Russia reacts to doping report as Moscow drug-testing lab suspended

Russia Olympic Committee
AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — The World Anti-Doping Agency has suspended the accreditation of Moscow’s drug-testing laboratory in the wake of a damning report on Russian doping.

WADA says it acted “immediately” on the recommendation in the report by its independent commission to shut the Russian lab.

The suspension takes effect immediately and bars the Moscow lab from carrying out any testing of urine and blood samples.

Meanwhile, all samples for the Moscow lab will be transported “securely, promptly and with a demonstrable chain of custody” to an alternative WADA-accredited lab.

The Moscow lab has the right to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport within 21 days.

WADA says a disciplinary committee will be formed to review the case.

The accusations of state-sponsored doping in Russian track and field appear to be unfounded, President Vladimir Putin‘s spokesman said Tuesday.

Dmitry Peskov told journalists that whenever any charges are made, they must be based on some evidence.

“As long as there is no evidence, it is difficult to consider the accusations, which appear rather unfounded,” Peskov said.

In Russian newspapers, many followed the government’s lead in playing down the accusations from the World Anti-Doping Agency commission. The scandal was typically confined to a small item in the sports pages, with only two business papers and the sports dailies giving it front-page space.

“Are they taking Rio away from us?!” read the headline on the front page of Sport Express, referring to calls to ban Russia’s track and field team from next year’s Olympics.

Russia has for years reveled in its re-emergence as a sports superpower, the pinnacle coming when it topped the medals table at the last year’s Sochi Olympics. That prestige is again in jeopardy, with the country’s internal intelligence service, the FSB, accused of running surveillance on the Olympic doping lab.

Worse, it comes at a time when the country is already under pressure over its hosting of the 2018 World Cup amid the scandals rocking FIFA.

The reaction to Monday’s track and field revelations among Russian officials was disjointed, with sentiments ranging from denial to suggestions of a Western political conspiracy.

Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, whose ministry is implicated in the report, even threatened to withdraw all government financial support for anti-doping work in protest at the report’s accusations.

On state television, Mutko argued that the report presented “no serious objective evidence” of state involvement in doping and that its focus on Russia was unfair.

“Doping is not the problem of Russia,” Mutko said. “Russia shouldn’t be singled out. It’s a world problem.”

The head of Russia’s medical agency, Vladimir Uiba, told Interfax he believed the report to be “politically motivated” and linked to international sanctions against Russia.

The Russian athletics federation denies the main charges in the report. Acting president Vadim Zelichenok told The Associated Press on Monday that calls to ban Russia’s track and field team from next year’s Olympics are not “objective” because the federation leadership changed earlier this year, meaning some of the key figures identified in the WADA report are no longer employed.

Regardless of whether its team is banned from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the report is a blow to Russian athletics.

The WADA commission recommended a lifetime ban for several athletes, including Olympic 800m champion Maria Savinova, who was filmed discussing doping methods. That follows a string of positive tests and doping bans that have caught dozens of Russian athletes, including five Olympic track and field gold medalists in the last two years.

MORE: Alysia Montaño hopeful medals will be redistributed

Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
Getty
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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