Jordan Burroughs leads U.S. wrestlers clinching Olympic berths

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Jordan Burroughs planned a special celebration after making his second Olympic team on Sunday night.

“A 24-hour doughnut place,” he said after throwing his singlet into the crowd. “I might go at like 3 a.m.”

Then it’ll be back to work.

The London gold medalist swept Andrew Howe in the best-of-three finals in the freestyle 74kg division at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Iowa City on Sunday night, earning his spot in Rio in August.

Then he darted into the Carver-Hawkeye Arena stands to find his pregnant wife, Lauren, and 1-year-old son, Beacon. Lauren gave her husband a letter before Sunday’s match telling him he was destined for greatness.

“I’m just happy to be going to Rio,” Burroughs said while holding Beacon on NBC Sports Live Extra. “I’ve got to get some mosquito repellent.”

Burroughs is now 124-2 in senior international competition. He’s a different wrestler, a different man, since winning his maiden World title in 2011.

“I was single [in 2011], I was living in an apartment, I had a busted headlight on a Chevy Impala,” he joked.

In Rio, Burroughs can become the third U.S. wrestler to win back-to-back Olympic titles, joining George Mehnert (1904, 1908) and John Smith (1988, 1992).

Burroughs’ long-stated goal is to reach Smith’s American record of six combined Olympic and World titles. The 27-year-old can notch No. 5 on Aug. 19.

“I really look up to the trailblazers,” Burroughs told Smith on Live Extra. “For a lot of my career, I’ve been able to say I’ve been chasing John Smith.”

MORE: List of U.S. athletes qualified for Rio Olympics

Burroughs was joined by five more wrestlers who clinched U.S. Olympic berths Sunday, all first-time Olympians.

“Making the team for a lot of guys is an amazing feat, but for me is customary,” Burroughs said.

He won’t be joined by the other 2012 U.S. Olympic champion, Jake Varner, who lost to reigning World champion Kyle Snyder in the freestyle 97kg finals.

Snyder, 20 and the youngest American to win a World title, will become the first reigning NCAA champion to wrestle on a U.S. Olympic team since 1976. He will also become the youngest American to wrestle freestyle at the Olympics since 1976.

“The Olympics are just a little bit different, everybody knows that,” Snyder said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “All the eyes are on you, and that’s what I like.”

Daniel Dennis is going to the Olympics after giving up the sport and living in a pickup truck three years ago. Dennis upset two-time World team member Tony Ramos in a battle of former Iowa Hawkeyes in the freestyle 57kg finals.

“I’ve got an extra bedroom at my place,” Burroughs joked after learning of Dennis’ background. “He’s going to have to sleep in the same room as my son, Beacon, though.”

Adeline Gray, a two-time reigning World champion in 75kg, will be favored to become the first U.S. woman to take an Olympic title in August. She made quick work of Victoria Francis with tech falls less than halfway through both matches.

Gray is on a 37-match winning streak dating to July 2014.

“It’s awesome to know that I have a lot of titles, and I know I am a great wrestler, but there’s something about being special in that Olympic year, that the world now knows that I’m special,” a teary Gray, who cried for 30 minutes after losing in the 2012 trials finals, said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “I get to call myself an Olympian forever, and it’s an amazing feeling.”

Andy Bisek, whose World bronze medals the last two years are the U.S.’ only Greco-Roman Olympic or World medals since 2009, swept Geordan Speiller in the 75kg division.

“Being on the podium two years in a row shows me that I belong,” Bisek said on NBC Sports Live Extra. “There’s no reason I’m not at the top in Rio.”

The first to earn a Rio spot Sunday night was Robby Smith, who swept Adam Coon in the Greco-Roman 130kg finals. The bearded, tattooed Smith then bawled in an NBC Sports Live Extra interview after making his first Olympic team.

Smith made the last three World Championships teams, losing a bronze-medal match last year, and placed third at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

“I love to throw guys on their head,” Smith said. “That’s what I do.”

Also Sunday, J’Den Cox won the U.S. Olympic Trials one month after winning an NCAA title. Cox, a University of Missouri junior, won the freestyle 86kg finals over Kyle Dake, who in 2013 became the first wrestler to win NCAA titles in four different weight classes.

Cox isn’t qualified for Rio yet. He can do so at an international tournament later this spring.

World champion Helen Maroulis and Haley Augello won the women’s 53kg and 48kg divisions, respectively, and can clinch Olympic berths at an international tournament later this spring.

On Saturday night, three 2012 Olympians became the first members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic wrestling team.

MORE: First American born in 2000s to make Olympic team

Grigory Rodchenkov, Russian doping whistleblower, still lives in fear

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His head covered in a black balaclava, adjusting dark goggles obscuring his eyes, Grigory Rodchenkov grows anxious if any part of his face can be seen.

Exposing Russia’s state-sponsorship doping scheme forced Rodchenkov into hiding in the United States five years ago. Revealing his current identity is still too risky for the chemist turned whistleblower, even in a video interview from an undisclosed location.

“It’s my security measures because I have physical threats to be assassinated,” Rodchenkov told The Associated Press. “And I want to live.”

Evidence from Rodchenkov that has already turned Vladimir Putin‘s Russia into international sporting outcasts continues to be used in cases against athletes along with data from his former laboratory in Moscow.

“Putin, he is quite logical. He separates opposition in two ways — enemies … betrayers,” Rodchenkov said. “I am falling in the betrayers’ category and all betrayers should be beheaded, cut, dead. So there is no doubt that he wants me to be dead.”

It has not deterred him from documenting his life story in “The Rodchenkov Affair: How I Brought Down Putin’s Secret Doping Empire,” revisiting how he conspired with his country to corrupt sports and then tries to show contrition by turning star witness.

Rodchenkov was the brains behind the Duchess cocktail of anabolic steroids and cover-up that turned Russia into a medal machine at the home Olympics in Sochi in 2014, topping the standings with 13 gold medals before disqualifications.

Russian spies ensured the Duchess would not be detected in doping tests as FSB agents used a hole in the wall of the Sochi laboratory to swap out the dirty samples with clean urine at night.

“For me, it was the end of doping control,” Rodchenkov said. “If we can do it, why others cannot?”

The doping cover-up extended beyond the Winter Olympics, into the Summer Games, Paralympics, world track and field championships and every major sport.

Some Russians were barred from competing at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games and 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games as the International Olympic Committee remains opposed to blanket bans on countries.

So Russian athletes can still compete on the international stage if they can show they are clean, despite a four-year ban from major international sporting events being imposed on the nation last year for a fresh cover-up, including tampering with data gained from Rodchenkov’s former lab in Moscow.

“Sport is a part of Putin’s politics and showing to the West how good Russia is,” Rodchenkov said. “You cannot trust Russia. You cannot trust the certification authorities, and (anti-doping) laboratories cannot be allowed to be restored within the foreseeable future.”

Especially now, according to Rodchenkov, following constitutional changes allowing Putin to run for two more six-year terms, in 2024 and 2030,

“Until 2036,” Rodchenkov said, “no trust.”

But why now trust Rodchenkov as he presents a virtuous image at odds with his deep collusion with the state to cheat?

“When you are laboratory director and you have 50 employees and you are reporting to your high ups at the ministry, I could not even think about morals,” he said, dismissing concerns about any long-term damage to the health of athletes he allowed to be pumped with steroids.

“It’s extremely debatable and still ungrounded,” he said. “We see the generation who is now in the end of their lives of 70s and 80s, which are still … in a good physical condition after steroid programs.”

Go back four decades and Rodchenkov was starting out in a Soviet system learning how to manipulate doping controls.

“I had honestly, I’m sorry, but I had huge feelings of accomplishment,” he said. “Those athletes I helped to (win) were extremely talented and I could not understand, with the coach, how he or she may lose to others. The only explanation was doping. Then using some programs, we won gold medals. Honestly it was like leveling the field.

“Again, ‘morals’ is maybe vocabulary from American life but not from Soviet and Russian. In (the) Soviet (Union) it was the Soviet moral, in Russia there is no morals.”

It helps when the athletes are compliant.

“This is the huge problem of the militarization of Russia sport,” Rodchenkov said. “They follow orders, they are disciplined but they cannot tell the truth because they have given the oath to the Russian state and consider foreigners as potential enemies or even actual enemies. That’s why in Russia there are three ways – lying, cheating and denying.”

Rodchenkov has had to convince the world he has shed those ways and is coming clean. More of the cases he helped to cover-up could soon come to light after the World Anti-Doping Agency shared data – of samples tested up to 2015, and tampering that continued into 2019 – that was retrieved from the Moscow testing lab at the heart of the state-backed doping program.

“The problem is that the people from outside cannot understand what is going on inside sports,” he said. “Only whistleblowers could do that. But in corrupted countries you have to escape and we need to be preserved.”

For Rodchenkov that means living a life constantly in fear of being recognized as happened on a train in the US.

“It was a student,” he recalled. “I told him, `Forget you are meeting me, yes it’s me, don’t tell anyone.’ … I disappeared again.”

MORE: Russia track and field faces expulsion if it misses deadline

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Noah Lyles, more world champs race in Monaco; TV, live stream schedule

Noah Lyles
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Noah Lyles headlines a bevy of world champions slated for the first full-on Diamond League meet of the abbreviated track and field season, live on NBC Sports on Friday.

Monaco hosts the strongest fields of any meet since the world championships 10 months ago. Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold air coverage on Friday at 2 p.m. ET.

Reigning world champions include Lyles (200m), Grant Holloway (110m hurdles), Donavan Brazier (800m) and Sam Kendricks (pole vault), and those are just the Americans.

Swede Mondo Duplantis, who twice raised the pole vault world record in February, takes on Kendricks in Monaco. Distance stars Sifan Hassan, Hellen Obiri, Beatrice Chepkoech, Timothy Cheruiyot and Joshua Cheptegei dot the fields, too.

The Diamond League season was due to start in April, but the coronavirus pandemic halted large-gathering track meets until now. Repurposed versions of Diamond League meets in Oslo and Zurich were held the last two months with fewer events and athletes and some entrants racing from different countries.

After Monaco, more Diamond League meets are scheduled for Stockholm (Aug. 23), Lausanne (Sept. 2), Brussels (Sept. 4), Naples (Sept. 17), Doha (Sept. 25) and China (Oct. 17).

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

1:40 p.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
2:05 — Women’s High Jump
2:12 — Men’s 800m
2:17 — Women’s Triple Jump
2:19 — Women’s 5000m
2:42 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
2:50 — Women’s 100m
2:57 — Men’s 1500m
3:07 — Women’s 400m
3:13 — Men’s 5000m
3:32 — Men’s 200m
3:39 — Women’s 100m
3:47 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase

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

Men’s Pole Vault — 1:40 p.m.
The top field event of the meet includes the reigning Olympic champion (Brazil’s Thiago Braz), reigning world champion (Kendricks) and the world-record holder (Duplantis, who must be the favorite here). Kendricks and Duplantis already went head-to-head this spring, competing virtually from respective home pole-vault setups. Kendricks took their first six head-to-heads, back when Duplantis was a teenager, but the Louisiana-born Swede won all four of their indoor duels in February. Duplantis is the clear Tokyo Olympic favorite until proven otherwise.

Men’s 800m — 2:12 p.m.
The top four from the 2019 World Championships are entered. Brazier, 23, caught fire the last year. He broke the American record to win the world title. He broke his own American indoor record in February. Then, last month, Brazier took 1.33 seconds off his 1500m personal best. Nobody in the Monaco field has beaten Brazier since the start of 2018.

Women’s 5000m — 2:19 p.m.
Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan in world champion at 1500m and 10,000m, but she’s lost four of five meetings with two-time world champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya at 5000m. Hassan appears to be gearing up to race the 5000m in Tokyo, though, saying last month her eye was on a 1500m-5000m Olympic double had the Games been held this year. The 1500m preliminary heats and the 5000m final are separated by about 12 hours at the Olympics next year. Also in this field: three-time Olympian and former American record holder Shannon Rowbury, set for her first Diamond League race in nearly three years and since the birth of daughter Sienna.

Men’s 1500m — 2:57 p.m.
Last we saw Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot in a 1500m, he led wire-to-wire en route to a 2.12-second victory in the world championships final. Only one man has beaten Cheruiyot in three years, countryman Elijah Manangoi, who is provisionally suspended due to whereabouts failures. The Monaco field does include Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen (second-fastest man of 2019), Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha (indoor mile world-record holder), Pole Marcin Lewandowski (world bronze medalist) and Craig Engels (2019 U.S. champion who was 10th at worlds).

Men’s 200m — 3:32 p.m.
Lyles and younger brother Josephus Lyles go head-to-head for the first time since January 2017. Noah has lost just one outdoor 200m since placing fourth at the 2016 Olympic Trials coming out of high school. Josephus, primarily a 400m sprinter in his developmnt, last month took a half-second off a five-year-old 200m personal best. His new best time — 20.24 seconds — would have placed third at the 2019 USATF Outdoor Championships behind Noah (19.78) and Christian Coleman (20.02).

MORE: Trayvon Bromell’s return from destruction, death to sprinting

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