WADA doubles doping bans

World Anti-Doping Agency

Serious doping offenders will miss at least one Olympics.

The World Anti-Doping Agency doubled its bans for drug cheats from two years to four years, as expected, at the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg on Friday.

They will go into effect beginning Jan. 1, 2015, along with the new WADA Code.

The term “serious doping offenders” is key. If an athlete takes a banned substance unintentionally, or if he or she tests positive for a drug such as marijuana, they can avoid a serious ban.

WADA also is putting greater emphasis on punishing those who support athletes, such as coaches and trainers who could assist in doping.

WADA has been dissatisfied with doping controls in track and field powerhouses Jamaica and Kenya in recent months.

“It is bad,” Kenyan David Rudisha, the 800m world-record holder, said of his country’s doping image, according to Reuters. “The faster they tackle the matter the better for our country’s image.

“Not all of us are cheats, some may have been (mis)led into abusing drugs.”

Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the world’s greatest female sprinter, threatened not to compete if her nation’s officials don’t stand by their athletes.

“We don’t have a doping issue — we are tested wherever we go,” she said, according to the BBC. “There is no one in Jamaica saying, ‘Let’s dope up to run fast.’ That is just not true. Where we have issues is with our young athletes who are getting involved in doping issues because nobody is there to give guidance.”

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch

Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine

Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”