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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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IOC suspends Frank Fredericks over French corruption charges

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The International Olympic Committee suspended Frank Fredericks as a member on Tuesday, four days after he was charged in a French investigation of suspected bribery in the 2016 Olympic host city vote.

The IOC leadership intervened eight months after the four-time Olympic sprint medalist from Namibia stepped back from his duties when the allegations were reported in French media.

“Considering the gravity and urgency of the situation and its impact on the reputation of the IOC, the IOC (executive board) decides to suspend Mr. Frank Fredericks from all the rights, prerogatives and functions deriving from his quality as an IOC member,” the Olympic body said in a statement.

Fredericks was an IOC board member when he accepted a $300,000 payment eight years ago on the day Rio de Janeiro was chosen as the 2016 host.

The money allegedly came from a Brazilian businessman and was paid to Fredericks via the son of Lamine Diack, then a senior IOC member and president of track and field’s governing body. Both Diacks are under investigation by French prosecutors in a wide-ranging corruption case.

On Friday, prosecutors in Paris announced preliminary charges against Fredericks of passive corruption and money laundering.

Fredericks has denied wrongdoing since French daily Le Monde reported the allegation in March, claiming the money was for consultancy work in athletics.

The IOC ethics commission began investigating Fredericks, a rising star in Olympic circles, and examined the latest details on Monday.

“Mr. Fredericks mentioned that he did not wish to make any observations or provide a statement regarding the French proceedings,” the IOC ethics commission said in its published advisory ruling.

The ethics panel, which is chaired by former United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon, said it did not take a position on “the value of the facts” in the case.

The case cost Fredericks his prestigious role leading an IOC panel overseeing bids by Paris and Los Angeles to host the 2024 Olympics.

He also was provisionally suspended by the IAAF, where he was a member of its ruling committee and on a task force overseeing Russia’s attempt to lift an international ban from the sport because of a doping scandal.

In July, an IAAF integrity panel noted that “Fredericks has not, in the answers and explanations he has provided to date, disturbed the prima facie case of matters warranting investigation.”

The French investigation, in cooperation with Brazilian authorities, also implicated Carlos Nuzman, who led the Rio Olympic organizing team. Nuzman was arrested in Brazil last month and then suspended by the IOC as an honorary member.

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Olympic leaders explore esports

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Key Olympic figures, including IOC president Thomas Bach, believe esports “can provide a platform for engagement with the Olympic Movement.”

Leaders discussed esports at the IOC base of Lausanne, Switzerland, on Saturday and were complimentary of esports, which is not yet recognized by the IOC, the first step to potential Olympic inclusion.

“Competitive ‘esports’ could be considered as a sporting activity, and the players involved prepare and train with an intensity which may be comparable to athletes in traditional sports,” read a press release from the IOC of findings during Saturday’s meeting.

The Olympic leaders said Saturday they were hopeful of further esports discussions but did not mention possible Olympic inclusion in the release.

Previously, Bach reportedly said in April that the IOC was “not yet 100 percent clear whether esports is really sport.” Bach also spoke out against games that promote violence and killing.

In August, a Paris 2024 Olympic bid leader reportedly said he planned to talk with esports representatives and the IOC about gaming possibly joining the 2024 Olympic program.

Los Angeles 2028 Olympic bid chairman Casey Wasserman has praised esports.

“We view esports’ immense global popularity and continued advances in digital technologies as tremendous tools for reconnecting millennials with the Olympic movement,” Wasserman said in a press release last year. “LA 2024 [sic] will work to ensure technology enhances young people’s sports experiences, instead of replacing them, and becomes a platform for further popularizing Olympic and Paralympic sports.”

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