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IOC expects decisions on Russian doping cases next month

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Investigators at the International Olympic Committee expect to have “a number” of doping cases involving Russians at the Sochi Olympics resolved by the end of November, but they have no plans to dictate the eligibility of these athletes for next year’s Winter Games in PyeongChang.

The leader of an IOC delegation in charge of reviewing 28 cases involving athletes at Sochi wrote to the head of the IOC Athletes Commission this week to update the timeline of cases stemming from a report detailing a Russian doping scheme at the 2014 Olympics and beforehand.

Denis Oswald said that of the cases his committee is reviewing, priority has been given to those involving athletes looking to compete in PyeongChang. Top priority goes to six cross-country skiers whose provisional suspensions expire Oct. 31.

Oswald also said his committee would rule on these athletes’ results for Sochi, but will not determine their eligibility for PyeongChang, instead handing over evidence to their respective sports federations to decide.

The IOC also appointed a task force to look at the Russian doping scandal as a whole, the results of which could have wider repercussions on the country’s eligibility at next year’s Olympics.

In a separate letter sent to worldwide sports leaders, IOC President Thomas Bach said only that the Schmid Commission is continuing its evaluation and that “I hope that the IOC Executive Board will still be able to take a decision this year because none of us want this serious issue to overshadow” the upcoming Olympics.

The updates come amid a growing chorus of calls for a timely decision and for Russia’s ouster from PyeongChang.

The IOC commissions are operating off information from the McLaren Report, the first part of which was released in July 2016.

In explaining the timeline, Oswald wrote that because the Russian scheme involved exchanging dirty urine samples with clean ones, it took time to adopt methods to verify that samples had been tampered with — in part by finding evidence of scratch marks on collection bottles that had been opened and re-sealed.

“The task has not been easy in both establishing a methodology in an area in which there are no established protocols,” he wrote, “and then moving through the necessary scientific analysis of each individual sample in a way which would withstand legal challenge.”

MORE: USOC boss calls for immediate action on Russian doping

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Two athletes may vie for Winter Olympic medal record in PyeongChang

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Marit Bjørgen knows that she can break the record for career Winter Olympic medals and gold medals in PyeongChang.

She’s also aware that the current record holder could add to his tally, too.

A pair of Norwegian legends will compete in their final Olympics and compete against each other, but not in the same events, in February.

Bjørgen, a 37-year-old cross-country skier and mother, has won 10 medals, including six golds, among the last four Winter Games. She is already the most decorated woman in Winter Olympic history.

Bjørgen is three medals (and two golds) shy of the overall Winter Olympic medal record. That’s held by Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjørndalen, a 43-year-old who is expected to race in his seventh Winter Games.

Cross-country skiing and biathlon are two sports where athletes can rack up several medals throughout the 16 days of the Games, both individually and in relays.

Bjørgen said it’s a dream — but not a goal — and certainly motivation to try and pass Bjørndalen’s record in PyeongChang, according to Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang (VG).

Bjørndalen snatched the title in Sochi, passing another Norwegian, retired cross-country skier Bjørn Dæhlie, by one total medal and tying Dæhlie’s record for golds.

Incredibly, Bjørgen could be favored to pass Bjørndalen in five months, a little more than two years after giving birth to son Marius.

She returned to competition last season and dominated the world championships, winning three of the four individual events and anchoring Norway’s winning relay team.

Bjørndalen earned one medal at the 2017 World Biathlon Championships — a bronze.

If Bjørgen and Bjørndalen repeat those medal takeaways in PyeongChang, Bjørgen will tie Bjørndalen in total medals and pass him in golds by two to become the most decorated Winter Olympian in history.

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MORE: PyeongChang Olympic schedule daily highlights

Norway ski star banned from Olympics over lip cream

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Norwegian cross-country skiing champion Therese Johaug is set to miss the PyeongChang Olympics over lip cream.

Johaug, a triple Olympic medalist and seven-time world champion, tested positive last September for a steroid found in a cream given to her by a team doctor to treat sunburned lips.

Johaug claimed the doctor told her it was OK to use, but she failed to check clear warning labels and was suspended all last season up to this November.

On Tuesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport extended her current doping ban into April, through the Olympics in February.

The court ruling came after an appeal by the International Ski Federation, which felt the original 13-month ban handed down by Norwegian sports officials was too lenient.

“I am heartbroken,” a tearful Johaug said at a news conference within an hour of the announcement, according to The Associated Press. “I had a dream to get to the Olympics. I think it is unfair, I feel I was unfairly treated.”

Norway’s Olympic Committee had previously banned the 29-year-old from October 2016 to November 2017, saying she was not at significant fault.

“I am not guilty. I asked the [team] doctor, and he said it was not on the doping list,” Johaug said at an Oct. 19 news conference, wiping tears away with her hands (video here), according to the AP. “And he said no.”

In March, the International Ski Federation appealed for a longer ban of 16 to 20 months, which would rule her out of the Winter Games. The federation argued that Johaug deserved more fault in part because the medication was “unknown to her and was purchased in a foreign country.”

A Court of Arbitration for Sport panel decided to give Johaug an 18-month ban for her negligence in missing a clear warning label listing the banned substance.

“Johaug failed to conduct a basic check of the packaging, which not only listed a prohibited substance as an ingredient but also included clear doping cautionary warning,” the court said in a press release.

Though Johaug had an “otherwise clean anti-doping record,” the panel chose to follow the letter of the World Anti-Doping Code, which calls for a 12-to-24-month suspension in this type of case.

Johaug was the world’s top cross-country skier in 2015-16, winning the World Cup overall title.

In her absence, two other Norwegians starred last season — Heidi Weng and 10-time Olympic medalist Marit Bjoergen, who was coming back from childbirth.

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