Craig Reedie
AP

WADA to consider investigating more Russian sports

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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

Regan Smith swims another historic backstroke time at Pro Series meet

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Regan Smith, who last summer broke both backstroke world records, put up the fastest 100m back in history outside of a major international meet or trials competition on Saturday.

Smith, a 17-year-old Minnesota high school senior, clocked 58.26 seconds to win at a Pro Series meet in Knoxville, Tenn. It tied for the 12th-fastest time in history. None of the other fastest dozen came in January, six months out from when swimmers peak for the world’s biggest events like the Olympics.

Making it more impressive: Smith did it 27 minutes after finishing second in the 200m butterfly, which she’s also expected to contest at June’s Olympic trials in Omaha.

“It actually wasn’t as bad, as I was nervous it was going to be,” Smith, whose world record is 57.57, said of the double on NBCSN. Smith entered two events per day at the three-day Knoxville meet, in part to prepare for the trials, where she is slated to race six straight days in a bid to make the Olympic team in enough events to swim eight straight days in Tokyo.

On Saturday, Smith held off fellow 17-year-old Phoebe Bacon by six tenths. Bacon beat Smith at the U.S. Open in December, posting the second-fastest time among Americans in the event for 2019.

The teen emergence puts pressure on Kathleen Baker, the Rio Olympic silver medalist who had the world record before Smith took it at worlds.

Full Knoxville results are here. USASwimming.org live streams the last night of finals Sunday at 6:30 ET.

In other events Saturday, world silver medalist Hali Flickinger overcame Smith in the 200m fly, winning in 2:08.34. Smith, third-fastest among Americans last season, was .39 behind. The second-fastest American last year, Katie Drabot, was not in the field. The top two at trials make the Olympic team.

Erika Brown beat world champion Simone Manuel in a freestyle sprint for a second straight meet, taking the 50m free in 24.57 seconds.

Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, edged Manuel by .06 and took .01 off her personal best. Brown ranked third among Americans last year behind Manuel (24.05) and Abbey Weitzeil (24.47).

Brown also defeated Manuel in the 100m free at the U.S. Open in December, moving to fourth-fastest in the U.S. last year in that event. The top six in the 100m free at trials are in line to make the Olympic team, given relay spots.

MORE: Australian swim star issues plea after hometown hit by fires

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Mikaela Shiffrin nearly makes it three-way tie for World Cup win

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Mikaela Shiffrin came .01 shy of making it a three-way tie for a World Cup giant slalom win on Saturday, confirming GS has been the most up-for-grabs discipline for either gender in recent years.

Shiffrin, beaten in her last two slaloms, had the fastest second run to place third behind co-winners Italian Federica Brignone and Slovakian Petra Vlhova in Sestriere, Italy. The reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the GS rallied from fourth place and .42 behind after the first run.

Shiffrin still leads the World Cup overall standings by 233 points over Vlhova. The American last won Dec. 29. Though she made the podium in three of her four races since, Shiffrin expressed a lack of confidence heading into this weekend’s races at the 2006 Olympic venue.

“The most exciting thing for me is that people have stopped asking me, like, are you unbeatable?” said Shiffrin, who won a record 17 World Cup races last season and has four victories nearly halfway through this season, tied with Vlhova for most on tour. “I feel really good in GS. It’s just been a long time since [the last GS on Dec. 28].”

Vlhova earned her third victory this month after beating Shiffrin those last two slaloms. Brignone leads the GS season standings by 61 points over Shiffrin, seeking to become the sixth different woman to win that discipline title in the last six years. There are four more GS races left this season.

It’s the second straight season with a World Cup GS tie. Last Feb. 1, Shiffrin and Vlhova tied in Maribor, Slovenia.

It’s the first time the top three finishers were separated by such a small margin since the last three-way tie for a win in 2006, when Lindsey VonnMichaela Dorfmeister and Nadia Styger had the same super-G time, and fourth-place Kelly VanderBeek was .01 behind.

“Last season, I had the lucky side of the hundredths many times, so sometimes I’m not going to be on the lucky side, too,” said Shiffrin, who had three victories by .16 or tighter last season.

World Cup racing continues with a parallel giant slalom on Sunday at 5:45 a.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

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MORE: Shiffrin among 10 dominant Winter Olympians of 2010s decade