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Russia track and field provisionally suspended by IAAF

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LONDON (AP) — Calling it a wake-up call for a sport in a “shameful” position, IAAF President Sebastian Coe said Russia will be banned from next year’s Olympics unless it convinces the world it has cleaned up its act on doping.

The sport’s governing body provisionally suspended Russia’s track and field federation on Friday, four days after the country was accused of operating a vast, state-sponsored doping program in a damning report by a World Anti-Doping Agency commission.

The move bars Russia from all international track and field competition for an indefinite period, including the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, until the country is judged to have fixed its problems and fallen into line with global anti-doping rules.

Coe called the decision — approved 22-1 in a secret vote of the IAAF council via teleconference — “the toughest sanction we can apply at this time.” It’s the first time the International Association of Athletics Federations has ever banned a country over its doping failures.

“The whole system has failed the athletes, not just in Russia but around the world,” Coe said after a meeting that lasted nearly 3 1/2 hours. “This has been a shameful wake-up call and we are clear that cheating at any level will not be tolerated.”

“It makes me angry,” added Coe, a two-time Olympic 1500m champion from Great Britain. “We find ourselves in a shameful position tonight.”

Coe, who was elected IAAF president in August, had been under heavy pressure to take tough action, despite efforts by Russian officials to avoid a blanket ban by agreeing to cooperate and make reforms in their anti-doping system.

“This is not about politics, this is about protection of clean athletes,” Coe said. “It is why our council has sent such a strong message.”

Coe said Russia will need to fulfill “a list of criteria” to win reinstatement. An independent inspection team led by Norwegian anti-doping expert Rune Andersen will be appointed in the next few days to verify Russia’s progress.

Still uncertain is whether the Russian federation will be able to reform in time for its athletes to compete at the Rio Games, which run from Aug. 5-21.

“It is entirely up to the Russian federation and Russia to enact those changes,” Coe said. “Our verification team will be tough. … It is for the IAAF and no other organization to make that judgment. We will get the change that we want and only then will Russian athletes be able to return to competition.”

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said he is hopeful Russia will be able to compete at the World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon, from March 17-20.

“Anyway, the main thing is the Olympics,” he said.

Unless the Russian federation voluntarily accepts a full suspension, the IAAF will hold a hearing to elevate the provisional penalty to a full suspension.

Russia will also be stripped of hosting the world race walking team championships in Cheboksary from May 7-15, and the world junior championships in Kazan from July 19-24.

Russian athletes are eligible to compete in their own national events during the ban.

Russia’s IAAF council member, Mikhail Butov, addressed Friday’s meeting but did not take part in the vote. He said Russia’s return to competition “will depend on how convincing we are with our case and how objective the commission is.”

“We’ll work with them,” he told reporters in Moscow.

WADA called the IAAF decision “positive news for clean athletes worldwide.”

It came on the same day that a WADA committee found Russia’s national anti-doping agency to be non-compliant with its code. The findings will go to the WADA foundation board, which will vote on it next Wednesday in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

WADA has already suspended the anti-doping laboratory in Moscow.

Travis Tygart, CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said the IAAF’s suspension of Russia was the “only outcome acceptable to clean athletes.”

“The real test now is to ensure full justice and accountability for all their actions before being allowed to compete again,” he said.

Coe announced that Paul Deighton, who served as chief executive of the organizing committee for the 2012 London Olympics, will oversee a program of reform of the IAAF’s governance.

Coe also said he will create an “integrity unit” dealing with doping, illegal betting, age cheating and corruption.

“We need to look at ourselves within our sport, my organization as well,” Coe said, “and we will do that.”

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Shelby Houlihan shatters American 5000m record

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Shelby Houlihan chopped 10.52 seconds off her own American 5000m record, clocking 14:23.92 at a Bowerman Track Club intrasquad meet in Portland, Ore., on Friday night.

Houlihan, who was 11th in the Rio Olympic 5000m, has in this Olympic cycle improved to become one of the greatest female distance runners in U.S. history.

She first broke Shannon Rowbury‘s American record in the 5000m by 4.47 seconds in 2018. In 2019, she broke Rowbury’s American record in the 1500m by 1.3 seconds in finishing fourth at the world championships in 3:54.99.

On Friday, Houlihan and second-place Karissa Schweizer both went under the American record. Schweizer, 24 and three years younger than Houlihan, clocked 14:26.34, staying with Houlihan until the winner’s 61-second final lap.

“I knew Karissa was going to try to come up on me and take the lead. She does that every time,” Houlihan told USATF.tv. “I had decided I was not going to let that happen.”

Houlihan improved from 41st to 12th on the world’s all-time 5000m list, 12.77 seconds behind Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba‘s world record.

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Can T.J. Oshie, other established Olympic hockey stars hold on for 2022?

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T.J. Oshie will be 35 years old during the next Winter Olympics. Jonathan Quick will be 36. Now that the NHL is one key step closer to returning to the Winter Games, the question surfaces: which 2014 Olympians will have a difficult time returning to rosters in 2022?

Oshie was the last of the 14 forwards chosen for the U.S. Olympic team for Sochi, beating out Bobby Ryan and Brandon Saad, in part for his shootout prowess.

In group play against Russia, Oshie was memorably tapped by U.S. head coach Dan Bylsma six times in a shootout, including all five in the sudden-death rounds. Oshie beat Sergei Bobrovsky four times, including the game winner.

“After I went out for my third attempt, I figured I was going to keep going,” Oshie said, according to USA Hockey. “Each time I would look up to see what [Bylsma] had to say, and he would just give me a nod every time. I kind of started laughing toward shot five and six because it was getting kind of ridiculous.”

Oshie became known as “T.J. Sochi” on social media. President Barack Obama congratulated him on Twitter. The U.S. eventually lost to Canada in the semifinals and Finland in the bronze-medal game.

When the NHL chose not to send its players to the PyeongChang Winter Games, it may have spelled the end of Oshie’s Olympic career.

Consider that the oldest forward on the 2014 U.S. Olympic team was 29, six years younger than Oshie will be come 2022. A recent Olympic roster prediction from The Hockey Writers put Oshie in the “Just Missed Out” list.

NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire has Oshie among the finalists for the last forward spots in his early U.S. roster prediction.

“I wouldn’t discount T.J. Oshie because shootout is still part of it,” McGuire said. “He still has his shootout moves, even though he’s not getting any younger.”

Quick, the unused third goalie in 2010, played 305 out of 365 minutes in net for the U.S. in Sochi. He was coming off a Stanley Cup in 2012 and en route to another one in 2014.

Since, he was sidelined by a knee injury that required surgery. He remains the Los Angeles Kings’ No. 1 goalie, which almost automatically puts an American in the Olympic roster discussion these days.

“Somebody like Jonathan definitely merits consideration just because of his achievement level over time, but I think he’d be the first person to tell you injuries have definitely affected him,” McGuire said of Quick, looking to become the second-oldest U.S. goalie to play in the Olympics after Tom Barrasso in 2002. “It’s not going to be easy for him.”

The U.S. could bypass Quick for three Olympic rookies in 2022. Connor Hellebuyck, John Gibson and Ben Bishop have superior save percentages and goals-against averages and more games played than Quick since the start of the 2018-19 season.

A wild card is Spencer Knight, the 19-year-old No. 1 from the world junior championships who last year became the highest-drafted goalie since 2010 (No. 13 to the Florida Panthers). Knight would break defenseman Bryan Berard‘s record as the youngest U.S. Olympic hockey player in the NHL era.

The Canadian roster has traditionally been deeper than the U.S. The talent is overwhelming at center, led by Sidney CrosbyConnor McDavidPatrice Bergeron and Nathan MacKinnon. The Canadians must get creative if the likes of veterans Jonathan Toews and John Tavares will join them in Beijing.

Toews, then 21, was the best forward at the 2010 Vancouver Games and Canada’s only one on the all-tournament team. While Toews’ last NHL All-Star selection was in 2017, his last two seasons have been his best in terms of points per game since 2011.

“The one thing that Canada is very good at, they do it extremely well, they select players that fit roles,” McGuire said, noting Mike Richards shifting to the wing during the 2010 Olympics. “When you look at the overwhelming depth that Canada has, that’s going to be the thing that’s going that’s going to be very interesting to watch to see how it plays out at center.”

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