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Ukrainian weightlifter stripped of 2012 Olympic bronze medal

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LONDON (AP) — A Ukrainian weightlifter was stripped of her bronze medal from the 2012 London Olympics on Wednesday, the first athlete formally disqualified by the IOC after the retesting of doping samples from the past two Summer Games.

Yulia Kalina, who finished third in the 58-kilogram division in London, tested positive for the steroid turinabol in reanalysis of her stored samples and was retroactively disqualified from the games, the International Olympic Committee said.

A three-man disciplinary panel stripped her of the medal and ordered her to return it.

The IOC asked the international weightlifting federation to revise the results and consider any further sanctions against Kalina, who could face a two-year ban.

The IOC recorded 55 positive results — 32 from Beijing and 23 from London — in the retesting program, which used enhanced techniques to catch cheats who escaped detection at the time. The Russian Olympic Committee has said 22 of the cases involved Russian athletes, including medalists.

The IOC stores Olympic doping samples for 10 years, allowing them to be reopened and reanalyzed when improved testing methods become available.

The latest retesting program targeted athletes who were in contention to compete at the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, but has also been widened to cover many medalists.

IOC President Thomas Bach said Wednesday that further disqualifications will be announced once disciplinary procedures are completed, including hearings and testing of “B” samples.

“The majority of the cases have been dealt with on the IOC level and have been forwarded to the international federations,” Bach said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press and two other international news agencies. “The disciplinary commissions are working hard. We will know pretty soon.”

“If there are no surprises to the test results and the legal procedures, you can be sure wherever an infringement is proven there will be a sanction,” he said.

The International Weightlifting Federation reported last month that its sport had produced 20 positive cases. Four Olympic gold medalists from Kazakhstan and medalists from Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Belarus have already been provisionally suspended by the IWF.

Entire teams from Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Azerbaijan could be barred from the Rio Olympics because three or more positive cases from each country were discovered during the retests. Each national federation faces a possible one-year ban.

MORE: Thomas Bach cites ‘right to individual justice’ in Russian doping

WATCH LIVE: Simone Biles returns to U.S. Gymnastics Championships

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Simone Biles‘ comeback continues at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Friday night.

Biles enters her second meet since the Rio Olympics, where she earned four gold medals.

She is a clear favorite to win her fifth U.S. all-around title, which would break the record she currently shares.

LIVE STREAM: U.S. Gym Championships — 8 p.m. ET (for Olympic Channel subscribers)

Biles showed her comeback was for real at her first meet back three weeks ago, winning the U.S. Classic despite an uneven bars fall. Her all-around score was the highest in the world since Rio.

Friday marks the fifth anniversary of Biles’ first national title, when she was a braces-wearing, first-year senior gymnast oozing with talent but also unproven. She became so dominant that the prevailing notion was that everyone else was competing in a non-Simone division.

A new generation of women go up against Biles in the two-day meet that concludes Sunday.

That includes Ragan Smith and Morgan Hurd, who won the U.S. and world all-around titles in Biles’ absence last year, and Riley McCusker, who led the U.S. Classic going into the final rotation.

Gymnasts are competing to impress a world championships team selection committee. The five-woman world team will be named after an October selection camp.

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Ragan Smith defends U.S. gymnastics title, competing through pain

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BOSTON — When Ragan Smith won the U.S. all-around title last August, her margin of victory was greater than Simone Biles‘ average the previous four years.

At the world championships in October, Smith fell off the balance beam in qualifying and still posted the second-highest all-around score, just .001 off the lead. If Smith hit all four routines in the final, she would be crowned the world’s greatest gymnast of 2017 (during Biles’ break from the sport).

But as the all-around final began at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, Smith crutched out of the training gym. She suffered three torn left ankle ligaments on a warm-up vault, according to the Dallas Morning News, that needed four to five months to heal.

Smith is expected to compete in the all-around at the U.S. Championships on Friday and Sunday (broadcast schedule here), looking to impress a world championships team selection committee. The five-woman world team will be named after an October selection camp.

The ankle still hurts sometimes. So do her three or four broken toes. Smith doesn’t know the exact number because she doesn’t like to get medical check-ups before meets. She would think too much about the diagnosis.

In fact, Smith said she felt pain in practice every day for the last year.

“Everything starts hurting worse because we’re getting older,” said Smith, who turned 18 last week. Smith added that a coach joked to her recently, “You already have a 100-year-old body.” 

“Everybody I feel like has injuries here and there,” she said. “Everybody’s like banged up right now. We [gymnasts] are so strong mentally and physically that I feel like we push through it.”

Back home in the Dallas area, Smith marks her goals on a dry-erase board. The chief one for her two summer meets is this: Be the best Ragan I can be.

“That’s all I’m really striving for this competition,” she said Wednesday.

Smith did not do the all-around at the U.S. Classic three weeks ago, skipping floor exercise because she wants to debut it as a surprise this week. She called Classic “a practice run,” where her best result was third on beam.

Only two gymnasts per nation can compete in a world all-around final. If Biles is one of them, then Smith has to beat out Morgan Hurd (who won the 2017 World all-around title after Smith’s injury) and Riley McCusker (second to Biles at the U.S. Classic).

Smith, the youngest Rio Olympic alternate, is determined to compete on the elite level through 2020. She can take motivation from her bedroom wall and that dry-erase board, both of which had the same quote posted — “She believed she could so she did.”

“These coming up years, it’s definitely who’s in the game the longest. It’s definitely who’s not injured,” she said. “That’s pretty much who they pick, I feel like. You’re training your whole life for one year of gymnastics because that’s when you have to be at your highest peak. I definitely feel like it’s who’s in the game the longest and who can survive and who can help their body the best.”

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