Russian athletes plead in letter to be allowed in Rio Olympics

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Russian athletes pleaded Wednesday to be allowed to compete at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, making their case two days before the IAAF decides whether to lift its ban on the country’s track and field team.

The Russian Olympic Committee athletes’ commission sent a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach asking for “your support in upholding” the right of clean athletes to take part in the Games.

“We ask you and the International Olympic Committee to take a humanitarian attitude to the many athletes whose fate is at stake and to take a balanced and wise decision,” the letter said.

Russia was suspended from international track and field by the IAAF in November after a World Anti-Doping Agency report alleged widespread, state-sponsored doping. The IAAF council meets Friday in Vienna to decide whether to maintain the ban.

The International Olympic Committee has scheduled a summit of sports leaders next Tuesday to consider Russia’s eligibility.

The Russian athletes said in their letter that a ban from Rio would be collective punishment for the misdeeds of a minority and would “truly have a destructive effect on the whole system of Olympic values and cause irreparable damage to the development of sport in Russia.”

The letter states that, in order to be allowed to compete, Russia’s track team would face extra drug testing and athletes who have served drug bans at any time would not be selected.

As a result of those measures, “it is guaranteed that our athletes are clean; none of them have ever taken banned substances and there are no suspicions about them,” the letter said. “‘Please, tell us what else we must do to convince the Olympic community of our commitment to the fight against doping.”

The letter was provided to The Associated Press by athletes’ commission head Olga Brusnikina, a former synchronized swimmer who has also had a role in overseeing reforms at the Russian track federation since it was suspended in November.

The commission consists of 13 athletes, most of them retired. Eight are Olympic gold medalists and two have faced accusations of doping.

Among the members is two-time Olympic bobsled gold medalist Alexander Zubkov, who has denied accusations from former Russian anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov that he doped at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Also on the commission is figure skater Ekaterina Bobrova, who served a brief provisional suspension this year after a positive test for the banned substance meldonium. The suspension was lifted because of the low concentration of the substance in her sample, but no final decision on her case has been made public.

MORE: Sharapova appeals doping ban, decision set before Rio Olympics

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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