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World’s best cross-country skier suspended, investigation set

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OSLO, Norway (AP) — Defending cross-country World Cup overall champion Therese Johaug was handed a two-month provisional suspension Wednesday pending a full investigation into her positive doping test.

Johaug, one of Norway’s most decorated female cross-country skiers, tested positive for the steroid clostebol. The Norwegian ski federation said the drug came from a lotion given to her by team doctor Fredrik Bendiksen to treat sunburn on her lips during high-altitude training in Italy in August.

In a tear-filled news conference last week, Johaug insisted she was without guilt and said Bendiksen had assured her the lotion did not contain any banned substance.

Anti-Doping Norway imposed a provisional suspension until Dec. 18, meaning Johaug will miss the start of the World Cup season.

In a statement issued by the Norwegian ski federation, Johaug said she wouldn’t appeal the decision.

“Now I will focus on what’s most important: working for a full acquittal,” she said.

Niels Kiaer, an attorney for the agency, told The Associated Press that investigators will evaluate the case more closely in coming weeks to determine the appropriate penalty. He said under international doping rules that could range between a two-month suspension to a four-year ban.

“The fact that she has now been suspended provisionally means she has some degree of fault,” Kiaer said. “Which degree of fault is what we will now investigate.”

The 28-year-old Johaug has three Olympic medals and 11 World Championship medals, including seven golds. She won gold in the 4×5 kilometer relay at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, with a bronze and silver at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She’s won the overall World Cup title twice.

Anti-doping Norway also launched an investigation into Bendiksen, who resigned as team doctor after taking the blame for Johaug’s positive test.

“It now seems fairly clear that it was caused by a medicine delivered by the doctor,” Kiaer said. “We need to evaluate if he also is in breach of the rules.”

Johaug’s case has rattled Norway and comes just months after its top male cross-country skier, Martin Johnsrud Sundby, got a two-month suspension for a doping infringement related to an asthma medication.

Norwegian cross-country skiers have dominated both the men’s and women’s competitions in recent years.

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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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