Ajee Wilson

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Ajee Wilson loses American record after positive test; no ban

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Olympian Ajee Wilson was stripped of her American indoor 800m record after testing positive for a banned substance but does not face a ban after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency determined she ingested the substance without fault or negligence.

Wilson, who was eliminated in the Rio Olympic 800m semifinals, tested positive for the anabolic agent zeranol at the Feb. 11 Millrose Games, where she broke a 15-year-old American record by .44.

Wilson, 23, hasn’t competed outdoors this season but is entered in the U.S. Track and Field Championships 800m that begins Thursday.

After an investigation, USADA concluded it was highly likely that Wilson’s positive test was as a result of contaminated meat. Zeranol is a legal growth promotant in U.S. beef cattle. There was a low concentration of the substance in Wilson’s urine sample.

USADA gathered evidence from Wilson, including reviewing dietary habits and food receipts. She had passed a drug test one week earlier.

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After Trials chaos, it’s Caster; U.S. 800m Olympians get no break in Rio

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EUGENE, Ore. — Chrishuna Williams has never raced against Caster Semenya, but she has watched video of the dominant South African this year.

“I notice how her first lap, she like sits behind,” Williams said after finishing third in the turbulent U.S. Olympic Trials 800m final, earning a Rio berth on Monday. “Then her last lap, she just takes off. … That’s something I’ve never seen.”

Williams, a 23-year-old who shifted from the 400m to the 800m in 2015, is one of three U.S. women, and everyone else, who are overwhelming underdogs behind Semenya in the two-lap race in Rio.

Williams ran a personal-best 1:59.59 in Monday’s final at Hayward Field, getting on the three-woman team for Rio by .04 of a second over Molly Ludlow.

Winner Kate Grace also had a personal best, 1:59.10, after not racing on the track in 2015 due to tearing a toe-joint tendon. Grace had never made the podium at an NCAA or U.S. Championships and didn’t decide to run the 800m (in addition to the 1500m) at Trials until two or three weeks ago.

Ajee’ Wilson, the fastest woman in the world in 2014, was second to Grace in 1:59.51. Wilson, who turned professional after high school in 2013, grabbed third place at the 2015 U.S. Championships while running with one shoe on. She withdrew from the world championships team six weeks later due to a stress reaction in her left tibia.

The unlikely trio of Grace, Wilson and Williams emerged Monday from a chaotic last 200 meters that doused the hopes of six-time U.S. champion Alysia Montaño and Brenda Martinez, the only U.S. woman to earn an Olympic or world 800m medal since 1988.

The 800 meters is the shortest track event where runners (sprinters from the gun, in the case of some) are not separated by lanes for the entire race.

“There’s going to be casualties,” Wilson said. “It sucks when it’s you.”

Track and Field Trials: Daily Schedule | TV Schedule

Yet few expect Semenya to draw that kind of misfortune in Rio.

Semenya, best known for a gender-testing scandal after winning the 2009 World title at age 18, re-emerged this year with her fastest times in five years. The sudden revival came after a July decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that suspended for two years a 2011 IAAF ruling that regulated women’s testosterone levels for competition eligibility.

Semenya, who was kept out of competition by the IAAF for 11 months in 2009 and 2010 while undergoing gender tests, has performed well at various times before the 2011 ruling, during the regulation period (2012 Olympic silver medal) and now without the regulation.

While the Americans ran in the 1:59s on Monday (and no faster earlier this year), Semenya has clocked no slower than 1:58.26 at her last four meets. Semenya is undefeated in 10 800m races this year and, in the higher-profile ones, has appeared to win comfortably without requiring full effort.

As Williams hinted, Semenya hangs back for the first lap (the first 700 meters, really) and shows her cards for, at most, the final 100 meters. In Doha. In Rabat. In Rome.

The world record of 1:53.28, set by Czech Jarmila Kratochvílová in 1983, is talked about as under threat. Semenya has also clocked personal bests in the 400m and 1500m this year, though they aren’t quite medal-caliber times. Her coach said in May there was no plan to add a second individual event in Rio.

Of Grace, Wilson and Williams, only Wilson has raced against Semenya. Wilson finished higher than Semenya in their first three races — all during Semenya’s down years in 2013 and 2014 — and then was dusted by the South African in Rome on June 2.

“I don’t really remember much of it,” said Wilson, who ran 2:03.33 (her worst international time as a pro) to Semenya’s 1:56.64 and was the last finisher of 11. “I was kind of off my game myself. It was kind of like, I was watching the race from second-hand anyway.”

The philosophy against Semenya is the same against anybody. Run to win, Wilson said.

“If I need to be in 1:56, 1:57 shape, then that’s what we’re going to do,” Wilson (personal-best 1:57.67 from 2014) said, pausing before adding, “regardless of who’s in the race.”

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U.S. sprinters headline Rome Diamond League; five events to watch

Justin Gatlin, Trayvon Bromell
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One month before the Olympic Trials, two top U.S. men’s sprinters can separate themselves at a Diamond League meet in Rome on Thursday.

World 100m silver and bronze medalists Justin Gatlin and Trayvon Bromell are among the headliners but will contest different events.

Bromell opens with the 200m in his first bona fide international outdoor meet since the World Championships in August. The 20-year-old has a little to prove given his performances so far this spring.

Bromell, billed as the future of U.S. sprinting to replace the aging Gatlin and Tyson Gay, has yet to break 10 seconds in three 100m races this year. His best in two 200m races is 20.30, which is likely also slower than the time needed to finish in the top three at next month’s trials and make his first Olympic team.

Bromell did win the World Indoor 60m title on March 18, but that mini race lacked the other three men on the 2015 Worlds 100m podium — Usain Bolt, Gatlin and Andre De Grasse.

It was in June last year that Bromell really broke out, running personal bests of 9.90 and 9.84 at the NCAA and U.S. Championships. If that trajectory plays out again, Bromell could put down an Olympic Trials statement in Rome on Thursday, albeit in the longer 200m distance.

Then there’s Gatlin, who is again the fastest American for the year yet not on his torrid pace of 2015. But that’s by design, the 34-year-old has repeated, saying Wednesday that a severely rolled ankle in the fall is still affecting him.

“My times haven’t been, obviously, as fast as last year,” Gatlin said before running a wind-aided 9.88 to win the Prefontaine Classic on Saturday. “But I feel there’s so much more left in the tank. … Keep stuff in reserve. It’s a steady build-up. I think, at this point in time, I think the world’s seen that I ran a lot of consistent, fast times last year, so really don’t need to make that point so early in the season. But once we get closer to Olympic Trials, once we get closer to the Olympics, going to be cranking out real fast times.”

Gatlin races the 100m in Rome, the site of one of his biggest victories. On June 6, 2013, Gatlin beat Bolt in a 100m at this meet. Bolt hasn’t lost since. Gatlin is 32-2 in individual events since the start of 2014, his only losses coming to Bolt, according to Tilastopaja.org.

At the Olympic Trials, the top three finishers per event make the Rio team. Two more U.S. Olympic hopeful sprinters are entered in Rome — Isiah Young and Ameer Webb.

Young finished second in the 200m and fourth in the 100m at the 2015 U.S. Championships. Webb has clocked personal bests of 19.91 and 19.85 in the 200m this spring, second among Americans behind LaShawn Merritt, who could decide to focus solely on the 400m at trials.

Add in 2012 Olympians Mike Rodgers and Gay, who are not competing in Rome, and it’s starting to look a little crowded in the sprints.

Rome start lists are available here. Here’s the schedule (all times Eastern):

11:45 a.m. — Men’s discus
12:25 p.m. — Women’s shot put
12:50 — Women’s triple jump
1:15 — Women’s pole vault
1:55 — Women’s javelin
2:04 — Women’s 400m hurdles
2:10 — Men’s high jump
2:15 — Men’s 200m
2:25 — Women’s 800m
2:35 — Men’s 400m
2:40 — Men’s long jump
2:45 — Women’s 5000m
3:05 — Men’s 110m hurdles
3:15 — Men’s 1500m
3:25 — Women’s 100m
3:35 — Men’s 100m
3:45 — Men’s 3000m steeplechase

Here are five events to watch:

Men’s 200m — 2:15 p.m. ET

Bromell is known more for his 100m prowess (and indoor 60m with that World title in March), but here he faces a beatable field. No Gatlin. No Bolt. None of the reigning Olympic or World medalists in the event.

Still, it will be a test and the best measure to date of Bromell’s chances of making the Olympic team in the longer distance.

The favorite in Rome is Webb, given he ranks second in the world this year. If Bromell can’t beat Webb, then Bromell is definitely on the Olympic bubble in the 200m, assuming he and Gatlin both contest it at Eugene in July.

Women’s 800m — 2:25 p.m. ET

Here controversial (to no fault of her own) South African Caster Semenya faces her toughest competition to date in an eye-opening year.

Semenya, best known for a gender-testing controversy of 2009 and 2010, has returned to peak form this year after a July decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that suspended for two years a 2011 IAAF ruling that regulated women’s testosterone levels for competition eligibility.

The Olympic silver medalist struggled in 2013, 2014 and 2015. This year, she owns three of the four fastest times in the world.

In Rome, Semenya can win a third straight Diamond League race, but it will come against the world’s best. All three 2015 World Championships medalists are in the field, plus the second-fastest woman this year and American Ajee’ Wilson, the fastest woman of 2014.

Men’s Long Jump — 2:40 p.m. ET

Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marquise Goodwin goes into Rome ranked No. 1 in the world in 2016, but he finished third last week in his first Diamond League meet in four years.

That makes Goodwin somewhat of a wild card in this field, which includes reigning Olympic and World champion Greg Rutherford of Great Britain. Overall, the six best long jumpers in the world this year gather in Rome.

Women’s 100m — 3:25 p.m. ET

Olympic and World champion Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce‘s toe injury has left an opening that younger sprinters are filling in the early season.

Jamaican Elaine Thompson and American English Gardner clash in Rome in a meeting of winners at the last two Diamond League meets. Thompson, 23, and Gardner, 24, are chasing the fastest time in the world this year, 10.80, clocked by Tori Bowie, who is 25.

Men’s 100m — 3:35 p.m. ET

Gatlin can win in Rome for a fourth straight year, but Thursday’s field is not as decorated as previous editions.

A realistic goal would be to run the fastest 100m in the world this year. The top spot is currently held by Qatar’s Femi Ogunode at 9.91. Gatlin ran 9.94, 9.91 and 9.75 in Rome the last three years.

He puts his strong record since the start of 2014, losses to nobody but Bolt, on the line against Ogunode, Webb (on 80 minutes’ rest after a 200m) and his training partner Young.

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