Lolo Jones

Lolo Jones, Lauryn Williams make U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team

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Lolo Jones and Lauryn Williams were used to crossing a finish line, taking deep breaths and peering up at a scoreboard to learn if they had made an Olympic Team.

No wonder they were nervous Sunday night.

The U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team announcement was not so cut and dry. The athletes entered a room after a six-person committee deliberated, and they listened.

“After my name was called,” Jones said, “it was a deep sigh of relief.”

Both of their names were officially called around the stroke of midnight in Austria. Jones and Williams, with five Summer Olympics between them, were selected to their first Winter Olympic teams.

“The biggest honor I’ll ever have in my life is representing Team USA,” Jones said. “I’m overwhelmed with emotions.”

The rest of the U.S. Olympic women’s bobsled team are drivers Jamie GreubelElana Meyers and Jazmine Fenlator and Meyers’ usual push athlete, Aja Evans (full men’s team at bottom). Driver and push athlete combinations will be decided later, according to U.S. Bobsled.

Jones, 31, hopes to reverse Olympic heartbreak in Sochi and win her first medal.

In 2008, she was favored to win the 100m hurdles and leading the final when she clipped the ninth of 10 hurdles and stumbled to seventh place. She cried alone in a hallway underneath the Beijing Olympic Stadium.

In 2012, she finished fourth in the 100m hurdles, one tenth of a second off the podium.

Jones picked up bobsledding shortly after the London Games at the urging of 2010 Olympic bronze medalist Meyers. A quick learner, she finished the 2012-13 season as the No. 4 push athlete on the U.S. team.

“The bobsled process is definitely more stressful,” than track and field, Jones said. “As a brakeman, there’s a lot of criteria and races. It’s not just one and done. it’s the course of a season.”

Williams, 30, learned that this year. She won Olympic gold in the 4x100m relay in London and silver in the 100m in Athens in 2004. Last summer, Jones planted the seed for Williams to convert at a track meet.

Williams, who went to the University of Miami, was well aware of the drawbacks, not the least of which was the climate change. She tried out and sprouted quickly, climbing the push athlete ladder faster than Jones had the year before.

Williams capped her pre-Olympic season by winning her first World Cup race, pushing for Greubel in Igls, Austria, earlier Sunday. That likely cemented her spot on the Olympic Team over the more seasoned Katie Eberling, who had more experience with Greubel but had never won with Greubel.

“I joined bobsled just to be a helper and add positive energy to the team,” said Williams, who could become the fifth person to win a medal in the Summer and Winter Olympics and second to win golds in each. “If my name wasn’t called [Sunday], I wasn’t going to be upset. I’ve enjoyed this journey.”

The competition among five women for three push athlete spots was close all season, which brought extra nerves to Sunday’s announcement.

A six-person committee that chose the team considered World Cup race finishes and combine scores and push championships results from the summer and took drivers’ input. Eberling and 2010 Olympian Emily Azevedo were left off.

“We do our best to look at performance numbers,” U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation CEO Darrin Steele said. “It’s a team sport, so there’s always a little bit of uncertainty with the numbers that we get.”

A total of 128 athletes have competed in Summer and Winter Olympics, according to OlympStats.com. The last American to do so was Chris Witty, who competed in cycling in 2000 and speed skating in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006.

The outgoing, joke-cracking Jones continued to make headlines off the ice over the last 16 months. She made light of her bobsled paycheck in a Vine in June and agreed to a date with a college student via Twitter and was involved in a Lake Placid, N.Y., incident in July.

Snowboarder Shaun White and hockey player Patrick Kane are the only 2014 U.S. Olympians with more Twitter followers than Jones.

”The determination in me, I wish people could see that,” Jones told The Associated Press earlier in January. ”It’s not a gimmick. It’s not for publicity. It never was. It’s always been about me achieving a dream and being able to tell that story down the road, that I never gave up and I fought hard.”

It would not be a surprise to see the U.S. win two medals in women’s bobsled for the first time. Greubel and Meyers rank second and third, respectively, in this season’s World Cup standings.

They trail reigning Olympic and world champion Kaillie Humphries of Canada. Fenlator ranks seventh.

“The podium,” Williams said, “is where we’re headed.”

Here is the complete 2014 U.S. Olympic Bobsled Team:

Four-Man
Steven Holcomb, Chris Fogt, Steve Langton, Curt Tomasevicz
Nick Cunningham, Justin Olsen, Johnny Quinn, Dallas Robinson

Two-Man
Steven Holcomb and one of the six above push athletes
Nick Cunningham and one of the six above push athletes
Cory Butner and one of the six above push athletes

Two-Woman
Jamie Greubel
Elana Meyers
Jazmine Fenlator
Aja Evans
Lolo Jones
Lauryn Williams

Shaun White clinches Olympic halfpipe spot

Weightlifting investigation finds doping cover-ups

Weightlifting
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DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — An investigation into the International Weightlifting Federation has found doping cover-ups and millions of dollars in missing money, lead investigator Richard McLaren said Thursday.

McLaren said 40 positive doping tests were “hidden” in IWF records and that athletes whose cases were delayed or covered up went on to win medals at the world championships and other events. The cases will be referred to the World Anti-Doping Agency.

“We found systematic governance failures and corruption at the highest level of the IWF,” McLaren said.

The International Olympic Committee said it was studying the report “very carefully,” adding that “the content is deeply concerning.”

McLaren said former IWF president Tamas Ajan was “an autocratic leader” who kept the board in the dark about finances and left officials fearing reprisals if they spoke out. Ajan received cash payments on behalf of the IWF as doping fines from national federations or sponsors, the report said, but what happened to some of the money is unclear.

McLaren said $10.4 million was unaccounted for, based on his team’s analysis of cash going in and out of the IWF over several years. Ajan denies any wrongdoing.

The largest fine recorded in the report was $500,000 paid by Azerbaijan. It’s unclear how that payment was made. On one trip to Thailand for a competition and conference, Ajan collected more than $440,000 across 18 cash payments, according to the report.

“Everyone was kept in financial ignorance through the use of hidden bank accounts (and transfers),” McLaren said. “Some cash was accounted for, some was not.”

McLaren said that the investigation found information which law enforcement “might be interested in,” and that he would cooperate with any later investigations. That was echoed by Ajan’s successor at the IWF.

“The activities that have been revealed and the behavior that has occurred in the years past is absolutely unacceptable and possibly criminal,” IWF interim president Ursula Garza Papandrea said.

She added that the IWF will pass on information to law enforcement if it indicates there were “potential crimes.”

McLaren said Ajan “permitted the (federation) elections to be bought by vote brokers” as he kept the presidency and promoted favored officials. Large cash withdrawals were made ahead of federation congresses, McLaren said, adding that voters were bribed and had to take pictures of their ballots to show to brokers.

The 81-year-old Ajan stepped down in April, ending a 20-year reign as president and a total 44 years in federation posts. A month before that he also gave up his honorary membership of the International Olympic Committee.

In a statement to Hungarian state news agency MTI, Ajan said the IWF’s finances were managed in a “lawful” manner with oversight from the board.

“All my life, I’ve abided by the laws, the written and unwritten rules and customs of the sport,” he said.

Ajan accused McLaren’s team of not giving him enough information to respond to the allegations about his conduct.

Ajan was a full IOC member between 2000 and 2010, voting to select Olympic host cities. A previous complaint about IWF finances in 2010 was closed by the IOC.

McLaren’s investigation was sparked in January when German broadcaster ARD reported financial irregularities at the federation and apparent doping cover-ups.

The focus of the investigation was on the period from 2009 through 2019. McLaren said he heard allegations of misconduct dating back as far as the 1980s, but chose to prioritize more recent matters with stronger evidence.

The World Anti-Doping Agency said it welcomed McLaren’s findings.

“Once WADA has had the opportunity to review that evidence as well as the report in full, the Agency will consider the next appropriate steps to take,” it said in a statement.

Some allegations regarding doping misconduct around the 2019 world championships in Thailand and involving athletes from Moldova were passed to the International Testing Agency, which is still investigating.

McLaren, a Canadian law professor, was WADA’s lead investigator for Russian doping and has judged cases at the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Weightlifting’s reputation under Ajan had already been hit by dozens of steroid doping cases revealed in retests of samples from the Olympics since 2008.

Since he left office in April, the IWF has begun moving its headquarters from Ajan’s home country of Hungary to the Swiss city of Lausanne, where the International Olympic Committee is based.

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Gwendolyn Berry gets apology from USOPC CEO after reprimand for podium gesture

Gwen Berry
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Olympic hammer thrower Gwendolyn Berry said USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland apologized to her Wednesday “for not understanding the severity of the impact her decisions had on me,” after Berry was put on probation last August for one year after raising her fist at the end of the national anthem at the 2019 Pan American Games.

“I am grateful to Gwen for her time and her honesty last night,” Hirshland said in a statement. “I heard her. I apologized for how my decisions made her feel and also did my best to explain why I made them. Gwen has a powerful voice in this national conversation, and I am sure that together we can use the platform of Olympic and Paralympic sport to address and fight against systematic inequality and racism in our country.”

Berry and fencer Race Imboden were sent August letters of reprimand by Hirshland, along with each receiving probation, after each made a podium gesture at Pan Ams in Peru.

This week, Berry tweeted that she wanted a public apology from Hirshland. That tweet came after Hirshland sent a letter to U.S. athletes on Monday night, condemning “systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts Black Americans in the United States.”

Then on Wednesday night, Berry said she had a “really productive” 40-minute phone call with Hirshland, USATF CEO Max Siegel and other USATF officials.

“I didn’t necessarily ask for [an apology] from [Hirshland],” Berry said Thursday. Berry said she lost two-thirds of her income after Pan Ams, that sponsors dropped her in connection to the raised fist fallout.

“We came to some good conclusions,” Berry said of the group call. “The most important thing were figuring out ways to move forward. [Hirshland] was aware of things that she did and how she made me feel about the situation, and I was happy that I was able to express to her my grievances and she was able to express to me how she felt as well about the situation.”

Berry said her probation, which is believed to still be in effect, wasn’t discussed. She made a point to say that USATF has always been on her side.

“The conversation was more for awareness purposes, and we’ll probably have more conversations this week,” said Berry.

Berry also plans to participate in a U.S. athlete town hall Friday.

“First and foremost, we should and we will discuss how people are just feeling and how people are holding up because athletes in general, because of the pandemic and because of everything that’s been going on, I know a lot of people are in distress, they’re sad, they’re confused,” she said. “I think that’ll be the main point of the discussion. Just to make sure everybody’s OK. Just to see how everybody’s holding on.”

On Aug. 10, Berry raised her fist at the end of the national anthem after winning the Pan American Games title.

The next morning, Berry said the gesture, which drew memories of Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Games, wasn’t meant to be a big message, but it quickly became a national story.

“Just a testament to everything I’ve been through in the past year, and everything the country has been through this past year,” she said then. “A lot of things need to be done and said and changed. I’m not trying to start a political war or act like I’m miss-know-it-all or anything like that. I just know America can do better.”

Berry said then that the motivation behind her gesture included the challenges overcome of changing coaches and moving from Oxford, Miss., where her family resides, to Houston.

“Every individual person has their own views of things that are going on,” she said. “It’s in the Constitution, freedom of speech. I have a right to feel what I want to feel. It’s no disrespect at all to the country. I want to make that very clear. If anything, I’m doing it out of love and respect for people in the country.”

Berry also said that weekend, according to USA Today, that she was standing for “extreme injustice.”

“Somebody has to talk about the things that are too uncomfortable to talk about. Somebody has to stand for all of the injustices that are going on in America and a president who’s making it worse,” Berry said, according to that report. “It’s too important to not say something. Something has to be said. If nothing is said, nothing will be done, and nothing will be fixed, and nothing will be changed.”

NBC Olympics senior researcher Alex Azzi contributed to this report.

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