U.S. puts 2 women on Tour de Ski stage podium

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Jessie Diggins won her third straight World Cup 5km freestyle, while Sadie Bjornsen notched her first individual World Cup podium as the U.S. put two racers in the top three of a Tour de Ski stage for the first time on Friday.

Full results are here. Tour de Ski standings through five of seven stages are here.

The Tour de Ski, which debuted in 2006-07, is a weeklong, all-around test of the world’s best cross-country skiers. Stages vary in distance and technique.

Diggins, 25, continued her strong season with her third World Cup podium in 12 starts. She made her Olympic debut in Sochi with a best finish of eighth.

Though Diggins owns the 5km freestyle, that event is not contested at the Olympics.

The U.S. owns one Olympic cross-country medal, Bill Koch‘s 30km silver at the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Games. A U.S. woman has never placed higher than sixth in any event.

This year’s Tour de Ski is lacking the sport’s biggest female stars.

Norway’s Marit Bjoergen and Therese Johaug and Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk combined to win 12 of the last 13 individual world titles, the last eight World Cup overall titles, the last seven Tour de Ski overall titles and six of the last seven individual Olympic titles.

Bjoergen and Kowalczyk are skipping the Tour to focus on the world championships in February and March, while Johaug is serving a doping ban.

The top skier this season has been another Norwegian, Heidi Weng, who leads the World Cup and Tour de Ski overall standings. Diggins is fifth in the Tour de Ski standings, which would match the best finish ever for an American.

Diggins is now tied with four-time Olympian Kikkan Randall for the most Tour de Ski stage wins (two) and podiums (three) for an American.

MORE: Doping agency eyes 14-month ban for world’s best XC skier

Russia’s most decorated Sochi Olympic skiers suspended

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 23:  (L-R) Silver medalist Maxim Vylegzhanin of Russia, gold medalist Alexander Legkov of Russia and bronze medalist Ilia Chernousov of Russia celebrate during the medal ceremony for the Men's 50 km Mass Start Free during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
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Russia’s two best skiers from the Sochi Olympics were among six Russians provisionally suspended by the International Ski Federation after their names appeared in the McLaren report on Russian doping in Sochi.

Cross-country skiers Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin went one-two in the 50km freestyle in Sochi and heard their national anthem on the podium at the Closing Ceremony, as is custom for that event, the Winter Olympic equivalent of the marathon.

Legkov and Vylegzhanin were the only Russian skiers to earn multiple medals in Sochi. Both were also part of the 4x10km relay that took silver.

Vylegzhanin added another silver in the team sprint and also owns five world championships medals. Legkov owns two world championships medals.

Aleksey Petukhov, a 2010 Olympic bronze medalist and two-time world medalist, was also suspended.

The International Ski Federation (FIS) also suspended Sochi Olympians Yevgeny BelovYuliya Ivanova and Yevgenia Shapovalova, who did not earn medals.

All athletes appealed their bans, but the provisional suspensions were upheld by the FIS doping panel.

Legkov, Vylegzhanin, Petukhov, Belov, Ivanova and Shapovalova make up six of the 20 cross-country skiers who competed for Russia at the Sochi Olympics.

The skiers are now slated to miss the annual Tour de Ski from Saturday through Jan. 8.

On Dec. 23, FIS announced that six Russian skiers were suspended but did not name names. FIS said the skiers were suspended after the IOC “opened investigations into alleged anti-doping rule violations in connection with” the Sochi Olympics.

The IOC said 28 Russians in all from the Sochi Olympics faced doping cases.

MORE: Over 1,000 Russian athletes involved in organized doping, report says

IOC: 28 Russians from Sochi Olympics face doping cases

Fisht Stadium
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GENEVA (AP) — On yet another doping-tainted day for Russian sport, 28 athletes now face IOC cases linked to cheating at the Sochi Winter Olympics and a major cross-country skiing event was removed from the country.

The IOC said Friday it has opened 28 disciplinary proceedings against Russian athletes whose urine samples were likely tampered with at the 2014 Olympics.

Six cases involve cross-country skiers who are now provisionally suspended by the International Ski Federation (FIS), which did not identify them. Six Russian men won five medals, including one gold, in cross-country skiing on home snow at Sochi.

The new wave of Olympic doping cases is set to produce a flow of verdicts and disqualifications next year that could fuel calls for some or all of the Russian team to be banned from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The cases are based on evidence provided this month by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren.

McLaren detailed vast state-backed cheating in Russian sport that included swapping athletes’ tainted samples for clean urine through the testing laboratory at Sochi.

The Canadian law professor offered evidence of a method for state intelligence officers to break open supposedly tamper-proof glass sample bottles which had scratches behind the lid. Urine samples retained by the IOC since Sochi included some with unnatural levels of salt in healthy humans.

In further fallout from McLaren’s report, the world ski body said Russian officials have handed back hosting rights for the end-of-season World Cup finals in cross-country skiing.

The event was scheduled in March in Tyumen, which on Thursday also lost the right to host a biathlon World Cup event in March.

“The findings in the McLaren Report have seriously damaged the integrity of sport and we are determined to ensure the necessary measures are undertaken to punish the offences,” said FIS President Gian-Franco Kasper, who is also a member of the IOC’s executive board.

The IOC said the 28 new cases being examined by its disciplinary commission are not positive doping tests. However “the manipulation of the samples themselves could lead to an Anti-Doping Rule Violation and sanctions.

Samples from Russian athletes at Sochi are now being re-tested at the WADA-accredited lab in Lausanne, Switzerland, the IOC said.

The IOC cites legal reasons for not identifying the athletes.

FIS said it was the responsibility of the Russian ski federation and the athletes themselves if they wished to be identified.

On Thursday, the International Biathlon Union said it provisionally suspended two Russians whose cases from Sochi were opened by the IOC.

The re-testing of Russian athletes’ samples for traces of steroids and other banned substances now involves all four Olympic Games from 2008 through 2014.

The IOC said Friday that it already disqualified 27 Russian athletes, stripping an array of titles and medals, in re-tests of samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics. All Russian samples from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics are now being re-analyzed.

At Vancouver, an underachieving Russia team placed 11th in the medals table. That performance is often cited as the motive for Russia to orchestrate a doping program to ensure better results in the home Sochi Olympics, which cost $51 billion to build and run.

Russia did top the Sochi medals table, but looks certain to lose that place to Norway when the IOC processes the disciplinary cases announced Friday.

MORE: IOC president wants life bans for Russian cheats