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Thomas Bach: Russian Olympic athlete list made so no ‘negative surpises’

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Seeking to avoid “negative surprises” about past doping by Russian athletes after they compete at the PyeongChang Olympics, IOC President Thomas Bach explained Wednesday why invitation rules must be strict.

Bach told reporters in a conference call that only clean athletes with “not the slightest doubt or suspicion” about them should go to the Games that open Feb. 9.

It is the first Winter Games since the doping-tainted Sochi Olympics in 2014.

“The final invited list will consist of clean athletes, so that neither Russia nor the Olympic movement will have to face any negative surprises,” the International Olympic Committee leader said.

Six-time short-track speedskating gold medalist Viktor Ahn is among several high-profile Russians blocked from competing in South Korea by an IOC panel that is assessing each athlete’s testing history and potential forensic evidence.

Five hockey players have also been barred, including former NHL players Sergei Plotnikov, Valeri Nichushkin and Anton Belov.

”If such an athlete is not on the list, then this independent panel has serious indications by different sources and by different means,” Bach said.

The IOC has not confirmed any names before publishing a list of invited athletes this weekend, nor has it detailed all the criteria being used by the panel to vet each athlete.

“There could be a suspicion, there may be even ongoing procedures, there could be many factors which did not lead to the satisfaction of the panel,” Bach said.

Declining to discuss individual cases, he did suggest potential evidence from a Moscow testing laboratory’s database is one such factor.

The database trove being studied by the IOC invitation panel covers years of the lab’s work when Russia operated a state-backed program of doping and cover-ups across summer and winter sports.

“This is why we had the (World Anti-Doping Agency) chief investigator Mr. (Gunter) Younger in this group to contribute with his first-hand experience,” Bach said.

Another possible reason for excluding a Russian athlete from the Olympics is appearing on the so-called “Duchess List” of athletes using a steroids cocktail compiled by former lab director Grigory Rodchenkov. He is a key whistleblower now living as a protected witness in the United States.

Bach said that forensic evidence from tampered urine samples — “salt analysis, DNA inconsistencies” — and suspect readings from an athlete’s biological passport could also lead to exclusion from the invited Russian team.

Organizers want to avoid situations “where there are new facts arriving,” said Bach, who wants to avoid altering PyeongChang results and reallocating medals to clean athletes after the Games.

“It is extremely important and this is one of the reasons why we have the widest and the strictest ever pre-games testing program,” he said.

Russian athletes that are invited will compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” under the Olympic flag, and in neutral uniform.

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PHOTOS: Russia neutral Olympic uniform designs

Exhibition gala closes out figure skating program in PyeongChang

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Without the pressure of racking up points to land on the medal podium, the figure skating exhibition gala is a chance for the athletes to express themselves. There aren’t rules about jumping sequences, and instead, skaters can use props and silly concepts, if they want.

Figure skaters who win medals at the Olympics are typically among the invite list, plus up-and-coming skaters from the host country and other fan favorites.

Here are some of the best performances of the evening:

Ice dance bronze medalists Maia and Alex Shibutani reprised last season’s “That’s Life” short dance by Frank Sinatra featuring Jay-Z for this year’s exhibition.

Ladies’ gold medalist Alina Zagitova performed her “Priestess of Fire” exhibition, which included a fake candle prop glowing on the ice.

Watch performances from the figure skating gala by clicking here 

Double gold: Germany’s Friedrich wins 4-man bobsled

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Two-man? Check. Four-man? Double check. Francesco Friedrich piloted his German sled to gold in the four-man bobsled, becoming the sixth pilot to win gold in both the two- and four-man bobsled in the same Olympics on the final day of competition in PyeongChang.

After tying with Canada’s Justin Kripps in two-man, Friedrich made no doubt in four-man, sliding to a dominant win. The German sled was clear of second by 0.53 seconds. And in second? Another tie on the bobsled course — just like the tie for gold in two-man. South Korea and Germany shared the silver medal.

NBCOlympics.com: Remembering team USA bobsled star Steve Holcomb

South Korea’s medal was historic. Won Yun-Jong delivered for the home nation, bringing the country its first medal in the bobsled. Yun Sung-Bin won the country’s first medal in a sliding event by taking gold in skeleton earlier in the games. Germany’s Nico Walther piloted the sled that tied.

Codie Bascue piloted the top American sled to a ninth-place finish. Nick Cunningham and Justin Olsen improved in Runs 3 and 4 to finish 19th and 20th, respectively.

Results: 

Gold: Germany (Friedrich sled)
Silver: South Korea (Won sled)
Silver: Germany (Walther sled)

Read the full recap and watch bobsled highlights by clicking here