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WADA to immediately probe report of Russian doping at Sochi Olympics

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The World Anti-Doping Agency will immediately look into the latest Russian doping allegations after last week’s report that four Sochi Olympic gold medalists were taking steroids.

“WADA will probe these new allegations immediately,” WADA president Craig Reedie said in a press release. “The claims made in the program offer real cause for concern, as they contain new allegations regarding attempts to subvert the anti-doping process at the Sochi Games.”

Last week’s CBS report was based on a whistleblower who previously provided evidence of Russian track and field doping.

The whistleblower, Vitaly Stepanov, a former Russian anti-doping official, said he learned of Russian cheating at the Sochi Olympics from Grigory Rodchenkov, former director of a Moscow drug-testing lab that was stripped of its accreditation by the World Anti-Doping Agency in April.

An independent WADA commission interviewed Rodchenkov last year about Russian track and field doping.

“Regrettably, he was not forthcoming with such information related to the Sochi Games,” Reedie said in its press release Tuesday. “It is surprising to hear these views so many months after the commission concluded its work.”

Before the widespread Russian track and field cheating came to light, Stepanov sent 200 emails and 50 letters to WADA over a three-year span detailing Russian doping, but WADA said it did not have the power to investigate Russia, according to the CBS report.

“On behalf of WADA, I would also like to acknowledge that the Stepanovs who, as reflected by 60 Minutes and other media outlets, felt there was some level of inaction by WADA in the period leading up to the formation of our independent commission in January 2015,” Reedie said in the press release. “There is no question that the Stepanovs provided vital information and intelligence that allowed the commission to be established; and, without which, widespread doping in Russian athletics may never have truly been exposed. What may have appeared as inaction reflected the fact that, until the revised World Anti-Doping Code came into effect on 1 January 2015, WADA did not have the power to conduct its own investigations. At the time, the agency was only able to collect information and pass it on to those that did have the power to investigate, in this case, the Russian authorities. WADA believes that passing the whistleblowers’ information on to the Russian authorities would not have resulted in the required scrutiny.”

MORE: Russia sports chief: Sochi doping claim ‘speculation’

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.

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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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