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

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

Lucas Braathen
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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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