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USA Swimming, USADA to press FINA on doping issues

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Actively seeking to avoid the kind of doping scandal engulfing track and field, USA Swimming is teaming up with the man who brought down Lance Armstrong.

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart will join former USA Swimming president Jim Wood for a meeting with FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu in Lausanne, Switzerland, next month to check in on the anti-doping actions of the sport’s governing body.

“This is an effort to see if we can understand what’s going on and maybe why certain decisions were made the way they were,” USA Swimming executive director Chuck Wielgus told The Associated Press on Wednesday in a telephone interview from his office in Colorado.

Unlike with the IAAF and the ongoing corruption scandal at FIFA, though, there is no explicit concern about the people in charge.

“We’ve been extremely supportive of FINA’s leadership,” Wielgus said. “(Marculescu) was very quick to agree to a meeting so we were very pleased by that. We saw that as a very positive response.”

The concern lies with the way doping cases involving China’s Sun Yang, Australia’s Kylie Palmer and Russia’s Yuliya Efimova were handled.

USA Swimming wants to ensure the likes of Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky compete against only clean athletes at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“There are two great concerns we have about the Rio Games. One is that there is clean competition. And No. 2 is that the water is clean for open water swimmers,” Wielgus said, adding that water quality will not be discussed in the meeting with Marculescu.

Sun, the gold medalist in the 400- and 1,500-meter freestyle at the London Olympics, served a three-month doping suspension last year for using a banned stimulant. His punishment began immediately after he tested positive in May 2014, but Chinese officials kept the test quiet for six months and FINA also waited until late November to announce the sanction.

Sun was then named male swimmer of the meet at the World Championships in Kazan, Russia, in August.

Palmer, a member of the Australian 4×200-meter freestyle relay team which won gold at the 2008 Beijing Games, tested positive for low levels of a banned masking agent at the 2013 worlds in Barcelona, but she was not notified of the failed test until earlier this year.

Palmer denied taking performance-enhancing drugs but she accepted a provisional suspension, ruling her out of the Kazan worlds. Then FINA’s doping tribunal issued Palmer with only a reprimand and warning in September, allowing her to resume her bid to compete in Rio.

Efimova, meanwhile, returned in March from a 16-month ban after testing positive for the banned steroid DHEA. She maintained that she ingested the steroid in a nutritional supplement. The Los Angeles-based swimmer said her English was poor enough that she didn’t notice that the banned substance was written on the package of the supplement.

FINA accepted that Efimova wasn’t intending to gain a performance boost and decided not to give her the standard ban of two years, which would have ruled her out of her home worlds. She won the 100 breaststroke in Kazan.

Tygart, whose detailed report led to Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, has been reviewing these and other cases.

“It’s fair to say that those things got our attention and we wondered what went wrong in some of the decision-making,” Wielgus said. “Those are things we’ll talk about with Cornel but more important than that is pushing forward. Understanding some of the past mistakes is important but making sure the system is in place so those things don’t happen again is even more important.”

John Leonard, executive director of the World Swimming Coaches Association and its American member organization ASCA, has been severely critical of FINA’s anti-doping efforts.

“USA Swimming does not share John’s view,” Wielgus said.

Following the World Anti-Doping Agency commission’s report of Russia’s state-sponsored doping in track and field last month, FINA announced that it was transferring all 645 drug samples taken at the Kazan worlds from Moscow’s laboratory to the WADA facility in Barcelona.

No positives have been detected from Kazan and there are no plans to re-test the samples.

“Unless there is some special issue there is no reason to re-test,” Marculescu told the AP, adding that the initial tests were carried out before observers from labs in Barcelona and London.

USA Swimming’s top request for FINA is to explore establishing an independent body to control anti-doping efforts — along the lines of IOC President Thomas Bach‘s proposal last month that testing be turned over to an independent unit within WADA.

But when pressed for details on how an independent anti-doping body could operate, Wielgus did not have an immediate answer.

“It always gets back to money,” he said. “Doesn’t it?”

MORE: Sun Yang afraid of losing to me, rival says

Chloe Dygert crashes over guard rail, fails to finish world championships time trial

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American Chloé Dygert crashed over a guard rail and failed to finish the world road cycling championships time trial, where she appeared en route to a repeat title in Imola, Italy.

Dygert, who last year won by the largest margin in history as the youngest-ever champion, lost control of her bike while approaching a curve to the right. Her front wheel bobbled, and she collided with the barricade, flipping over into an area with grass.

Dygert, her legs appearing bloodied, was tended to by several people, put on a stretcher and taken toward an ambulance.

“All we know is that she is conscious and talking,” according to USA Cycling, about 25 minutes after the crash. “More updates to come.”

About 10 minutes after the crash, Dutchwoman Anna van der Breggen won her first time trial title.

Van der Breggen took silver the last three years behind Dygert and countrywoman Annemiek van Vleuten, who missed this year’s race after breaking her wrist last week in the Giro Rosa.

Dygert, 23, had a 26-second lead at the 14-kilometer time check of the 31-kilometer race. Full results are here.

Dygert qualified for the Tokyo Olympics when she won last year’s world time trial title. She has been bidding to make the Olympics on the road and the track.

Worlds continue Friday with the men’s time trial airing on Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold for Cycling Pass subscribers at 8:15 a.m. ET. A full TV schedule is here.

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Diamond League slate ends in Doha with record holders; TV, stream info

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The Diamond League season ends on Friday in the place where it was supposed to start — Doha.

Like many sports, track and field’s calendar was put in disarray by the coronavirus pandemic. The Doha meet, originally scheduled for April 17 to open an Olympic season, was postponed five months while other stops were canceled altogether.

Now, Doha caps an unlikely season that still produced stirring performances. NBCSN coverage starts at 12 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Gold also streams live for subscribers.

The headliner is Swedish pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis, a leading contender for Male Athlete of the Year. Duplantis, who twice bettered the world record in February at indoor meets, last week produced the highest outdoor clearance in history, too, breaking a 26-year-old Sergey Bubka record.

Duplantis can mimic Bubka on Friday by attempting to raise his world record another centimeter — to 6.19 meters, or more than 20 feet, 3 inches.

The deepest track event in Doha is the finale, the women’s 3000m, featuring 3000m steeplechase world-record holder Beatrice Chepkoech, 5000m world champion Hellen Obiri and rising 1500m runner Gudaf Tsegay.

Here are the Doha entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

11:18 a.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
11:33 — Men’s 200m
12:03 p.m. — Men’s 400m
12:08 — Women’s Long Jump
12:12 — Women’s 100m Hurdles
12:21 — Men’s 1500m
12:34 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
12:43 — Women’s 800m
12:56 — Women’s 100m
1:07 — Men’s 800m
1:18 — Women’s 3000m

Here are three events to watch (statistics via Tilastopaja.org):

Men’s Pole Vault — 11:18 a.m.
Duplantis looks to complete a perfect 2020 against his two primary rivals — reigning world champion and American Sam Kendricks (who went undefeated in 2017) and 2012 Olympic champion and former world-record holder Renaud Lavillenie of France. Kendricks was the last man to beat Duplantis, at those 2019 World Championships, and is the only man to clear a height within nine inches of Duplantis’ best this outdoor season.

Women’s 100m — 12:56 p.m.
Olympic champion Elaine Thompson-Herah looks poised to finish the year as the world’s fastest woman after clocking 10.85 seconds in Rome last week, her fastest time outside of Jamaica in more than three years. That’s one hundredth faster than countrywoman Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce‘s best time of 2020. Thompson-Herah was fifth and fourth at the last two world championships after sweeping the Rio Olympic sprints. Like in Rome, her primary challengers in Doha are Ivorian Marie-Josée Ta Lou and 2018 U.S. champion Aleia Hobbs.

Women’s 3000m — 1:18 p.m.
A meeting of titans in a non-Olympic event. Chepkoech is the fastest steeplechaser in history by eight seconds. Obiri is the fastest Kenyan in history in the 3000m and the 5000m. Tsegay, just 23, chopped 3.26 seconds off her 1500m personal best in 2019, taking bronze at the world championships to become the second-fastest Ethiopian in history in that event. In all, the field includes five medalists from the 2019 Worlds across four different events.

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