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Russian skier stripped of gold medal, banned from Olympics vows to fight

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Alexander Legkov, the cross-country skier stripped of his Sochi gold and silver medals and banned for life from the Olympics last week in Russia’s doping probe, said he will fight that decision in a 781-word Instagram post on Monday.

Legkov, the only Russian skier to win Olympic gold in Sochi, posted an image of himself holding his Sochi gold and silver medals with the text. He posted it in Russian, then in a second post in English.

Russian media reported the statement was first posted on the website of Legkov’s lawyer on Saturday.

He wrote that his stripped Olympic 50km cross-country gold medal “is clean.”

The text read:

It took me a long time to find words to describe what I feel.

A few days ago, the IOC Oswald Disciplinary Commission decided to take away my medals, which I had won in Sochi 2014, and to impose on me and my teammate Evgeniy Belov a lifelong ban from the Olympic Games. The last few days I said nothing to media, my fans and all the other athletes because I was shocked – not only because of the decision on the matter, but also because of the circumstances. I do not want to apologize and I do not want to defend myself, but explain.

For 20 years, I have been arranging all of this to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games. Every athlete has this dream. We all, my opponents from all over the world and I, we worked hard every day. Year after year we met. We have measured ourselves in many competitions and in many training camps during the year. I know what you’ve done and you know what I’ve done. I was happy that I had your respect and you have my respect. This respect forbids you from cheating.

In recent years I have been tested more than 150 times clean. Not tested in Moscow or Sochi because I was abroad, but in Cologne, Lausanne and Dresden. 2013 I won the Tour de Ski and was tested clean. On 20 March 2013 I won the 50km mass start race in Oslo and we had the same finish there as in Sochi 2014 and I was then tested clean in Europe. I know and my opponents know that I can win a clean race, and I know that they can win a clean race.

Since 2011, I have been preparing myself with a team of coaches from Switzerland and Germany. I am very grateful that they supported me and still trust me. Only with their support could I reach my goals.

The years before 2014 I spent most of a year with you in Switzerland and in Europe. In Moscow, where my home is, I only spent a short time on visits. All my opponents and teammates know that. In the months before Sochi, the time when the IOC accused me of having prepared myself with the so-called “cocktail”, I remained without interruption in Europe, not in Russia, and was tested 19 times again closely, in Lausanne, Cologne and Dresden. All substances from which the so-called “cocktail” was developed are known. It was not an extraordinary designer drug. The substances were part of the standard test routine. If I had tried to use the cocktail, I would have been discovered.

Until today no witness statement is shown to me or my lawyer in which a person claims that he or she offered performing enhancing drugs to me or claims that he or she took from me in an irregular manner clean urine. Not even Prof McLaren claimed that about an individual athlete.

Instead, I’ve been punished.

IOC ordered a forensic expert but they did not follow him. They decided in contrast to him and in contrast to Prof Mclaren. My lawyer demanded for DNA analysis for 10 months and they missed to conduct it for me and all the other athletes. We were at Court of Arbitration and they ruled the facts meet not the standard of comfortable satisfaction which is required for a sanction – and IOC said it doesn’t matter and sanctioned me.

Every athlete knows how hard it is to explain day by day where you are in whereabout and to be visited nearly any time of a day and night by an Doping Control Officer, for me more than 150 times. They are discussing to chip us or using GPS.

I want to ask myself, my teammates, my opponents and all the other athletes: if this does not prove anything and does not protect us from a diffuse suspicion, why do we do this?

We are all forced to submit to a sanction procedure from which none of us can be sure that it is fair and free of other interests. Every athlete no matter of which nation can come in the same situation.

The only thing what I want is to be treated fairly, to have independent arbitrators within a fair procedure ruled by law. Either at Court of Arbitration for Sport, or at Swiss Federal Court or the European High Court.

Instead, they sanctioned me.

I am Alexander Gennadjewitsch Legkov, Cross Country Skier, Winner of the Gold Medal in 50km mass start at Olympic Games 2014 in Sochi and my medal is clean. I stand upright and fight.

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Erin Hamlin nears end of historic U.S. luge career

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Erin Hamlin is looking forward to normalcy. She is getting married next summer in her hometown. She is thinking about career moves. She is trying to figure out the rest of her life.

It is probably her last luge season. It is definitely her last Olympic season.

As such, it would be easy to fall into the trap of saying that winning a gold medal at PyeongChang in February would be the only thing that makes this season a success.

It’s important, sure, but Hamlin is entering her 13th year of World Cup racing with a much broader view and insisting that she’s going to enjoy whatever time she has left on her sled.

“I’m not going to hyperfocus myself on one result or bust,” Hamlin said. “Very likely, it’s going to be my last time in a lot of places, sliding on a lot of tracks. So I think more so, it’s going to be a lot of soaking it all in.”

That process starts Saturday, when the World Cup season opens in Igls, Austria.

Hamlin, who turns 31 on Sunday, is coming off the finest year of her career — she won a gold medal and two silvers at the world championships for the biggest haul ever by an American luger, got two World Cup wins and finished fourth in world rankings.

She might be going out, and there’s a chance she can go out on top.

“We’re working hard to convince her to stay,” longtime U.S. teammate Emily Sweeney said.

Sweeney knows that’s probably futile.

Sliders always tend to cycle out after an Olympics, no matter if it’s bobsled, skeleton or luge, and the Americans will see plenty of veterans take their last rides this winter.

A few U.S. sliders already retired this fall, in part because they weren’t going to have a shot at an Olympic berth.

For her part, Hamlin hasn’t officially said this is the end.

“There’s never really as concrete of a plan as you hope there would be, because you never know what can happen,” Hamlin said. “But at the moment, what I’m excited to do is see what other opportunities are there and what other adventures await.”

Hamlin has been in the world’s top 10 in each of the past 11 seasons — the second-longest current streak of any woman in luge, one year behind German legend Tatjana Huefner.

She won a World Cup each of the past three years, took the world title in sprint last winter and became the first U.S. Olympic singles luge medalist in 2014 with a bronze.

A lesson learned that season: Not expecting much can work wonders. That’s one of the reasons why PyeongChang isn’t taking up all the bandwidth in her brain.

“That’s the nature of winter sports in a Winter Olympic year, there being so much focus on the Games,” Hamlin said. “How I went into the last Olympics taught me a lot. I had no expectation of walking away from the last Olympics with a medal. At this point, goal No. 1 is to make the team and beyond that, I know if I slide as I’m capable of I can be pretty fast and I can do well.”

The schedule this season is hectic.

This weekend’s stop in Austria starts a run of five races in five weekends, with the next two in Germany followed by another in Calgary, Alberta, and then on home ice in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Dec. 15-16.

When that Lake Placid World Cup is over, the U.S. Olympic team will be named.

So when Hamlin needs an escape from all that, the wedding is there to bring her back to reality.

It will be at her parents’ home in July. It will, without question, be the social event of the season in Remsen, N.Y., where the one-time high school soccer player has annually left her tiny hometown brimming with pride.

“Pretty exciting,” Hamlin said. “It’s definitely adding a whole new aspect to an Olympic year, planning a wedding, but it’s cool. It gives me a good distraction when I need to think about something other than sliding.”

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Kaetlyn Osmond leads Grand Prix France as co-favorite falls (video)

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Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond topped the Grand Prix France short program, moving closer to another Grand Prix Final berth on Friday.

The world silver medalist was flawed — performing a triple-double combination rather than a triple-triple and putting a hand down on another jump landing.

She goes into Saturday’s free skate with a 1.26-point lead over Russian Maria Sotskova. Japan’s Yuna Shiraiwa is third, while the lone American Polina Edmunds is ninth.

Co-favorite Alina Zagitova of Russia fell and dropped to fifth place in Grenoble.

In the short dance, France’s Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron improved on their personal best with 81.40 points, the third-highest all-time in an eight-year-old system.

Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov lead French Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres by 4.66 going into Saturday’s pairs free skate.

The event continues later Friday with the men’s short, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA.

GP FRANCE: Full Results | TV Schedule

Osmond, 21, was a revelation last season, winning her first Grand Prix medals in four years, making her first Grand Prix Final and finishing second to dominant Russian Yevgenia Medvedeva at worlds.

She’s continued that this fall, winning her first two events in Canada to solidify Olympic medal favorite status. One Canadian woman has won an individual Olympic medal in the last 25 years — Joannie Rochette‘s emotional bronze in 2010.

Zagitova, the 15-year-old world junior champion, fell on her opening triple Lutz. Zagitova won her Grand Prix debut in China two weeks ago and ranks second to training partner Medvedeva in top scores this season.

Medvedeva, Zagitova and Sotskova are the favorites to claim Russia’s three Olympic women’s spots. Sotskova, 17, made the podium in all three of her Grand Prix starts but was a disappointing eighth at last season’s worlds.

Edmunds tallied 56.31 points Friday, stepping out of the landing of her opening triple-triple jump combination.

Still, she improved on her short program from her earlier event this season, where she scored 49.62 with errors on all of her jumps.

Edmunds, the youngest U.S. Olympic competitor across all sports in Sochi, went 20 months between competitions, missing the entire 2016-17 season due to a bone bruise in her right foot.

She is an underdog to make the three-woman U.S. team for PyeongChang that will be named after nationals in January.

Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva continued her string of underwhelming programs since her 2015 World title. She fell on a triple Axel attempt and singled a Lutz, plummeting to last place of 11 skaters.

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Internationaux de France
Women’s Short Program
1. Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN) — 69.05
2. Maria Sotskova (RUS) — 67.79
3. Yuna Shiraiwa (JPN) — 66.05
9. Polina Edmunds (USA) — 56.31

Short Dance
1. Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA) — 81.40
2. Madison Chock/Evan Bates (USA) — 73.55
3. Alexandra Stepanova/Ivan Bukin (RUS) — 70.02
6. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit (USA) — 60.64

Pairs
1. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 77.84
2. Vanessa James/Morgan Cipres (FRA) — 73.18
3. Nicole Della Monica/Matteo Guarise (ITA) — 70.65
6. Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran (USA) — 58.99