Nick Zaccardi

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 18:  Ashton Eaton of the United States competes in the Men's Decathlon Javelin Throw on Day 13 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 18, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Ashton Eaton seeks exit strategy with one decathlon box left to check

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A defining moment of Ashton Eaton‘s career came at a competition where he could not take part. On May 30, 2015, Eaton withdrew before the start of a decathlon in Götzis, Austria, citing a back injury.

Götzis is the multi events’ Augusta National or Wimbledon. The decathlon world record was broken there three times since 1980, including the first 9,000-point score by Czech Roman Sebrle in 2001.

Eaton had never competed in Götzis, previously also withdrawing due to injury, and missing another chance at the annual meet clearly bothered him last year.

Yet Eaton still showed up. After all, his wife, Canadian Brianne Theisen-Eaton, would compete in the heptathlon at the meet. But on that first day of competition, Eaton grabbed a microphone and addressed the stadium in a way that spoke to his character.

“This competition is not about me,” Eaton said to the crowd, a good number of them having shown up hoping to see Eaton challenge his world record in his first decathlon in 19 months. “Don’t make this Ashton Eaton isn’t competing thing part of this competition because that would be criminal. You would be stealing a great experience from all of the athletes.”

Today, the decathlon is far from the front of Eaton’s mind. He is coming off his second straight Olympic title and set to travel to British Columbia, Peru and Kenya with his wife the next several weeks.

Eaton has said he will retire from track and field before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He may not even compete past next season.

There is little left for Eaton to accomplish in the decathlon. He has two Olympic titles, two world titles and two world records. But there is one box left to check.

“I know I would want to do Götzis,” Eaton said in a phone interview while promoting sponsor QALO recently.

It’s not about righting a wrong or making up for withdrawing from the Austrian meet in 2013 and 2015 due to injuries.

“It’s more of a sense of missing out on something very cool,” Eaton said. “It’s the home of the multi events, really.”

Eaton isn’t ready to commit yet, but he could see a scenario where he trains through the Götzis meet in May and then decides if he wants to compete at the 2017 World Championships in London, where he won his first Olympic gold medal. He has a bye into worlds as the defending champion.

“It would be a nice bookend,” Eaton said.

When Eaton recently spoke with 1976 Olympic decathlon champion Caitlyn Jenner on the phone, Eaton had one main question: Was it tough to leave the sport?

Jenner never competed in another decathlon after the Montreal Games. Jenner woke the day after the 1976 decathlon, looked into a hotel mirror, naked except for the gold medal, and said, “What the hell am I going to do now?” according to Sports Illustrated.

Maybe Eaton knew this when he asked Jenner earlier this month. Regardless, he liked the response.

“I just looked back, and I said thanks for the great time and all the memories, and then moved on,” Jenner, who went on to endorsements galore to become America’s “Apple Pie Hero,” told him.

Eaton has fewer options than Jenner did, but certainly different and perhaps more ambitious ones, such as starting a university, according to The Associated Press.

“Track has shaped me a lot, and there will be a time to move on,” Eaton said. “I imagine it won’t be super difficult, because I’ll have fond memories.”

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Jeremy Abbott to skip 2016-17 season, train for Olympic year

Jeremy Abbott
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Jeremy Abbott will take a second straight season off from top-level competition, but he would still love to skate in a third Olympics in 2018.

But he’s not yet committing to a run for Pyeongchang, either.

“I committed myself to training for next season,” Abbott, a four-time national champion whose last major event was the January 2015 U.S. Championships, said in a recent phone interview. “I haven’t committed to anything past that.”

When Abbott’s name was not on the fall Grand Prix Series assignments list, it was logical to surmise he would not be competing on the top international level at all this season.

He will still take part in the Japan Open, a free skate-only event Oct. 1 that includes the world’s top skaters and those retired from Olympic-level competition. He will also do shows, such as his own Aspen event in December. Same as last year.

Abbott is still training at the Detroit Skating Club with longtime coaches Yuka Sato and Jason Dungjen. At 31 years old, time is not on his side.

“I know the state of the sport, it keeps growing and these boys keep improving,” said Abbott, a 2014 Olympic team event bronze medalist whose best individual finish in seven Olympics/worlds trips was fifth. “I have a lot to offer figure skating. On the other side of it, if this is going to be something realistic, I need to be doing multiple [quadruple jumps]. I’m working on my strength and my consistency more than anything.”

Abbott also said in spring 2015 reports that he would not return to competition if he couldn’t land two different quadruple jumps.

If Abbott does decide next year to return to top-level competition for an Olympic run, he would be trying to become the oldest U.S. Olympic singles skater since 1932, according to sports-reference.com.

“When that season rolls around, at 32 [years old], being the best skater and the best technician and in the best shape I’ve been in my entire career, that’s my goal,” Abbott said. “Thirty-two is old in figure skating, but I don’t think it’s old in a lot of sports. I’m ‘old,’ but I’m not over the hill.”

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Michigan State fires doctor accused of sexual abuse by gymnasts

In a July 15, 2008 photo, Dr. Larry Nassar works on the computer after seeing a patient in Michigan. Multiple gymnasts, including a member of the 2000 U.S. women's Olympic team, said they were sexually abused by Nassar, a former longtime doctor for USA Gymnastics, court documents and interviews show. (Becky Shink/Lansing State Journal via AP)
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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A doctor accused of sexually abusing two gymnasts was fired Tuesday by Michigan State University, which said its police have received additional allegations of abuse since last week.

Two gymnasts, including a 2000 U.S. Olympic women’s team bronze medalist, have said they were sexually abused as teenagers by Larry Nassar, a former longtime doctor for USA Gymnastics. Those allegations came to light last week in a report by the Indianapolis Star newspaper.

Michigan State, where Nassar was a faculty member, said last week that he was investigated in 2014 over another allegation of misconduct, but the school found no violation of its policy. School spokesman Jason Cody said Tuesday that since last week, university police have received more allegations of abuse by Nassar, spanning decades.

Cody said Michigan State authorities are devoting significant resources to reviewing these accusations.

Michigan State reassigned Nassar from clinical and patient duties as of Aug. 30, a day after a complaint from one of the gymnasts was made to authorities.

“Over the past week, the university received additional information that raised serious concerns about Nassar’s compliance with certain employment requirements,” Cody said in a statement Tuesday. “Those requirements were put in place after a 2014 investigation into alleged misconduct by Nassar, and information was received that indicates those requirements were not consistently met.”

Cody did not provide additional detail about what new requirements Nassar faced after the 2014 investigation.

“The decision was made to initiate the faculty process to terminate Nassar’s fixed-term appointment. On Sept. 20, he was fired,” Cody’s statement said. “It is important to note this decision does not affect the ongoing investigations by MSU Police and MSU’s Office of Institutional Equity of allegations of sexual abuse.”

An attorney for Nassar declined to comment Tuesday.

Nassar is accused of sexually groping and fondling an Olympic gymnast during her elite career, according to a lawsuit filed recently in California by the athlete under the name Jane Doe.

Attorney John Manly, who is representing Jane Doe in the lawsuit, said he has been approached by 10 female athletes treated by Nassar, including gymnasts and athletes from other disciplines, since her lawsuit was filed. Manly said the accusers range in age from their teens to 40 and include former NCAA athletes among others. Manly said he anticipates other cases being filed, predicting that Jane Doe’s lawsuit is “certainly not the last.”

The second gymnast, Rachael Denhollander of Louisville, Kentucky, told the Indianapolis Star that Nassar sexually abused her in 2000 while she underwent treatment for lower back pain at Michigan State. She said she filed a complaint last month with university police.

The Associated Press typically does not identify people who say they have been sexually abused, but Denhollander is speaking out publicly about the case.

Michigan State said last week that Nassar was investigated in 2014 when a graduate of the school filed a complaint. An administrative investigation found no violation of school policy, and the local prosecutor’s office did not file charges after an investigation by MSU police.

USA Gymnastics said last week that it cut ties with Nassar when the organization’s president, Steve Penny, went to authorities immediately after learning of athlete concerns about Nassar in the summer of 2015.

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