IOC: 31 athletes test positive in 2008 Olympic retests

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LONDON (AP) — In a major doping crackdown stretching back eight years, 31 athletes in six sports were caught in retesting of samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and other positive cases could emerge from the 2012 London Games, the IOC said Tuesday.

The International Olympic Committee opened disciplinary proceedings against the 31 unidentified athletes from 12 countries who competed in Beijing and were planning to take part in the Rio de Janeiro Games in August.

The positive cases emerged from the recent retesting of 454 doping samples from Beijing with “the very latest scientific analysis methods,” the IOC said. The Olympic body stores samples for 10 years to allow for retesting with improved techniques.

The IOC said it would inform the relevant national Olympic committees in the coming days.

“All those athletes infringing anti-doping rules will be banned from competing at the Olympic Games” in Rio, the IOC said after a teleconference meeting of its policy-making executive board.

Results of retesting of 250 samples from the London Olympics will be announced shortly, the IOC said. Those tests were also aimed at athletes planning to compete in Rio.

The IOC said it would also undertake a “wider retesting program” of medalists from both the Beijing and London Games. Samples of athletes who could be promoted to medals following disqualification of drug cheats will also be retested.

The IOC also asked the World Anti-Doping Agency to launch a “fully-fledged investigation” into allegations that the drug-testing system at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi was subverted by Russian officials.

The IOC said it would ask the Lausanne anti-doping lab and WADA to proceed with analyzing Sochi samples “in the most sophisticated and efficient way possible.”

Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory, told The New York Times last week that he switched tainted urine samples for clean ones for Russian athletes who were part of a state-sponsored doping program. He has offered to assist in retesting.

The statute of limitations for retesting was extended in 2015 from eight to 10 years, meaning the Beijing samples remain valid through 2018.

It’s not the first time that samples from Beijing have been retested. A few months after those games, the IOC reanalyzed nearly 1,000 of the total of 4,000 samples with a new test for the blood-boosting drug CERA. Five athletes were caught, including 1,500-meter gold medalist Rashid Ramzi of Bahrain.

Nearly 500 doping samples from the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin have already been retested. The IOC has not disclosed whether those retests had produced any positive cases.

Five athletes were caught in retests of samples from the 2004 Athens Olympics, including men’s shot put winner Yuriy Bilonog of Ukraine.

On a separate issue, the IOC said it would “work to shed full light” on bribery allegations tied to Tokyo’s winning bid for the 2020 Olympics.

French prosecutors said last week that 2.8 million Singapore dollars ($2 million) was apparently transferred from Japan to the Singapore account of a company tied to the son of former IAAF President Lamine Diack, who is facing corruption charges.

Tokyo bid leaders acknowledged the payments were made, but said they were for legitimate consulting fees.

The IOC said it would remain a civil party to the French investigation and its chief ethics officer would “actively cooperate” in the inquiry.

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Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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