Russia expects final Olympic decision by Sunday

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s top Olympic official expects a final decision by Sunday on whether the entire Russian team will be banned from next month’s games in Rio de Janeiro over allegations of state-sponsored doping.

The International Olympic Committee is examining the legal options of a blanket ban following a report by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren that accused Russia’s sports ministry of overseeing doping of the country’s Olympic athletes.

“The issue will be finally resolved by the end of this week, probably on Sunday,” Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov said Wednesday at a meeting of the ROC.

Zhukov said his committee did not discuss the McLaren report at its meeting, although he also did not rule out legal action if Russia is hit with a total ban from the games.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport will issue its verdict Thursday on Russia’s appeal to overturn the IAAF ban on its track and field athletes for the games. The IOC will take that ruling into account before making its own decision.

Zhukov said he was hopeful of winning the appeal, adding that Russia’s plans for the Olympics assumed the track and field team would be allowed to compete. Russia plans to send a total of 387 athletes, including 68 in track and field, he said.

“Of course we hope for a CAS ruling in our favor,” Zhukov told state TV. “It would be, I’d say, a serious precedent for the other federations’ decisions.”

Regardless of how the various doping-related cases turn out, Zhukov said a Russian Olympic boycott was out of the question.

“These boycotts just lead to a breakup of the Olympic movement,” he said. “I think that Russia will never take part in any boycott.”

The Soviet Union boycotted the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, retaliating for the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow that followed the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Earlier Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s spokesman said a meeting between Putin and Russia’s Olympic athletes, previously scheduled for Thursday, would no longer take place.

The IOC executive board held a meeting by teleconference on Tuesday to consider its steps in the wake of the McLaren report, which found that 28 summer and winter Olympic sports were affected by state-operated cheating in Russia.

WADA and other anti-doping officials urged the IOC to consider the unprecedented step of excluding the entire Russian team from the Rio Games.

The IOC said it “will explore the legal options with regard to a collective ban of all Russian athletes for the Olympic Games 2016 versus the right to individual justice.”

The IOC also started disciplinary action against Russian sports ministry officials and others implicated in McLaren’s report, and said they would be denied accreditation for the Rio Games. The list includes Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko.

The IOC is expected to hold another executive board meeting in the next few days, possibly on Sunday, to consider whether to ban the Russian team. The IOC can also let individual international federations decide to ban Russians in their own sports.

The international rowing federation said Wednesday it was investigating whether Russian rowers’ places at the Rio Olympics could be reallocated to athletes from other countries “if there would be a blanket ban on the Russian team or any other ban.”

Russia has five rowing crews entered for the Olympics after a sixth crew was disqualified earlier this month for a doping violation in qualifying.

World Rowing also said it “is undertaking a complete review of testing of Russian rowers since 2011” and has asked WADA for any evidence related to doping by Russian rowers. The McLaren report alleged 11 failed drug tests in rowing had been covered up by Russian officials.

MORE: IOC to ‘explore legal options’ to potential Russia ban

Peter Sagan to retire from road cycling, eyes mountain bike at 2024 Paris Olympics

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Peter Sagan said 2023 will be his final year as a professional road cyclist and that he will target the 2024 Olympics in mountain bike.

The Slovakian made the announcement on his 33rd birthday in a social media video. He said he made the decision “quite some time ago.”

“I always said I would like to finish my career on the mountain bike, because I started my career on the mountain bike,” Sagan said in a press conference, according to Cyclingnews.com. “It gives me some pleasure at the end of my career because I’m doing something I really enjoy.

“It’s important for me to spend time with my son Marlon and to see life from different angles, and not just as a cyclist. It was never my dream to race or to be a professional rider until 40 or 50. I think it’s time now. And if I am going to be able to finish my career in Paris at the Olympics Games, that’s going to be something nice for me.”

Sagan is a record seven-time Tour de France green jersey champion as best sprinter. He has 12 individual stage wins (the last in 2019), second-most among active riders behind Mark Cavendish‘s record-tying 34.

At the Olympics, Sagan was 34th in the road race in 2012 and 35th in the mountain bike in 2016. He missed the Tokyo Games after surgery to treat an infection in his right knee stemming from a 2021 Tour de France crash.

Sagan won the world junior title in mountain biking at age 18 in 2008 before his road racing career, which included three consecutive world road race titles from 2015-17.

Of qualifying for Paris in the mountain bike, he said, “We’ll see whether it is even possible, but I think it can be another nice adventure.”

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships TV, live stream schedule

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The U.S. Figure Skating Championships, in some ways marking a new era in the sport, air live from San Jose, California, on NBC Sports, USA Network and Peacock.

After last February’s Olympics, U.S. figure skating saw its greatest turnover from one season to the next in more than 20 years.

Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, the top two men last season, are not competing this season and may be done altogether. Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell, the top two women, retired. As did the top ice dance couple of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue. Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, last year’s national pairs’ champions, also left the sport.

So, for the first time since 1993, the U.S. Championships feature a reigning national champion in just one of the four disciplines.

Amid all that, U.S. skaters performed well in the fall Grand Prix Series and made the podium in all four disciplines at December’s Grand Prix Final for the first time. Note the absence of Russian skaters, banned from international events due to the war in Ukraine.

At nationals, skaters are vying for spots on the team — three per discipline — for March’s world championships in Japan.

Ilia Malinin, an 18-year-old from Virginia, is the headliner after becoming the first skater to land a quadruple Axel, doing so at all four of his events this season. He ranks second in the world by best total score, a whopping 38.28 points ahead of the next American (Camden Pulkinen).

Jason Brown is the lone Olympian in the men’s field, competing for the first time since placing sixth at the Games.

Isabeau Levito, 15 and a reigning world junior champion like Malinin, took silver at the Grand Prix Final against the world’s other top skaters. She enters nationals with a best score this season 18.13 points better than the next American, Amber Glenn. Bradie Tennell, a 2018 Olympian coming back from foot and ankle injuries, is also a threat to gain one of the three women’s spots at worlds.

Ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates are the lone defending national champions and will likely make the podium for an 11th consecutive year, which would be one shy of the record.

Bates, who last year at 32 became the oldest U.S. champion in any discipline in decades, has made 12 career senior nationals podiums with Chock and former partner Emily Samuelson. It is believed that a 13th finish in the top three would break the U.S. record for a single discipline he currently shares with Michelle Kwan, Nathaniel Niles and Theresa Weld Blanchard.

In pairs, Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier return after missing nationals last year due to Frazier contracting COVID-19 the week of the event. Since, they posted the best U.S. pairs’ finish at an Olympics in 20 years, the first world title for a U.S. pair in 43 years and the first Grand Prix Final medal ever for a U.S. pair.

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2023 U.S. Figure Skating Championships Live Broadcast Schedule

Day Event Time (ET) Platform
Thursday Pairs’ Short Program 3:30-5:45 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Rhythm Dance 6:30-9 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Rhythm Dance 7-9 p.m. USA Network | STREAM LINK
Women’s Short Program 9:10 p.m.-12 a.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Women’s Short Program 10 p.m.-12 a.m. USA Network | STREAM LINK
Friday Men’s Short Program 4:10-7 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Men’s Short Program 5-7 p.m. USA Network
Women’s Free Skate 7:45-11 p.m. Peacock
Women’s Free Skate 8-11 p.m. NBC
Saturday Free Dance 1:45-4:30 p.m. Peacock
Free Dance 2:30-4:30 p.m. NBC
Pairs’ Free Skate 7:30-10 p.m. Peacock | Skate Order
Pairs’ Free Skate 8-10 p.m. USA Network
Sunday Men’s Free Skate 2:30-6 p.m. Peacock
Men’s Free Skate 3-6 p.m. NBC

*All NBC and USA Network broadcasts also stream on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app for subscribers.