U.S. skeleton racer Pikus-Pace joins un-retirement club

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Why weren’t we shocked to hear that U.S. skeleton racer Noelle Pikus-Pace has emerged from retirement with the intention of making the 2014 Olympic team?

Because un-retiring seems to be the latest craze in Olympic circles.

There was American swimmer Brendan Hansen, who ended up winning a gold and a bronze in London. Other swimmers tried to qualify for the Olympics and failed, like Australian Ian Thorpe – who said he’s now gunning for meets in 2014 (and possibly 2016?)

Two notable U.S. gymnasts – Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin – fell short of making the London team after un-retiring.

And now we have Pikus-Pace, who finished fourth at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. She won world championship gold in 2007 and silver in 2005, the latter of which made her a favorite at the 2006 Olympics. But an unfortunate accident involving an out-of-control bobsled at the track in Calgary resulted in a broken leg and a missed trip to Torino.

Pikus-Pace said she was done competing in Vancouver. Now the 29-year-old is dead-set on having a successful World Cup season with the Sochi Olympics looming a little more than a year away.

But there is one catch: Pikus-Pace is not yet eligible to compete in any World Cup races; she must first compete in four races on two tracks before she’s allowed to join the tour. She’ll meet the requirement soon once she races in Park City, Utah and Calgary.

“I didn’t know what to expect going into this season because it’s been so long since I’ve competed,” Pikus-Pace told the Associated Press. “Once I got on the sled for the first time in Lake Placid a couple weeks ago it all clicked again. I knew then it was going to be a good season, and it’s actually starting out to be a great season.”

Olympic wrestlers tie for gold medal, 8 years after the competition

Bilyal Makhov
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A pair of doping cases led to the first Olympic gold-medal tie in wrestling history, eight years after the matches took place.

Russian Bilyal Makhov was upgraded to 2012 Olympic freestyle super heavyweight gold, joining Iranian Komeil Ghasemi, who was upgraded last year, according to the IOC’s website.

In February, Russian media reported that Makhov recently tested positive for growth hormone, which would have no bearing on 2012 results.

The move came after the finalists in 2012 — Uzbek Artur Taymazov and Georgian Davit Modzmanashvil — were stripped of their gold and silver medals last year in retests of doping samples from the London Games.

Makhov and Ghasemi each originally earned bronze medals. In wrestling, bronze medals are awarded to each match winner in repechage finals.

Ghasemi, whose only loss in London came to gold medalist Taymazov, was originally upgraded to gold by United World Wrestling in 2019. Makhov, whose loss came to Modzmanashvil, was originally upgraded to silver before the later upgrade to a second gold.

American Tervel Dlagnev and Kazakh Daulet Shabanbay, who lost the bronze-medal matches to Ghasemi and Makhov, were upgraded to bronze-medal positions last year, according to United World Wrestling.

Taymazov became the second athlete to be stripped of gold medals from multiple Olympics for doping, losing his London 2012 title two years after giving up his Beijing 2008 crown. Both were because of retests coming back positive for banned steroids.

Wrestling has been contested at every modern Olympics save 1900.

In 1912, Sweden’s Anders Ahlgren and Finland’s Ivar Bohling wrestled for nine hours in a final without deciding a winner, according to Olympedia.org. The match was declared a “double loss” and both awarded silver medals. There was no gold medalist.

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Deajah Stevens, Olympic sprinter, suspended through Tokyo Games

Deajah Stevens
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Deajah Stevens, a U.S. Olympic 200m sprinter, was suspended through Aug. 15, 2021, for missing drug tests, ruling her out of the Tokyo Games unless she successfully appeals.

Stevens, who placed seventh in Rio, missed three drug tests in 2019, grounds for a suspension between one and two years.

The exact length depends on an athlete’s degree of fault and, with the timing in this case, determined whether she would be banned through the Olympics.

Full details of her case are here.

The 18-month ban was backdated to Feb. 17, the date that Stevens requested her case be expedited. Her last of three missed tests was Nov. 25.

Stevens’ lawyer requested the suspension be backdated to the third missed test, which would have kept her eligible for the Olympics, or the date of Stevens’ request for an expedited hearing on Feb. 17, which could have kept her Olympic eligible if the ban was closer to one year.

For Stevens’ second missed test, she did not hear door knocks from a back bedroom. The drug tester called her five times but never received an answer. Stevens said her phone was out of battery power.

For her last missed test, the drug tester again tried to call Stevens. But Stevens changed her phone number six weeks earlier, after somebody was harassing her and threatening her fiance’s life. She had not yet notified drug-testing authorities that she changed her number.

“Despite our sympathy for the athlete, we have not been satisfied on a balance of probability that her behavior was not negligent and did not cause or contribute to her failure to be available for testing,” a disciplinary tribunal found. “She already had missed two doping tests in the last six months. She should have been on red alert and conscious that she could not miss the next one.”

Stevens’ initial provisional suspension was announced May 1 ahead of a June 25 disciplinary tribunal hearing.

Stevens, 25, was disqualified from the 2019 U.S. Outdoor Championships 200m semifinals in her only outdoor meet of the year, according to World Athletics.

She ranked No. 3 in the U.S. in the 200m in 2017 (and placed fifth at the world championships), No. 31 in 2018 and No. 59 in 2019.

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