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IOC publishes details of Russia bobsled star’s doping

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — An Olympic disciplinary panel says “powerful” evidence proved that two-time bobsled gold medalist Aleksandr Zubkov took part in the Sochi Winter Games doping conspiracy.

In its full decision published on Thursday of a Nov. 24 verdict, the IOC disciplinary panel chaired by Denis Oswald detailed why it disqualified Zubkov and banned him for life from the Olympics.

The verdicts states one sample had “an abnormally high level of salt” and two scratched bottles were tampered with.

Laboratory staff added salt to clean stored urine that was swapped in for steroid-tainted samples during the Olympics.

The panel says similar evidence exists in seven more cases from Russia’s Sochi bobsled teams.

Zubkov, who carried Russia’s flag at the Sochi Opening Ceremony, has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, along with most of the other 25 Russians banned from the Olympics for life.

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Russia banned from Olympics; athletes can compete as neutrals

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Russia’s Olympic Committee was banned from the PyeongChang Olympics due to the nation’s doping scandal, but individual Russian athletes will be invited to compete at the Winter Games as neutrals under the Olympic Flag.

The full IOC announcement is here.

Russian athletes deemed “clean” by a panel will be invited to compete under the name “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR).”

No Russian flag, anthem or uniforms (except for, possibly, the Closing Ceremony), though the word “Russia” is expected to be on the uniforms.

If an OAR athlete or team wins gold, the Olympic Anthem will play just as it did for the Unified Team at the 1992 Albertville Games.

The IOC said athletes will be invited via “strict conditions” detailed here:

  • Athletes must not have had a doping violation.
  • Athletes must have undergone pre-Games targeted drug tests recommended by a testing task force.
  • Athletes must have undergone any other testing requirements specified to ensure a level playing field.

“This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in a press release, adding that he does not anticipate a boycott by Russian athletes. “The IOC [executive board], after following due process, has issued proportional sanctions for this systemic manipulation while protecting the clean athletes. This should draw a line under this damaging episode and serve as a catalyst for a more effective anti-doping system led by [the World Anti-Doping Agency].”

The decision clears a path to PyeongChang for Russian stars like figure skater Yevgenia Medvedeva and short track speed skater Viktor Ahn.

Medvedeva spoke at the IOC meeting in Switzerland on Tuesday. Read what she said here.

“Invited athletes will participate, be it in individual or team competitions, under the name ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR),'” the IOC release read.

Bach repeated that statement when asked how Tuesday’s decision affects Russian hockey and curling teams and relays.

The International Ice Hockey Federation was not ready to comment on the situation immediately after the announcement, according to hockey media.

Russian president Vladimir Putin is expected to comment on the decision Wednesday, according to Russian media.

The next steps for Russian athletes and officials are expected to be discussed at a meeting next Tuesday, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko was banned from the Olympics for life. The Russia Olympic Committee was fined $15 million.

Russia Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov, whose IOC membership was suspended, apologized before Tuesday’s announcement, Bach said. Bach declined to detail for what Zhukov apologized, but Zhukov’s speech was later published.

“As the exclusive U.S. media rights holder through 2032, we believe in clean competition and strong actions to ensure it,” NBC Sports said in a statement. “Therefore, we fully support today’s IOC decision, which levels significant sanctions against the guilty, but also provides a path for clean athletes to compete in PyeongChang.”

MORE: Russian stars await Olympic invites | U.S. athletes react

Russia’s doping scandal emanates from the Sochi Olympics. It was first reported in May 2016 that Russian Olympians on performance-enhancing substances were protected by a urine-swapping scheme. Implicated Russian athletes have denied being part of a doping plan.

Late-night swaps of dirty samples for clean urine stored months earlier went via a “mouse hole” into a secured room at the Sochi testing laboratory.

Secret service agents had found a way to break into tamper-proof sample bottles and return them with clean urine, claimed whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of a Moscow drug-testing lab.

After investigations, the International Olympic Committee last month began stripping Russia of Sochi Olympic medals (11 of its Sochi-leading 33 medals so far) and banning athletes from the Olympics for life (25 so far). A full list is here.

The last nation to be banned from a Winter Olympics was South Africa, which was barred from 1964 through 1992 due to its apartheid policies.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Yevgenia Medvedeva to speak at IOC meeting on Russia, reports say

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Yevgenia Medvedeva, the clear Olympic figure skating favorite, will reportedly give a speech as part of a Russian delegation at an IOC executive board meeting Tuesday to announce if and how Russians will be allowed to compete at the PyeongChang Winter Games.

Russian media, including news agency TASS, reported the news Sunday. TASS cited the Russian figure skating federation head, quoting him saying that Medvedeva will be the only figure skater at the meeting.

Medvedeva would be part of a Russian delegation led by Russia Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov at the IOC meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Russian athletes could be banned from PyeongChang altogether due to the country’s doping problem, which led to 25 Russians being retroactively banned from Sochi and banned from the Olympics for life in the last month.

Or, some Russians could be allowed to compete as neutral athletes with the Russian flag and anthem — and even the word “Russia” — being absent from PyeongChang.

Medvedeva, an 18-year-old who hasn’t lost in two years, was due to compete in the Grand Prix Final this week. She withdrew from that event Friday due to a broken foot that she revealed last month.

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