Vitaly Mutko
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Russia won’t boycott Olympics, will partially admit doping problem

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MOSCOW (AP) — With an Olympic boycott ruled out, Russia is planning to at least partially admit it has a doping problem.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told The Associated Press on Thursday that there will “not in any case” be a boycott of next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

A short time later in a separate interview, the acting president of the Russian track federation told the AP he is ready to own up to some of the charges leveled in the World Anti-Doping Agency commission’s massive report on doping in the country.

“We admit some things, we argue with some things, some are already fixed, it’s a variety,” said Vadim Zelichenok, declining to provide further details. “It’s not for the press.”

The governing body of track and field is expected to rule Friday on whether to suspend Russia from competition because of the doping scandal. If Russia is banned, the country’s track and field team could be excluded from next year’s Olympics.

Monday’s damning report by the WADA commission recommended that the Russian track federation be suspended, saying its athletes and officials were involved in “extensive” use of performance-enhancing drugs, obstructed doping tests and helped to cover up drug use. The report said Zelichenok “refused to cooperate” with investigators.

Even if Russia’s track and field team is banned, Mutko told the AP that the country has no intention of boycotting the Olympics.

“Russia is against a boycott. Russia is against political interference in sport,” Mutko said. “Understand that Russia is a dependable partner of the international Olympic movement.”

Mutko also appealed for Russia’s track team to be allowed to compete, arguing that a blanket ban would unfairly punish clean athletes.

“It will be painful for those athletes with clean consciences who could compete, that’s the first thing. And the second thing is that it goes against the spirit of the WADA code,” Mutko said. “The commission itself writes about it in its report. It’s about protecting the athletes with clean consciences.”

During the Cold War, the United States and allies boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics in protest at the Soviet Union. Four years later, there was a Soviet-led boycott of the Olympics in Los Angeles.

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted clean athletes should be allowed to compete and asked Russian sports officials to carry out an internal investigation into the allegations made in the doping report. Mutko said Russia would provide constant updates about its investigation.

“Practically every day, at the end of the day, we release some kind of information message about the steps we’re taking and we will continue to do that,” Mutko said. “We’re prepared to inform international society about the steps we’re taking, the investigation, the decisions.”

The Russian government has consistently slammed the WADA commission’s report for what it says is a lack of evidence. Mutko said there was an overreliance on confidential sources and condemned the inclusion of material from undercover recordings made by whistleblowers, which he said violated the rights of those accused of doping.

The scandal also entered the arena of international diplomacy as the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a stinging critique of the report’s authors.

“The position of the special commission on doping with regards to Russian athletes looks extremely biased, politicized,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in her weekly briefing, adding that sources cited in the report seem “extremely doubtful.”

In southern Black Sea resort of Sochi, the host city of last year’s Winter Olympics, some Russian track and field athletes trained in the sun on Thursday. Many remained upbeat about their chances of competing in the Olympics while questioning why other countries were not being investigated alongside Russia.

“It happens all around the world. Why are these measures taken only for the Russian team? I don’t understand this,” said Maxim Sidorov, a shot putter who competed at the 2012 Olympics. “Not only we, if it’s proved, are using doping. Other countries do it as well. Why aren’t they disqualified?”

As former European 400-meter relay champion Ksenia Aksyonova trained, her coach said that banning Russia would be “a disaster for athletes.”

“They devoted their life to this and because of broad political motives probably the whole team can be disqualified,” Rif Babikov said. “We have seen this – in 1984 we boycotted the Olympics in Los Angeles because of politics, in 1980 western countries boycotted Moscow. Nothing good came out of this.”

Also, Russian state-controlled bank VTB said Thursday it would not extend its sponsorship contract with the IAAF, which expires this year, but denied it was because of the fallout from the doping report.

“We think that all the goals have been achieved regarding this. We have not planned to extend (the contract),” VTB first deputy president Vasily Titov told the RIA Novosti news agency. “No, it’s not linked to the doping scandal in any way.”

MORE: Yelena Isinbayeva’s coach speaks amid Russian doping scandal

Mikaela Shiffrin returns with mantra, stuck to her helmet, to carry forever

Mikaela Shiffrin
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Look close at Mikaela Shiffrin as she steps into a race start gate for the first time in eight months on Oct. 17.

Shiffrin, the two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time World Cup overall champion, plans to wear a helmet with two special stickers on the back.

She’s donned the first decal for years — the initials ABFTTB, which stand for “Always Be Faster Than The Boys,” a personalized autograph motto from retired Olympic Alpine skier Heidi Voelker.

The new sticker reads, Be nice. Think first. Have fun.

Those lines came from Shiffrin’s father, Jeff — the mantra instilled in her and older brother Taylor, also a young ski racer at the time.

After Jeff died on Feb. 2, Shiffrin regularly remembered the question that Jeff posed years ago: “What are the golden rules?”

Be nice. Think first.

When the Shiffrin siblings were old enough, Jeff added the third rule.

“He felt like we could understand that having fun wasn’t just about going and doing whatever you want because it’s instantly gratifying,” Shiffrin told NBC Sports’ Alex Azzi in an On Her Turf interview. “Fun is doing something well and the satisfaction you get from sticking to something.”

She plans to race all season with the golden rules sticker on her helmet, right next to ABFTTB.

Shiffrin detailed more about her prep for a very different World Cup campaign, in conjunction with a new fund in honor of her late father, in this On Her Turf report.

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2020 Tour de France results

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2020 Tour de France results for the yellow jersey, green jersey, white jersey and polka-dot jersey …

Overall (Yellow Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:05
2. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — +:59
3. Richie Porte (AUS) — +3:30
4. Mikel Landa (ESP) — +5:58
5. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
6. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — +6:47
7. Tom Dumoulin (NED) — +7:48
8. Rigberto Uran (COL) — +8:02
9. Adam Yates (GBR) — +9:25
10. Damiano Caruso (ITA) — +14:03
13. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — +25:53
15. Sepp Kuss (USA) — +42:20
17. Nairo Quintana (COL) — +1:03:07
29. Thibaut Pinot (FRA) — +1:59:54
36. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) — +2:19:11
DNF. Egan Bernal (COL)

Sprinters (Green Jersey)
1. Sam Bennett (IRL) — 380 points
2. Peter Sagan (SVK) — 284
3. Matteo Trentin (ITA) — 260
4. Bryan Coquard (FRA) — 181
5. Wout van Aert (BEL) — 174

Climbers (Polka-Dot Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 82 points
2. Richard Carapaz (ECU) — 74
3. Primoz Roglic (SLO) — 67
4. Marc Hirschi (SUI) — 62
5. Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) — 51

Young Rider (White Jersey)
1. Tadej Pogacar (SLO) — 87:20:13
2. Enric Mas (ESP) — +6:07
3. Valentin Madouas (FRA) — +1:42:43
4. Dani Martinez (COL) — +1:55:12
5. Lennard Kamna (GER) — +2:15:39

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