Russia has lost speedskating and biathlon events it was due to host this winter following allegations it ran a vast state-sponsored doping scheme.
World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren‘s report has prompted Western athletes to campaign for boycotts in several winter sports in Russia after 12 medalists from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi were implicated.
It’s not yet clear where the events will be held instead.
The International Skating Union said it was stripping the Russian city of Chelyabinsk of the final round of this season’s World Cup because, following McLaren’s report, “the focus of the event would not be on the sport but rather accusations and controversies.”
Other concerns included “a substantial amount of critical evidence” of doping in Russia “and the uncertainty relating to the attendance of the athletes,” the ISU said.
Russian biathlon officials voluntarily gave up their rights to host a World Cup round in March and the world junior championships, due to start late February. It was “impossible” to hold the events in the circumstances, the Russian Biathlon Union said.
The International Biathlon Union welcomed the move.
“This is a first important step by the Russian Biathlon Union to show to the IBU and to the world of sport that the current situation is taken very seriously,” the IBU said in a statement. “This will now allow the international biathlon family to focus on biathlon during these events.”
Russia had previously lost the world bobsled and skeleton championships in the fallout from McLaren’s report, which alleged more than 1,000 athletes, including Olympic medalists, had benefited from a state-backed plan to cover up drug use.
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Brittany Bowe, the reigning World Cup 1000m and 1500m speed skating champion, is missing this weekend’s World Cup qualifiers due to a concussion sustained in July.
Bowe, a U.S. Olympian in Sochi, collided with a teammate in training in July, as first reported by Dutch broadcaster NOS.
Bowe can still be placed on the U.S. team for the World Cup season despite missing this weekend’s races in Milwaukee.
A competition return date has not been set, but it’s unlikely she will race the first two World Cup stops in November. Bowe is expected to return when she’s 100 percent recovered.
Bowe was one of the U.S.’ top athletes across all winter sports last season, setting the 1000m world record and winning the world sprint championship in addition to her World Cup season titles.
Bowe also earned the most medals of any male or female skater at the world single distance championships — silver in the 500m and bronze in the 1000m and 1500m.
Four-time Olympic medalist Shani Davis and two-time Olympian Heather Bergsma headline the skaters competing at the World Cup qualifiers this weekend.
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Katherine Reutter, racing competitively for the first time since retiring in 2013 at the age of 24, qualified for the 2016-17 Short Track Fall World Cup team.
“It’s really exciting to see the return of Katherine Reutter and have her showing everyone her ability to compete at a high level,” said women’s short track head coach Alex Izykowski to U.S. Speedskating.
Reutter, a two-time Olympic short track speed skating medalist, earned a roster spot by winning the 1000m and 1500m titles at the U.S. Speedskating Short Track World Cup Qualifier this past weekend.
“I had a ton of fun [on Saturday],” Reutter said. “It was great to get back out on the ice, back competing and back with some of the girls that I’ve known for years and years.
Three-time Olympic medalist J.R. Celski had a perfect weekend, winning four race events and all 15 of his race heats.
“Any coach would be pumped to have J.R. [Celski] on their team,” said men’s short track head coach Anthony Barthell. “Since he’s gotten older, he has grown more into the leadership role in terms of him being a vocal leader and not only a leader during training.”
Full 2016 Short Track Fall World Cup team for the first two ISU World Cups, which begins Nov. 4-6 in Calgary and continues Nov. 11-13 at the Utah Olympic Oval:
Keith Carroll Jr.
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