Thomas Bach
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More Russian sports could be banned, IOC president says

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LONDON (AP) — The latest allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russia could lead to suspension of entire national federations, heavy fines and lifetime Olympic bans, IOC President Thomas Bach said Wednesday.

Bach declined to say whether the IOC would consider banning Russia entirely from this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, maintaining such a move hinges on a choice between “collective responsibility” and “individual justice.”

“We are waiting for the facts,” Bach said. “We need a fair procedure for everybody. Should the allegations be proven true, we will apply our zero tolerance policy, not only with the athletes, but also with regards to everyone implicated within our reach.”

Bach also said the final results of retests of doping samples from the 2008 and 2012 Games – which have caught 31 athletes so far – will be known early next month, in time for drug cheats to be barred from going to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.

Bach said allegations that Russian officials subverted the drug-testing system at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi “represent a shocking new dimension in doping” and an “unimaginable level of criminality.”

Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of the Russian lab now living in Los Angeles, told The New York Times last week that he ran an organized doping program for Russian athletes and helped switch tainted samples for clean ones. Rodchenkov said he was helped by people he believed to be Russian security officers.

The IOC has asked the World Anti-Doping Agency to carry out a full-fledged investigation and plans to retest Sochi samples stored at the lab in Lausanne, Switzerland. Bach urged anyone with information about the allegations to come forward immediately to WADA and the IOC.

“If these allegations are true, we will hold everybody responsible who is implicated,” Bach said in a conference call with reporters.

He said sanctions could include lifetime Olympic bans on individuals, financial penalties on organizations and “suspensions or exclusion of entire national federations” – in line with the IAAF’s current suspension of the Russia’s track and field body.

The IAAF suspended Russia from global competition following an investigation by an independent WADA panel that detailed state-sponsored doping, corruption and cover-ups in the country’s track and field program.

The IAAF is scheduled to decide on June 17 whether to maintain or lift the ban on the Russians for the Rio Games.

Bach was asked whether, in light of the Sochi allegations, the entire Russian Olympic Committee could be banned from Rio.

“I will not speculate on the result because there comes a decision we have to make between collective responsibility and individual justice,” he said.

The IOC would have to consider “whether in such contaminated federations the presumption of innocence for athletes could still be applied, whether the burden of proof could be reversed,” he added.

Bach said decisions also have to be made taking into account “the clean athletes around the globe.”

“Whatever the results will be, we will do everything to provide a level playing field for all the athletes around the globe and in this way to protect the integrity of the competition of the Olympic Games in Rio,” he said.

The Russian sports ministry said Wednesday it supports banning drug cheats but claimed it would be unfair to keep a blanket ban on all track athletes for the games.

“We strongly believe that clean athletes, who have spent years of their lives training for the games, should not be deprived of the right to participate,” the ministry said.

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told the state news agency TASS that Russia was prepared to appoint a foreigner to head its anti-doping agency.

Bach said he had no knowledge of a reported investigation by U.S. federal prosecutors into allegations of state-sponsored doping of Russian athletes. The probe was launched by the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York, The New York Times reported.

“We have no information on this,” Bach said. “I don’t even know what it is. I don’t know about any legal grounds for this. I don’t know about the scope. I cannot comment on something I do not know.”

Mutko said Russia was surprised by the reported U.S. investigation and suggested the United States should investigate its own national team, because “things are not so rosy there either.”

Bach spoke a day after the IOC announced that 31 unidentified athletes in six sports could be barred from Rio after their Beijing doping samples tested positive. The IOC stores samples for 10 years to allow for retesting with improved techniques.

IOC medical director Dr. Richard Budgett said the athletes’ “B” samples will be analyzed in early June and the results available a few days later.

The IOC has also retested 250 samples from the 2012 London Olympics. Budgett said provisional results from those tests will be available within a week, with testing of the “B” samples to take place “a couple of weeks later.”

Budgett said athletes will be invited to be present for the testing of the “B” samples. If those tests also come back positive, the IOC can issue provisional suspensions. That would be followed by a disciplinary procedure that could bar athletes from Rio and strip them of their previous Olympic results, including any medals.

Budgett declined to say which substances were detected in the retests, but said the process involved improved methods for detecting steroids and EPO.

Budgett added that a test for gene doping developed by Australian scientists was in the final stages of approval and could be ready for use at the Rio Games.

MORE: Russian official: Rio ban would ‘risk tearing Olympic unity apart’

Cyclist in induced coma after Tour of Poland crash

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Dutch cyclist Fabio Jakobsen was put into an induced coma Wednesday after suffering injuries in a crash on the final stretch of the Tour of Poland, organizers said.

A massive crash at the finish of the first stage resulted in Dylan Groenewegen‘s disqualification from the race.

Leading a bunch sprint, Groenewegen veered toward the right barrier, pinching countryman Jakobsen, who barreled into the barrier meters from the finish line.

Jakobsen went head over heels, his bike went airborne and the barriers exploded onto the road, causing more cyclists to crash.

Jakobsen was airlifted to a hospital in serious condition and was put into an induced coma, the Tour de Pologne press office said.

Doctor Pawel Gruenpeter of the hospital in Sosnowiec said Jakobsen suffered injuries to the head and chest but that his condition was stable at the intensive care unit. Jakobsen will need surgery to his face and skull, Gruenpeter told state broadcaster TVP Sport.

Groenewegen crossed the finish line first but was disqualified, giving Jakobsen the stage win, according to the stage race website.

Groenewegen, a 27-year-old Jumbo-Visma rider, owns four Tour de France stage wins among the last three years.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) “strongly condemned” Groenewegen’s “dangerous” and “unacceptable” behavior. It referred Groenewegen’s actions to a disciplinary commission for possible sanctions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final). ISU vice president Alexander Lakernik said skaters will be limited to one start in the six-event series before the Final, according to a Russian media quote confirmed by Phil Hersh.

The ISU has not confirmed or denied Lakernik’s assertion.

Most, if not all, top-level U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada. That makes the first two Grand Prix stops — Skate America and Skate Canada — likely destinations. Grand Prix assignments have not been published.

“I appreciate the ISU is open to adapting competitive formats and is working to give athletes opportunities to compete,” Evan Bates, a U.S. ice dance champion with Madison Chock who trains in Montreal, wrote in a text message to Hersh. “This announcement gives reassurance that the ISU is doing their best to ensure a season will still take place. Of course, it’s hard to predict what will happen, and we’re not sure about what country we would compete in. It would probably depend on what the quarantine rules are at that time.”

The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu, who cannot enter the senior Grand Prix until 2021.

Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

U.S. Figure Skating said in a statement that it will have more details on the Grand Prix Series in the coming weeks after collaborating with an ISU-appointed group.

“This is a great example of the figure skating community coming together to ensure that the world’s premier figure skating series will continue during these challenging times,” the statement read. “Figure skaters want to compete and figure skating fans from all around the world want to see their favorite athletes skate, and this format will ensure just that.”

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