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IOC sets date, time to announce Russia Olympic decision

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GENEVA (AP) — The International Olympic Committee will announce Dec. 5 if Russia can compete at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Russia faces being banned from the Feb. 9-25 Winter Games in South Korea as punishment for state-backed doping at the Sochi Olympics.

The IOC said Friday that a “decision with regard to the participation of Russian athletes in the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 will be taken” by its executive board on the opening day of a Dec. 5-6 meeting in its home city of Lausanne.

IOC President Thomas Bach is scheduled to announce the decision at a news conference at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Bach criticized sport officials who call for a total ban on Russia, which could be offered sanctions that would allow some athletes to compete if they also have met stricter standards of doping controls.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said it would be “degrading” for its athletes to take part in the Winter Games as a neutral team and be denied their national flag and anthem.

That happened in August at the world track and field championships, where some Russian athletes won medals despite the Russian athletics body being suspended by the IAAF in fallout from the doping scandals.

The IOC board is awaiting reports from two commissions it created to verify evidence detailed by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren last year, weeks before the Rio Olympics.

One panel led by IOC board member Denis Oswald is prosecuting around 30 individual Russian athletes who are suspected of doping violations at Sochi. There, tainted samples were swapped with clean urine in the WADA-accredited testing laboratory.

Six cross-country skiers, including two medalists, have already been disqualified by Oswald’s three-man panel and banned from the Olympics for life. They plan appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

A second IOC panel is studying whether Russian state agencies, including the sports ministry and FSB security service, were involved in the doping program. That commission is chaired by Samuel Schmid, a former president of Switzerland.

The case for Russia to stay in the PyeongChang Olympics got tougher this week when WADA declined to re-accredit the reformed national anti-doping agency known as RUSADA.

Russian authorities refuse to acknowledge there was a state conspiracy to corrupt the Sochi Olympics — a key condition insisted on by WADA.

“It is clear that an unconditional recognition of the McLaren Report is impossible,” Russian IOC member Alexander Zhukov told the WADA meeting on Thursday in Seoul, South Korea.

Russia blames individuals for the doping program, and wants whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov — the former director of the Moscow and Sochi labs — to be extradited from the United States.

Rodchenkov is in a witness protection program after fleeing to the U.S. and alleging to American media last year how the Sochi doping system worked.

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Canada in control of hockey rivalry going into Olympics

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Four years ago, the U.S. women’s hockey team rode a four-game winning streak over rival Canada into the Olympics, then lost both games in Sochi, including a gut-wrenching overtime final.

This time, Canada goes into the Winter Games having won four straight.

The Canadians beat the Americans 2-1 in overtime in Edmonton on Sunday night, taking their pre-Olympic series 5-3 overall.

“I don’t think it was our best performance,” Canada coach Laura Schuler said. “There’s still more work to do.”

The Canadians were led by their stalwarts — captain Marie-Philip Poulin scored in regulation, Sochi gold medalist Jennifer Wakefield scored 26 seconds into overtime and longtime goalie Shannon Szabados stopped 34 of 35 shots.

Hilary Knight netted the U.S. goal, with Maddie Rooney making 24 saves.

“The goal for us is to be hitting on all cylinders in February,” U.S. coach Robb Stauber said.

The U.S. appeared to be in that kind of form until about two weeks ago.

Before this losing streak, the U.S. had a 12-4 record against Canada since the start of 2015, including taking the last three world championship finals.

At one point, the U.S. won six straight games over a 12-month stretch, its longest streak over Canada since it famously won eight straight going into the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics then lost the gold-medal game.

Canada also beat the U.S. in their last four meetings before the 2006 Olympics and five straight going into the 2010 Olympics.

The U.S. Olympic team will be announced Jan. 1. The national-team roster is at 25 players (22 skaters, three goalies), but the Olympic roster is 23 (20 skaters, three goalies).

“Can’t live in the past, can’t live in the future, so tonight we were worried about this game,” U.S. captain Meghan Duggan said, according to the Canadian Press. “We weren’t looking ahead to February.”

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Yuzuru Hanyu to miss Japan Figure Skating Championships

Yuzuru Hanyu
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Yuzuru Hanyu, the reigning Olympic and world figure skating champion, will miss his national championships this week due to ankle and knee injuries suffered in a Nov. 9 practice fall, according to Japanese media citing the Japan Skating Federation.

Hanyu can (and very likely will) be named to Japan’s three-man Olympic team despite missing nationals.

Hanyu has reportedly been off the ice for more than one month since the fall.

“It is an important selection competition, and the Olympics are a big goal, so with that in mind we would like to think things through together,” Japan Skating Federation director Yoshiko Kobayashi said last week, according to Kyodo News.

Hanyu, who turned 23 on Dec. 7, fell on a quadruple Lutz attempted and then favored his right ankle in a Nov. 9 practice at a Grand Prix event (video here).

He skated the run-through for his free skate, although he elected not to do any more jumps.

“I have been told by the doctor that I need 10 days of complete rest,” Hanyu said in a statement on Nov. 12, according to Kyodo. “Following that, it will take three to four weeks to return and get back to where I was.”

Hanyu and world silver medalist Shoma Uno are favored to lead Japan’s Olympic men’s figure skating team. The third spot is likely to go to Takahito Mura or Keiji Tanaka.

Hanyu competed twice this season.

He posted a world-record short program score in his debut at a small September event in Canada, but struggled to fifth place in the free skate and finished second overall behind two-time world champion Javier Fernandez of Spain.

He then finished second to U.S. champion Nathan Chen at the first Grand Prix event of the season in Moscow in October.

Chen is the only undefeated male singles skater this season.

Hanyu won four straight national titles before missing last season’s event with the flu.

He was still named to Japan’s team for worlds, where he won his second title in four years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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