Jordan Burroughs: I’m on wrestling’s Mount Rushmore after third World Championship

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Jordan Burroughs won his third World Wrestling Championship in Las Vegas on Saturday, capping the most successful U.S. performance at a World Championships since 2006 (total medals) or 1995 (gold medals).

Burroughs, who in 2014 lost at an Olympics or Worlds for the first time, while grappling with an MCL sprain, mercy ruled Mongolian Pürevjavyn Önörbat 10-0 in the 74kg freestyle final to reclaim his World title at the Orleans Arena on Saturday.

Burroughs, 27 and wearing golden shoes, celebrated by slapping the mat, smiling and raising his right index finger in the air before the referee raised his arm.

“I made it back,” Burroughs repeated while wearing an American flag, adding later to reporters, “It’s been a hard year … a lot of doubt … a lot of unknowns, uncharted waters.”

Burroughs became the third U.S. men’s wrestler to win at least four combined Olympic and World Championships, joining Bruce Baumgartner and John Smith. Burroughs won the 2011 and 2013 World titles and the 2012 Olympics.

“I’m like almost to the peak of my wrestling ability,” Burroughs told media in Las Vegas before the match Saturday, “and then it’s going to be on the decline.”

Next year, Burroughs can join Baumgartner, Smith and George Mehnert as the only Americans to win multiple Olympic wrestling titles.

“When I think of the Mount Rushmore of wrestling, I definitely can say I’m on it now,” Burroughs said.

Burroughs has said — and repeated Saturday — that his eye is on Smith’s American record of six combined Olympic and World titles.

“I might not be the best wrestler technically, but I think I have the biggest heart in the entire world,” said Burroughs, adding that he needed four stitches above his left eye after his second of six matches Saturday.

Overall, the U.S. won four gold medals at the World Championships, its most in one year at a Worlds or an Olympics since 1995. It earned seven total medals this week, its highest total since 2006.

Burroughs came off what he called the hardest year of his life in 2014.

His 105-match winning streak dating to 2009 was snapped in February of last year, and though he welcomed baby boy Beacon that July, Burroughs sprained an MCL wrestling at Worlds in Uzbekistan and was later defeated by Russian rival Denis Tsargush. Burroughs settled for a bronze medal and saved a photo on his smart phone of Tsargush beating him.

“I’ve been a little bit beaten up by life,” Burroughs said. “A lot of people forgot about what I was capable of.”

Burroughs also added coaching duties to his plate, as an assistant at Nebraska last fall.

“It was really trying in terms of me staying focused to be the best wrestler in the world, me being the best husband in the world as well as the best father,” Burroughs said. “There were a lot of nights where I had absolutely no energy to be either of the three.”

Burroughs, who has a tattoo of a lighthouse beaming with a light in honor of his son’s name, slept in a different room in his Vegas hotel than his wife and Beacon on Friday night.

“These are some of the sacrifices I’ve got to make,” Burroughs said. “I’m like, babe, I love you, but I’m going downstairs to my room. I’ve got to get some sleep.”

It was a wise decision. Beacon was up at 4:30 a.m., Burroughs said.

Burroughs has compared his rivalry with Tsargush to that of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. Tsargush, who also won the 2009 and 2010 World titles before Burroughs began wrestling internationally, was not on the Russian team at Worlds this year though.

Burroughs said it was a little bit anticlimactic to regain his World title without getting a shot at Tsargush.

“You want to beat the guy that’s beaten you,” he said before the final Saturday. “I thought about it a lot this year. It really fueled me and gave me hunger to be better and to be prepared for this event.”

Perhaps the most exciting point of the entire week in Las Vegas came during Burroughs’ semifinal against a different Russian earlier Saturday. Russian fans began chanting, and home fans silenced them with an ear-splitting U-S-A chant (at the 6:15 mark here).

MORE WRESTLING: Video: Jordan Burroughs rips phone book in half

Weightlifting investigation finds doping cover-ups

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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

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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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