Anti-doping leaders prep letter to IOC calling for total Russia ban from Rio, with exceptions

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A letter drafted by U.S. and Canadian anti-doping leaders urging Russia’s removal from the upcoming Olympics is circulating days before the public release of a report expected to detail a state-sponsored doping system that corrupted the country’s entire sports program.

The letter, drafted last week and obtained by The Associated Press, is being prepared to possibly be sent to the International Olympic Committee’s president and executive board after the Monday release of a report by investigator Richard McLaren.

The letter, which U.S. Anti-Doping Agency officials say would only be sent if the report details widespread, state-sponsored doping in Russia, calls for the IOC to act by July 26 to ensure that Russia’s Olympic Committee and sports federations will not be allowed in Rio de Janeiro, where the games are set to start on Aug. 5.

The letter encourages exceptions for Russia-born athletes who can prove they were subject to strong anti-doping systems in other countries.

A statement from Pat Hickey, the president of the European Olympic Committee, said the letter “undermined the integrity and therefore the credibility of this important report.”

“My concern is that there seems to have been an attempt to agree (on) an outcome before any evidence has been presented,” Hickey said.

USADA CEO Travis Tygart said the letter, which has backing from anti-doping agencies in at least six countries and athlete groups from around the world, was drafted with no intent for it to become public unless the McLaren report contains evidence of a major state-sponsored doping program.

“Of course, we want and hope for universal inclusion, but we’re not blind to the evidence already out there,” Tygart said. “And if we’re not preparing for all potential outcomes, then we are not fulfilling our promise to clean athletes.”

The McLaren report was sparked by a New York Times story accusing the Russian government of helping to manipulate tests at the Sochi Games to ensure cheaters wouldn’t get caught.

Preliminary findings from the report, released last month, found “mandatory state-directed manipulation of laboratory analytical results operating within” the Moscow anti-doping lab from at least 2011 through the summer of 2013. Those findings also said Russia’s “Ministry of Sport advised the laboratory which of its adverse findings it could report to WADA, and which it had to cover up.”

Based in part on that information, the letter to the IOC anticipates that the McLaren report will show the Russian government helped organize a “systematic undermining of the drug testing of Russian athletes for many years in a successful effort to cheat to win.”

The AP also obtained a letter written by Beckie Scott, head of the athlete committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency, urging athletes to sign onto the U.S.-Canada letter. Scott informs athletes that, in addition to support from Tygart and Canada’s anti-doping head, Paul Melia, the letter also has backing from anti-doping agencies in Germany, New Zealand, Japan, France, Denmark and Norway.

Last week, IOC President Thomas Bach said it was important to strike the right balance between “collective responsibility and individual justice” in dealing with results from the McLaren report.

“It is obvious that you cannot sanction or punish a badminton player for infringement of rules or manipulation by an official or lab director in the Winter Games,” Bach said.

Already, track’s governing body, the IAAF, has suspended Russia’s track team from the Olympics after a separate investigation turned up evidence of a state-sponsored doping system used to benefit that team. The Court of Arbitration for Sport is expected to rule July 21 on the eligibility of 68 Russian athletes who have appealed to compete in Rio.

McLaren was given permission to look into all Russian sports, and the letter being drafted for the IOC is written in case the report shows many of them have been corrupted.

“We agree and believe a full suspension is the only available and appropriate result having regard to the findings and conclusions set out in the report,” it said.

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

Kenenisa Bekele still eyes Eliud Kipchoge’s marathon world record, but a duel must wait

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LONDON — Kenenisa Bekele made headlines last week by declaring “of course I am the best” long distance runner ever. But the Ethiopian was fifth-best at Sunday’s London Marathon, finishing 74 seconds behind Kenya’s Amos Kipruto.

Bekele, 40, clocked 2:05:53, the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. He was with the lead pack until being dropped in the 21st mile.

But Bekele estimated he could have run 90 to 120 seconds faster had he not missed parts of six weeks of training with hip and joint injuries.

“I expect better even if the preparation is short,” he said. “I know my talent and I know my capacity, but really I couldn’t achieve what I expect.”

Bekele is the second-fastest marathoner in history behind Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge, who broke his own world record by clocking 2:01:09 at the Berlin Marathon last week.

“I am happy when I see Eliud Kipchoge run that time,” Bekele said. “It motivates all athletes who really expect to do the same thing.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Bekele’s best time was within two seconds of Kipchoge’s previous world record (2:01:39). He described breaking Kipchoge’s new mark as the “main goal” for the rest of his career.

“Yes, I hope, one day it will happen, of course,” Bekele said. “With good preparation, I don’t know when, but we will see one more time.”

Nobody has won more London Marathons than Kipchoge, a four-time champion who set the course record (2:02:37) in 2019. But the two-time Olympic marathon champion did not run this year in London, as elite marathoners typically choose to enter one race each spring and fall.

Bekele does not know which race he will enter in the spring. But it will not be against Kipchoge.

“I need to show something first,” Bekele said. “I need to run a fast time. I have to check myself. This is not enough.”

Kipchoge will try to become the first runner to win three Olympic marathon titles at the Paris Games. Bekele, who will be 42 in 2024, has not committed to trying to qualify for the Ethiopian team.

“There’s a long time to go before Paris,” Bekele said. “At this moment I am not decided. I have to show something.”

So who is the greatest long distance runner ever?

Bekele can make a strong case on the track:

Bekele
Four Olympic medals (three gold)
Six World Championship medals (five gold)
Former 5000m and 10,000m world-record holder

Kipchoge
Two Olympic medals
Two World Championship medals (one gold)

But Kipchoge can make a strong case on the pavement:

Bekele
Second-fastest marathoner in history
Two World Marathon Major victories

Kipchoge
Four of the five best marathon times in history
Two-time Olympic marathon champion
12 World Marathon Major victories

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Yalemzerf Yehualaw, Amos Kipruto win London Marathon

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Ethiopian Yalemzerf Yehualaw became the youngest female runner to win the London Marathon, while Kenyan Amos Kipruto earned the biggest victory of his career in the men’s race.

Yehualaw, 23, clocked 2:17:26, prevailing by 41 seconds over 2021 London champ Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya.

Yehualaw tripped and fell over a speed bump around the 20-mile mark. She quickly rejoined the lead pack, then pulled away from Jepkosgei by running the 24th mile in a reported 4:43, which converts to 2:03:30 marathon pace; the women’s world record is 2:14:04.

Yehualaw and Jepkosgei were pre-race favorites after world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya withdrew Monday with a right hamstring injury.

On April 24, Yehualaw ran the fastest women’s debut marathon in history, a 2:17:23 to win in Hamburg, Germany.

She has joined the elite tier of female marathoners, a group led by Kenyan Peres Jepchirchir, the reigning Olympic, New York City and Boston champion. Another Ethiopian staked a claim last week when Tigist Assefa won Berlin in 2:15:37, shattering Yehualaw’s national record.

Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, finished Sunday’s race in 3:20:20 at age 65.

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Kipruto, 30, won the men’s race in 2:04:39. He broke free from the leading group in the 25th mile and crossed the finish line 33 seconds ahead of Ethiopian Leul Gebresilase, who said he had hamstring problems.

Kipruto, one of the pre-race favorites, had never won a major marathon but did finish second behind world record holder Eliud Kipchoge in Tokyo (2022) and Berlin (2018) and third at the world championships (2019) and Tokyo (2018).

Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest marathoner in history, was fifth after being dropped in the 21st mile. His 2:05:53 was the fastest-ever marathon by a runner 40 years or older. Bekele ran his personal best at the 2019 Berlin Marathon — 2:01:41 — and has not run within four minutes of that time since.

The major marathon season continues next Sunday with the Chicago Marathon, headlined by a women’s field that includes Kenyan Ruth Chepngetich and American Emily Sisson.

London returns next year to its traditional April place after being pushed to October the last three years due to the pandemic.

MORE: Bekele looks ahead to Kipchoge chase after London Marathon

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