Vladimir Putin criticizes therapeutic use exemptions

Vladimir Putin
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MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that therapeutic use exemptions for banned substances give an unfair advantage, and suggested athletes who use them should be excluded from major competitions.

TUEs allow athletes with medical conditions to take medications that would usually be banned. Their use has been under scrutiny since a hacking group known as Fancy Bears released confidential World Anti-Doping Agency documents listing medical information for many athletes.

“We need to understand what to do about (TUEs), otherwise we could soon face all records and victories going only to people who are ill with, let’s say, chronic illnesses,” Putin said, speaking at a sports forum in Russia.

Putin suggested putting restrictions on athletes with TUEs.

“Maybe they can be put in a special category, or their achievements, points, seconds and honors can be considered in a special way,” he said.

Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called Putin’s stance “laughable, as the entire world has agreed to allow athletes to use medication for documented health needs like birth control, acne, life-saving surgery or established asthma.” When approved as required, Tygart said, none of the medicines gives a performance-enhancing advantage.

“It either shows a clear misunderstanding of the rules or it’s another attempt to smear innocent athletes in response to the uncovering of Russia’s state-sponsored doping system that gave athletes a tremendous performance advantage and corrupted the Sochi Olympic Games,” Tygart said.

Two independent investigations detailed state-sponsored doping inside the Russian sports program, one of which found evidence that dirty Russian urine samples at the Sochi Games had been exchanged with clean ones.

At a later meeting Tuesday with sports officials, Putin said all TUEs should be made public, a move that could face significant resistance from athletes, as well as possible legal obstacles related to the confidentiality of medical records.

“A person should decide, does he want people to know and does he want to do sport?” Putin said.

If athletes don’t want their medical status made public, “then they shouldn’t be competing in high-level sport.”

Putin did not address WADA’s allegation that the documents were released by hackers linked to Russia. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said last month that he would ask “the Russian authorities” for help to put a stop to the hacking.

The Fancy Bears group began posting medical records of Olympians online last month, with U.S. and British athletes making up a large proportion of those targeted. Only selected records have been released. It is not clear how many have been held back and for which reasons.

Many of the athletes named in the files have said their medicines are necessary for their health, while others have pointed to TUEs issued as a result of a medical emergency such as a sudden collapse or anaphylactic shock. A substantial minority of the TUEs that were leaked date back several years and concern substances that were closely regulated at the time but are no longer considered potentially performance-enhancing if not abused.

Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins‘ use of a TUE for three injections of an anti-inflammatory drug has prompted scrutiny in Britain, though he denies gaining an advantage.

Only one Russian, boxer Misha Aloyan, is among the dozens of athletes whose information has been leaked. However, many more Russian athletes are believed to have used TUEs.

Putin said last month that “we don’t support what the hackers have been doing, but what they have done can’t fail to attract public attention internationally.”

The leaks began a month after the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, from which many Russian athletes were banned following the investigations into state-sponsored doping. The entire weightlifting team was excluded, while only one track and field athlete was allowed to compete.

MORE: WADA updates list of prohibited substances

Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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