WADA to consider investigating more Russian sports

Craig Reedie
AP
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The World Anti-Doping Agency is prepared to open new inquiries into suspected systematic doping in Russian sports and other countries.

Four months after a WADA-commissioned investigation alleged a Russian doping conspiracy in track and field, WADA president Craig Reedie said Monday he would “reanalyze” the report to see if new cases were needed.

“I will determine whether or not there is sufficient information to propose further investigations,” Reedie told a conference of anti-doping officials from across the world.

Reedie reacted to criticism from the WADA athletes’ commission last week, which said comments in the “incriminating” report justified investigating other sports in Russia, and track and field programs in several other countries.

The promise helped keep Russia as the focus of doping issues one week after Maria Sharapova announced her positive test for meldonium. The blood-flow enhancing medication has triggered 99 positive cases, many from former Soviet Union countries, since joining the WADA-managed banned list on Jan. 1.

Under pressure from Russia to justify the science behind its decision, WADA director general David Howman defended the agency’s working methods established for more than a decade.

“We are not going to start creating a new process because of one substance,” Howman said on the sidelines of the conference. “There are provisions that say, if (a substance) is on the list, there is no query as to why it is on the list.”

Five months before the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Russia’s track and field team remains barred from competition as a result of the WADA-commissioned inquiry. The IAAF aims to decide in May if Russia should be allowed back in.

By then, other Olympic sports in Russia could be under closer scrutiny.

Reedie said Monday that he spoke with WADA athletes’ spokeswoman Beckie Scott and promised to “re-engage” with the inquiry team led by Dick Pound, plus sports federations and anti-doping officials.

Scott had suggested in an open letter that WADA’s response to the Pound report in November was unsatisfactory.

“There are quite a number of mentions of other sports,” Howman acknowledged. “We know they collected a lot of information and we need to ask them whether any of it was substantial enough” to open an inquiry.

Finding money for more lengthy investigations could be a factor.

Reedie noted that the Pound investigation had cost $1.5 million, and WADA had an annual operating budget of $26 million. He said he could propose new inquiries, and paying for them, with the WADA executive board. It next meets on May 11 in Montreal.

The Sharapova case was not discussed in detail at the opening sessions of a three-day meeting of national anti-doping agencies, so as not to prejudice her ongoing disciplinary case by tennis authorities and possible appeals, Howman said.

Still, he appeared to dismiss one line of Sharapova’s defense that she and her entourage were unaware of warnings that meldonium, which she used since 2006, was about to be prohibited for use without a medical exemption.

“Every year you should have on your calendar, 1st of October, let’s look at the (banned) list to see what’s happening,” Howman said. “It’s not new to athletes, it’s not new to administrators, it’s not new to athlete advisers. This has been going on now for 13, 14 years.”

Asked about reports in Russia quoting sports minister Vitaly Mutko‘s request to WADA to provide its scientific evidence relating to meldonium, Howman said no special favors would be given.

“We will show them the minutes of the meeting which are public, and the way in which these things were discussed,” the WADA official said.

MORE: WADA: 99 positive meldonium tests; list of notable athletes

IOC gives more time to pick 2030 Olympic host, studies rotating Winter Games

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The 2030 Winter Olympic host, expected to be Salt Lake City or Sapporo, Japan, is no longer targeted to be decided before next fall, the IOC said in announcing wider discussions into the future of the Winter Games, including the possibility of rotating the Games within a pool of hosts.

The IOC Future Host Commission was granted more time to study factors, including climate change, that could impact which cities and regions host future Winter Olympics and Paralympics. The 2030 Winter Games host is not expected to be decided before or at an IOC session next September or October.

Hosts have traditionally been chosen by IOC members vote seven years before the Games, though recent reforms allow flexibility on the process and timeline. For example, the 2024 and 2028 Games were awarded to Paris and Los Angeles in a historic double award in 2017. The 2032 Summer Games were awarded to Brisbane last year without a traditional bid race.

There are three interested parties for the 2030 Winter Olympics, the IOC said Tuesday without naming them. Previously, Salt Lake City, Sapporo and Vancouver were confirmed as bids. Then in October, the British Columbia government said it would not support a Vancouver bid, a major setback, though organizers did not say that decision ended the bid. All three cities are attractive as past Winter Games hosts with existing venues.

U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee officials have said Salt Lake City is a likelier candidate for 2034 than 2030, but could step in for 2030 if asked.

The future host commission outlined proposals for future Winter Olympics, which included rotating hosts within a pool of cities or regions and a requirement that hosts have an average minimum temperature below freezing (32 degrees) for snow competition venues at the time of the Games over a 10-year period.

The IOC Executive Board gave the commission more time to study the proposals and other factors impacting winter sports.

The IOC board also discussed and will continue to explore a potential double awarding of the 2030 and 2034 Winter Olympic hosts.

Also Tuesday, the IOC board said that Afghanistan participation in the 2024 Olympics will depend on making progress in safe access to sports for women and young girls in the country.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to suspend Afghanistan until women and girls can play sport in the country.

In a press release, the IOC board expressed “serious concern and strongly condemned the latest restrictions imposed by the Afghan authorities on women and young girls in Afghanistan, which prevent them from practicing sport in the country.” It urged Afghanistan authorities to “take immediate action at the highest level to reverse such restrictions and ensure safe access to sport for women and young girls.”

The IOC board also announced that North Korea’s National Olympic Committee will be reinstated when its suspension is up at the end of the year.

In September 2021, the IOC banned the North Korean NOC through the end of 2022, including banning a North Korean delegation from participating in the Beijing Winter Games, after it chose not to participate in the Tokyo Games.

North Korea, formally known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was the only one of 206 National Olympic Committees to withdraw from Tokyo. The country made its choice in late March 2021, citing a desire “to protect our athletes from the global health crisis caused by the malicious virus infection.”

The IOC said in September 2021 that it “provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected by the PRK NOC.”

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Olympic champion Justine Dufour-Lapointe leaves moguls for another skiing discipline

Justine Dufour-Lapointe
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Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the 2014 Olympic moguls champion, is leaving the event to compete in freeriding, a non-Olympic skiing discipline.

“After three Olympic cycles and 12 years on the World Cup circuit, I felt that I needed to find a new source of motivation and had to push my limits even more so I can reach my full potential as a skier,” the 28-year-old Montreal native said in a social media video, according to a translation from French. “Today, I am starting a new chapter in my career. … I want to perfect myself in another discipline. I want to connect with the mountain differently. Above all, I want to get out of my comfort zone in a way I’ve never done before.”

Dufour-Lapointe said she will compete on the Freeride World Tour, a series of judged competitions described as:

There‘s a start gate at the summit and a finish gate at the bottom. That’s it. Best run down wins. It truly is that simple. Think skiers and snowboarders choosing impossible-looking lines through cornices and cliff-faces and nasty couloirs. Think progressive: big jumps, mach-speed turns and full-on attack. Think entertaining.

Dufour-Lapointe has retired from moguls skiing, according to a Freeride World Tour press release, though she did not explicitly say that in social media posts Tuesday.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Dufour-Lapointe denied American Hannah Kearney‘s bid to become the first freestyle skier to repeat as Olympic champion. Older sister Chloé took silver in a Canadian one-two.

Dufour-Lapointe also won the world title in 2015, then Olympic silver in 2018 behind Frenchwoman Perrine Laffont.

Chloé announced her retirement in September. A third Dufour-Lapointe Olympic moguls skier, Maxime, retired in 2018.

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