Russian sculls rowing team banned from Rio for doping

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland — The Russian men’s quadruple sculls team has been disqualified from the Rio de Janeiro Olympics for a doping violation, and will be replaced at the games by New Zealand, world rowing’s ruling body announced Thursday.

The World Rowing Federation says that trimetazidine, a banned substance, was found in a urine sample given by rower Sergei Fedorovtsev in an out-of-competition test on May 17.

He competed a week later at the final Olympic qualifying regatta in Switzerland, where Russia finished first to qualify for Rio.

As Fedorovtsev, who won a gold medal in quadruple sculls at the 2004 Athens Olympics, had provided a positive doping test, the federation said that “the results of all competitions in which the rower participated after 17 May 2016 are therefore automatically disqualified.”

New Zealand, which finished third behind Russia and Canada in the qualifying event, will replace the Russian crew in Rio. Canada also qualified by finishing second, joining the top eight crews who secured their Olympic places at the 2015 world championships, held in France.

The disqualification of the rowers is just the latest doping scandal involving Russia ahead of Rio.

Russia’s track and field athletes have already be banned from competing for their country for a systematic doping system that operated “from the top down” and tainted the entire team.

The IAAF, track’s world governing body, upheld a ban on Russia’s track and field federation, but left open a “tiny crack” that would allow any individual Russian athletes who have been untainted by doping and have been subjected to effective testing outside Russia to apply to compete in the games.

Russia, along with Kazakhstan and Belarus, also faces a possible one-year suspension from international weightlifting competition following the retesting of samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

The International Weightlifting Federation said the final decisions on whether the countries will be allowed to compete at Rio will be made after the International Olympic Committee makes a definitive ruling on the retests.

Russia is one of six countries that have already had some of their quota places for Rio withdrawn by the IWF.

MORE: 67 Russians apply for Olympic track and field spots

Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever
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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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