackmun also called on sports leagues and the federal government to help fund the recently opened U.S. Center for SafeSport, which the USOC helped get off the ground. Its mission is collecting reports about and following up on sex-abuse cases inside Olympic sports.

Scandals have resulted in the leaders at both USA Gymnastics and USA Taekwondo being removed from their jobs over the past seven months.

“If we want parents to entrust their children to your care, to encourage them to participate in your sports… we must look at it from the perspective of the couple at the kitchen table; will my child be safe there?” Blackmun said.

The Assembly will close Friday with a USOC board meeting, in which a key topic will be a possible bid for the Winter Olympics in 2026 or 2030.

Probst told the audience the USOC is interested in bringing the Winter Games back to the United States — and has received interest from Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno, Nev.

But no timelines have been set, or decisions have been made, as the IOC is still determining the selection process for 2026.

Also, any bid would have to come with the cooperation of the Los Angeles host committee, which recently agreed to complex financial arrangements with the USOC as part of its deal to stage the 2028 Games.

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MORE: Austria looks into multi-country 2026 Winter Olympic bid

What is the Alpine skiing team event?

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The Alpine skiing team event will make its Olympic debut in PyeongChang

How to watch
Friday, Feb. 23, 9:00 p.m. ET
LIVE EVENT STREAM

Olympic skiing has always been an individual sport. Simply, the fastest skier down the mountain wins the gold medal.

But the world’s best skiers will have to rely on their teammates for the first time in the team event, which is making its Olympic debut in PyeongChang.

The team event will feature 16 teams, or nations, of four athletes (two men and two women). The 16 teams will be arranged in a bracket-style, single-elimination format. Think NCAA March Madness.

A skier from each of the two competing nations will race down the course in a series of head-to-head slalom races. The winner will earn a point for his or her team. The team with the most points after four heats will advance. If the teams have the same number of points, the winner will be the nation with the lower combined time of its fastest male and female competitor.

Teams are allowed to have a maximum of two reserves.

France won the team event at the 2017 World Championships. The U.S., competing without Mikaela Shiffrin, was knocked out in the first round by Canada.

“It’s a really fun event,” said American AJ Ginnis. “The atmosphere—the fact that you get to race with girls and guys and it’s a team effort is really cool.”

Men’s snowboard big air preview

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Now that Anna Gasser of Austria has successfully captured the first-ever Olympic gold medal in women’s snowboard big air, it’s almost time to crown the first-ever Olympic champion on the men’s side.

Big air snowboarding has progressed tremendously in recent years, and there’s been a lot of build-up to these Olympics, so expect heavy tricks to come out quickly in the final.

Or as Mark McMorris put it: “There’s probably [going to be] some mind-boggling s—.”

Every time there’s a big air event, there’s always talk about “quads” — a type of trick that features four inverted flips. It’s such a progressive trick that only two riders have landed a quad in competition, only a few others have done it in training, and many are hesitant to even try.

Read the full preview at NBCOlympics.com