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Norway Olympic champion tearfully pleads innocence after positive drug test

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OSLO, Norway (AP) — Speaking through her tears, cross-country skier Therese Johaug denied knowingly taking a banned performance-enhancing drug.

Johaug, a three-time Olympic cross-country medalist from Norway, has tested positive for the steroid clostebol. The Norwegian ski federation said Thursday the drug came from sun lotion given to her by team doctor Fredrik Bendiksen.

“I am not guilty. I asked the doctor and he said it was not on the doping list,” Johaug said at a news conference, wiping tears away with her hands (video here). “And he said no.”

Bendiksen, who was also at the news conference, stepped down from his job after taking the blame for the positive test.

“It is my personal mistake as a medical doctor,” said Bendiksen, who said he only read the ingredients that were printed on the box. “It is my responsibility.”

Bendiksen said he had given Johaug the cream Trofodermin to treat sun burns on her lips after altitude training with the Norwegian cross-country team in Italy in late August.

“She has told the whole truth,” Bendiksen said. “I take responsibility for Therese using the balm that has the illegal drug clostebol. … In my opinion, she is innocent.”

Johaug had a urine test on Sept. 16, and the Norwegian anti-doping agency informed her of the finding on Oct. 4.

Torbjorn Skogstad, the head of Norway’s cross-country committee, said a meeting has been called to discuss “any immediate measures.”

Norwegian ski federation secretary general Stein Opsal said it was “too early to say” if she would be suspended, saying they were awaiting word from Anti-Doping Norway.

Johaug, a seven-time world champion, won gold in the 4×5-kilometer relay at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. She took silver and bronze medals at the 2014 Games in Sochi.

MORE: Ole Einar Bjoerndalen eyes 7th Olympics

U.S. Olympic, USA Gymnastics leaders set for another Senate hearing

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Recently replaced U.S. Olympic Committee acting CEO Susanne Lyons, USA Gymnastics President and CEO Kerry Perry and Michigan State interim president John Engler are scheduled witnesses for a Senate subcommittee hearing next Tuesday on reforms following the Larry Nassar sexual-abuse crimes.

The hearing is titled, “Strengthening and Empowering U.S. Amateur Athletes: Moving Forward with Solutions” and will stream live at https://www.commerce.senate.gov/ on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. ET.

“The hearing will focus on changes made by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), USA Gymnastics (USAG), and Michigan State University (MSU) to protect Olympic and amateur athletes from abuse,” according to the subcommittee’s website. “It will examine recent reforms to provide safe environments for athletes and how these reforms are being implemented.”

The subcommittee held hearings April 18 and June 5 with testimonies from gymnasts and other athletes who were abused, former Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon and former senior vice president of USA Gymnastics Rhonda Faehn. Former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny also attended the June 5 hearing but refused to answer questions.

Lyons and Perry were questioned at a House subcommittee hearing May 23.

The USOC last Thursday named Sarah Hirshland its new CEO, replacing Lyons, who had been in the role on an interim basis since Scott Blackmun resigned in February. Blackmun, who had been CEO since January 2010, left citing prostate cancer and the USOC’s need to immediately address the USA Gymnastics sexual-abuse scandal.

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MORE: USOC names first permanent female CEO

Annemiek van Vleuten wins La Course with epic comeback (video)

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Annemiek van Vleuten, the cyclist who returned from a horrific Rio Olympic road race crash to become world champion, repeated as La Course winner with an epic last-kilometer comeback on Tuesday.

Van Vleuten sprinted from several seconds behind countrywoman Anna van der Breggen to win the one-day race, including four categorized climbs, contested on part of the Tour de France stage 10 course later that day.

“With 300 meters to go, I still thought I got second, and then I saw her dying,” Van Vleuten said, adding later, according to Cyclingnews.com, “With 500 meters to go my team director in the car gave up and stopped cheering for me.”

In Rio, van Vleuten suffered three small spine fractures and a concussion when her brakes appeared to lock, and she flipped over into a ditch during the road race. Van Vleuten was alone in the lead at the time with about seven miles to go of the 87-mile course.

She was eventually hospitalized in intensive care.

Van der Breggen went on to win the Olympic title, while van Vleuten returned quick enough to race at the October 2016 World Championships.

Van Vleuten, 35, won her first world title 13 months after the Rio Games, taking the time trial crown ahead of van der Breggen by 12 seconds. She also won the 10-stage Giro Rosa that concluded on Sunday.

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