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U.S. skeleton sliders want global drug-testing standards to match those in U.S.

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — There was an offseason when U.S. skeleton athlete Katie Uhlaender got a knock on her door from drug testers 19 times in the span of a few weeks. Sometimes they wanted blood. Sometimes they wanted urine. Often, they wanted both.

NBCOlympics.com: 2018 U.S. Olympic skeleton team

The process is annoying. It’s also effective, so Uhlaender and her teammates wonder why it’s not the global standard.

Uhlaender and other members of the U.S. skeleton team suggested Thursday that the rest of the world should follow the testing model employed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, especially with the ongoing fallout from the Russian doping scandal that saw widespread accusations of cheating and now a belief that many flat-out beat a broken system.

“I’d love if the global model adopted ours,” three-time U.S. men’s skeleton Olympian John Daly said. “We get tested pretty strictly, as does Canada. Everyone else? You talk to some of the other athletes, they don’t even know how to fill out the paperwork. The testing isn’t happening. We don’t care if our testing is strict. That’s fine with me. We just want the rest of the world to be like ours.”

It’s not the first time American athletes have offered this opinion. Olympic swimming great Michael Phelps took his pleas for change to Congress last year, saying that he does not believe “that I’ve stood up at international competitions and the rest of the field has been clean.”

Same goes these days for sliders, who saw many Russians sanctioned and banned by the International Olympic Committee — and many of those reinstated after appeals went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“I’m not in other nations’ testing pools, so I can’t speak exactly for how often they get tested,” said Matt Antoine, a two-time Olympian and the bronze medalist in men’s skeleton at the Sochi Games. “But my perception, talking to them, is we get tested considerably more than they do.”

Uhlaender finished fourth at the Sochi Olympics four years ago. When Russia’s Elena Nikitina was found by the IOC to have been part of the doping program at those Olympics, Uhlaender was expected to move up to Nikitina’s bronze-medal spot. But the CAS ruling essentially restored Nikitina’s medal, Uhlaender still doesn’t have one and now Nikitina is among those in PyeongChang fighting for a chance to compete.

NBCOlympics.com: See full skeleton schedule

“Mindblowing,” Uhlaender said. “I think initially when the IOC took such a strong stance to ban Russia and suspend the federation completely and strip the medals, it gave the athletes who are holding on to the spirit of sport hope and kind of strengthened our Olympic spirit. And then when CAS took that away, it did the opposite. So I think we’re all turning to the IOC for reform and to take a strong stance to give us that spirit back.

“We’re holding onto an Olympic spirit that feels like it’s dying.”

There are still 45 Russian athletes who are trying last-minute appeals with hopes of getting into the Olympics. Some coaches and support staff who were banned also are trying to win appeals before CAS, which is planning to issue decisions Friday — just hours before the opening ceremony.

Nikitina believes she will win, and said the Russians will fight for as long as they can. If they are successful, the IOC may have no choice but to accept athletes who they say are dopers.

“For me, if that’s allowed, my faith in the system will be heartbroken,” Uhlaender said.

Top curling video and social media moments

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For nearly three straight weeks, curling dominated the Olympic airwaves, and while the U.S., Sweden and Canada all came away with gold medals, there were still plenty of highlights away from the ice.

In the mixed doubles tournament, fans were introduced to Team USA’s #HamFam, Matt and Becca Hamilton, who became instant sensations. Matt was even confused for some other celebrities, as people tried to nail down exactly who he looked like.

And he got to “meet” his hero, Aaron Rodgers… of course only through Twitter (for now!)

 In the women’s tournament, fans were introduced to Japan’s “sunshine team,” who were all all smiles on the way to their bronze medal win.

Three Stars from men’s hockey at the Olympics

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NBC Olympics staff selected three special performers from the enitre men’s tournament at the Olympics.

FIRST STAR
Eeli Tolvanen, Finland: The 18-year-old winger was the undisputed breakout star of the men’s tournament. Even though Finland was eliminated in the quarterfinals, Tolvanen’s tally of nine points still ranked second overall as he averaged nearly two points per game. He scored in his Olympic debut and also tallied two assists against eventual silver medalist Germany. He followed that up with two scores against Norway. Tolvanen paced his team past an energized South Korean team in the qualification playoffs, assisting in Finland’s opening three goals. After a sizzling Olympic performance, Tolvanen could be on his way to the NHL to help the Nashville Predators chase the Stanley Cup once again.

NBCOlympics.com: OAR defeat Germany to win hockey gold 

SECOND STAR
Nikita Gusev, Olympic Athletes from Russia: The Vegas Golden Knights prospect tallied four goals and eight assists in just six games throughout the 2018 Winter Games. He also struck twice when it mattered most, helping OAR force OT in the gold-medal game. Trailing 3-2 in the final frame and playing shorthanded, Gusev was able to sneak a backhanded shot into the back of the net to knot the score with less than a minute remaining. Then, in the extra session, it was Gusev who made a beautiful cross-ice pass to set up the golden goal by Kirill Kaprizov.

NBCOlymipcs.com: Canada claim bronze with 6-4 over Czech Republic

THIRD STAR
Ryan Donato, United States: The 21-year-old Boston Bruins prospect was bright spot for Team USA despite the disappointing finish. The sniper lifted his team to a crucial preliminary-round victory over Slovakia, grabbing both goals in a 2-1 victory. He came back to haunt Slovakia again with two more scores in the qualification playoffs, and though the United States’ tournament came to an end in the quarterfinals against the Czech Republic, Donato notched one last goal in the 3-2 loss to finish with a team-leading five goals and six points. Donato, along with fellow collegiate athletes Troy Terry and Jordan Greenway, surprised many with their contributions on the ice. If management had known of their game-changing impact in advance, the American roster might have included more NCAA players.