Yulia Efimova
AP

Yuliya Efimova: I failed test for meldonium in February but stopped taking it before Jan. 1

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MOSCOW (AP) — Despite failing a doping test for meldonium, World champion Yuliya Efimova said Monday she still hopes to swim at the Olympics in August.

In an emotional recorded statement on Russian state TV, Efimova said she tested positive for the recently banned endurance-boosting drug last month and insisted she was innocent.

“I categorically reject the accusation of doping,” she said. “At the current time, we are preparing for a hearing into my case. We intend to have the charge completely dismissed and to prove that I didn’t break anti-doping rules, and I continue to train with the hope that I will compete at the Olympic Games in Rio.”

A four-time gold medalist at the World Championships, the breaststroke specialist is widely considered to be Russia’s top medal hope in swimming at the Olympics.

Efimova, who won bronze in the 200m breaststroke at the 2012 London Olympics, could be banned for life if found guilty of a second career doping offense.

She was stripped of five European Championships medals after testing positive for the banned steroid DHEA in 2013. Efimova’s ban on that occasion was reduced from two years to 16 months after she argued that she had taken the substance by accident while trying to buy a legal supplement.

“I missed one and a half years due to my own stupidity,” Efimova said. “Since then I track especially carefully anything that enters my body and I give a guarantee that any medicines that I have taken or am taking are allowed.”

Efimova said she had taken meldonium for unspecified medical reasons, but stopped before Jan. 1, when the substance became banned in sports.

“Although the half-life of meldonium in organism is only 4-6 hours, its complete elimination time from organism is significantly longer,” the drug’s Latvian manufacturer, Grindeks, said in an e-mailed statement. “Its terminal elimination from the body may last for several months and it depends on a variety of factors.”

Her agent, Andrei Mitkov, refused to provide any more detail about Efimova’s medical circumstances in televised comments, saying he did not want to give away information before a hearing.

Mitkov said Efimova tested positive in two out-of-competition tests last month while training in Los Angeles. One was administered by swimming governing body FINA and the other by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Mitkov said.

Also Monday, Russia’s embattled track and field federation said four of its athletes had tested positive for meldonium at last month’s national indoor championships.

The cases pile more pressure on Russia, which was suspended from global track and field in November after a World Anti-Doping Agency commission report alleged systematic, state-sponsored doping. Russia could miss out on the Olympics if the ban is not lifted in time.

Two Russian runners have admitted to failing doping tests at last month’s championships. They are Andrei Minzhulin, who won the 5000 meters at the event, and Nadezhda Kotlyarova, who reached the semifinals in the 400m at last year’s World Championships.

Minzhulin told Russia’s R-Sport agency that he stopped taking meldonium in November but it remained in his system.

The federation did not identify those who had tested positive but said it was “carefully investigating” the cases and that athletes had been warned several times about meldonium after WADA said in September that it would be banned for 2016.

The IAAF did not respond to a request for comment.

Besides the Russians, there are also ongoing meldonium cases involving former World 1500 champion Abeba Aregawi of Sweden and former European Indoor 800m champion Nataliya Lupu of Ukraine.

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U.S. Olympic 3×3 basketball qualifying teams named with former NBA player, WNBA stars

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Former NBA player Robbie Hummel and WNBA stars lead U.S. Olympic qualifying teams in the new Olympic event of 3×3 basketball.

The four-man and four-woman teams will compete in a global qualifier in India in March, each favored to grab one of three available Olympic berths per gender for the U.S.

Hummel, who unretired to become world champion in 3×3, is joined on the U.S. Olympic men’s qualifying team by Team Princeton teammates Canyon Barry and Kareem Maddox, plus Dominique Jones, who has played with Team Harlem. Team Princeton is guided by an investment firm CEO who once beat Michael Jordan one-on-one.

Last year, Hummel, Maddox and Barry (one of Rick Barry‘s sons) were part of a team that won the world title.

The U.S. women’s 3×3 qualifying roster is made up of WNBA stars Napheesa Collier, Stefanie DolsonAllisha Gray and Kelsey Plum. The U.S.’ top-ranked 3×3 player, as of last month, is Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu, who can’t play internationally this spring as she is in the thick of the NCAA season.

Olympic teams will not necessarily be made up of players from the qualifying tournament.

If the U.S. qualifies for Tokyo, it will then choose its roster(s) in a similar fashion to its traditional basketball teams — via selection committee. It’s unlikely active NBA players will be eligible.

Like with the qualifying tournament, two of the four Olympic players must be ranked in the top 10 among Americans in FIBA 3×3 rankings (as of a May 22 cutoff).

In 3×3, games last 10 minutes, or until one team reaches 21 points. Games are played on a half-court with a 12-second shot clock, and offense immediately turns to defense after a team scores.

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First U.S. sailors qualify for Olympics; gold medalist misses on tiebreak

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The first five members of the U.S. Olympic sailing team were finalized this past weekend. The last American sailor to win an Olympic title missed on a tiebreaker.

Stephanie Roble and Maggie Shea (49er FX), Anna Weis and Riley Gibbs (Nacra 17) and Charlie Buckingham (Laser) qualified after world championships competition concluded in Australia. The U.S. Olympic roster across all sports is now at 43 qualified athletes.

The closest race for a U.S. Olympic spot came in 49er FX. Roble and Shea edged Paris Henken and 2008 Olympic champion Anna Tobias on a tiebreak. Roble and Shea, both first-time Olympic qualifiers, won Saturday’s medal race and earned an overall bronze medal.

That put the two U.S. duos in a tie in Olympic qualifying — combining placements from the 2019 and 2020 Championships, according to TeamUSA.org. The tiebreak went to Roble and Shea for having the better finish at this year’s worlds.

Tobias, a 37-year-old who won the individual 2008 Olympic Laser Radial as Anna Tunnicliffe, came out of retirement in a bid for a third Olympics. She left competitive sailing in 2014, took up CrossFit competitions and returned to crew for Henken more than two years ago.

“We are very sad and upset,” was posted on Tobias’ Instagram, “but we wish them [Roble and Shea] the best of luck.”

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