Danell Leyva
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U.S. men’s gymnastics stars enter Olympic Trials as underdogs

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Danell Leyva and John Orozco were anchors of the U.S. men’s gymnastics team four years ago. They’re outliers going into the Olympic Trials this week.

Leyva and Orozco stand 16th and 10th in the all-around standings after the P&G Championships three weeks ago, the first of two Olympic selection meets. It has been 64 years since more than two U.S. men’s gymnasts competed in back-to-back Games.

That streak will endure if Leyva and Orozco don’t perform better in St. Louis on Thursday and Saturday (broadcast schedule here).

The five-man Olympic team will be named on Sunday.

One man appears a lock at this point — London Olympian Sam Mikulak, who won his fourth straight U.S. all-around title at the P&G Championships.

His supporting cast is still to be determined by a selection committee this weekend, taking into account results from the P&G Championships and Olympic Trials, among other discretionary criteria.

Chris Brooks, a 2012 Olympic alternate, and veteran Olympian and Worlds team member Jacob Dalton were second and third in the all-around at the P&G Championships.

Paul Ruggeri III, a three-time Worlds alternate who made his Worlds debut in 2015, tied for eighth in the all-around at P&Gs but goes into the Olympic Trials with added value, ranked in the top three on three of the six events.

Donnell Whittenburg, the only American to make both of the last two World Championships all-around finals, led the all-around halfway through the P&G Championships. But he fell to a tie for fifth after 12 routines in Hartford three weeks ago.

Much farther behind were Leyva and Orozco, who struggled not just in Hartford but throughout this Olympic cycle.

Leyva, a 24-year-old Miami native and the 2012 Olympic all-around bronze medalist, has finished no higher than fifth in the all-around at the last four P&G Championships.

He competed in Hartford with his left leg fully wrapped after one of his family’s American bulldogs bit him multiple times for the second time in four years earlier this spring.

Leyva also showed up in Hartford without his lucky towel, the famous blue one with stars, that he toted at every gymnastics meet since 2007. That was stolen in February.

“I don’t mind being the underdog,” Leyva said after finishing 16th in Hartford, where he fell off the high bar, went out of bounds on floor exercise and mangled a pommel horse dismount. “I wasn’t trying to be perfect here. You’ve got to be perfect in Rio.”

Orozco, a 23-year-old from the Bronx and the 2012 U.S. all-around champion, suffered a torn left ACL and associated meniscus damage in a post-Olympic USA Gymnastics tour in October 2012.

He rebounded to finish second in the all-around at the 2014 P&G Championships and looked set to be a 2016 Olympic team favorite.

But then June 15, 2015 happened. Orozco tore his right Achilles for the second time in five years and was told by a doctor he would be out about one year.

He cut that estimate in half, which is why he wasn’t worried about trailing going into this week’s Olympic Trials. Rather, Orozco felt fortunate to be healthy enough to compete in all six events in Hartford.

“I honestly don’t feel any pressure at all [about my Olympic team chances],” Orozco said after the P&G Championships, where he fell off the pommel horse on the first day. “I’m still not there, which is OK, because at trials is where I want to peak.”

MORE: Full NBC Olympic trials broadcast schedule

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Paul Ruggeri III is the only man ranked in the top three of three of six events after the P&G Championships. Both Ruggeri and Jacob Dalton are ranked in the top three of three of six events.

Does Lance Armstrong believe doping contributed to cancer?

Lance Armstrong
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Lance Armstrong said on Sunday’s ESPN film “Lance” that he didn’t know whether he got testicular cancer because of his doping in the early-to-mid 1990s.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “And I don’t want to say no because I don’t think that’s right, either. I don’t know if it’s yes or no, but I certainly wouldn’t say no. The only thing I will tell you is the only time in my life that I ever did growth hormone was the 1996 season [before being diagnosed with moderate to advanced cancer in October 1996]. So just in my head, I’m like ‘growth, growing, hormones and cells.’ Like, if anything good needs to be grown, it does. But wouldn’t it also make sense that if anything bad is there, that it, too, would grow?”

Armstrong was asked a similar question by Oprah Winfrey in his January 2013 doping confession.

“Do you think that banned substances contributed to you getting cancer?” Winfrey asked.

“I don’t think so,” Armstrong said then. “I’m not a doctor, I’ve never had a doctor tell me that or suggest that to me personally, but I don’t believe so.”

That was not the first time doping and cancer were part of the same conversation.

Teammate Frankie Andreu and then-fiancee Betsy said that Armstrong told a doctor on Oct. 27, 1996, at Indiana University Hospital that he had taken performance-enhancing drugs; EPO, testosterone, growth hormone, cortisone and steroids.

Armstrong said he probably began doping at age 21, in 1992 or 1993.

“I remember when we were on a training ride in 2002, Lance told me that [Michele] Ferrari [the infamous doctor who provided performance-enhancing drugs] had been paranoid that he had helped cause the cancer and became more conservative after that,” former teammate Floyd Landis said in 2011, according to Sports Illustrated.

TIMELINE: Lance Armstrong’s rise and fall

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Cortina requests to postpone Alpine skiing worlds from 2021 to 2022

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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The Italian Winter Sports Federation was making a formal request on Monday to postpone next year’s world Alpine skiing championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo until March 2022.

Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malagò revealed the plans during an interview with RAI state TV on Sunday night.

Considering the fallout in Italy from the coronavirus pandemic, Malagò said “this is the best solution” in order to avoid the championships being canceled or shortened.

“It’s a decision in which we both lose but we realize this is the best — or maybe the only thing — to do,” Malago said.

The Italian federation confirmed that the proposal would be presented during an International Ski Federation (FIS) board meeting Monday. The Italian federation added that the decision to make the proposal was made jointly by the organizing committee in Cortina, the Veneto region and the Italian government.

It will be up to FIS to decide on any postponement.

Cortina was already forced to cancel the World Cup Finals in March this year due to the advancing virus, which has now accounted for more than 30,000 deaths in Italy.

Moving the worlds to March 2022 would put the event one month after the Beijing Olympics and likely force FIS to cancel that season’s finals in Méribel and Courchevel, France.

The Cortina worlds are currently scheduled for Feb. 7-21, 2021.

Worlds are usually held every other winter, in odd years.

Cortina is also slated to host Alpine events during the 2026 Milan-Cortina Olympics.

MORE: Anna Veith retires, leaves Austrian Alpine skiing in unfamiliar territory

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