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Russia track and field ban extended by IAAF

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MONACO (AP) — Russia’s ban from international track and field was extended Sunday by the IAAF as key Russian sports and political figures continue to deny operating any doping system.

Track’s world governing body unanimously accepted a recommendation from its Russia taskforce not to reinstate Russia.

That is a blow to Russia’s chances of competing under its own flag at March’s world indoor championships in Birmingham, Great Britain.

“It is our responsibility to create that landscape where there is trust,” IAAF president Seb Coe said.

The current IAAF position of allowing some Russians to compete as so-called neutral athletes after reviews of their drug-testing history, allows “separation where possible of the clean athletes from a tainted system,” Coe said.

While the IAAF has been cautiously optimistic about reforms to the Russian track federation, a key obstacle is the refusal of Russia’s sports and political leadership to admit any kind of doping program existed. Russia’s national anti-doping agency also remains suspended.

While reforms are under way within Russian sports bodies, “the broader question … is whether they will be able to operate in a system which we can trust, and I think that is what needs to be addressed by Russian authorities,” IAAF Russia taskforce head Rune Andersen said.

The taskforce’s latest report on Russia, published Sunday, notes “extreme disappointment” at what it says is insufficient communication from the Russian authorities.

The Russian government has repeatedly denied having any involvement in doping, and says there was only a smaller-scale plot by a group of rogue anti-doping employees.

Russia was suspended in November 2015 after the World Anti-Doping Agency found evidence of widespread doping. Nineteen Russians were allowed to compete as neutrals at August’s world championships, winning one gold and five silver medals.

Russia is the only nation under IAAF suspension, though five more — Belarus, Ethiopia, Kenya, Morocco and Ukraine — have been on a watch list amid concerns about drug use in the countries.

Coe said Sunday that Morocco had been taken off that list following a recommendation from the IAAF’s Athletics Integrity Unit. “They will be taken off that watch list and be monitored,” he said.

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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.

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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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