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WADA highlights serious failings in Rio Olympics drug testing numbers

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MONTREAL (AP) — The World Anti-Doping Agency has detailed serious failings of doping control management at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, saying the system was only saved from collapsing by the “enormous resourcefulness and goodwill” of some key staff.

In a 55-page report from its Independent Observer team led by British lawyer Jonathan Taylor, WADA said the logistical issues which put a strain on the testing process were “foreseeable and entirely avoidable” during the games in August.

The report blamed a lack of coordination, budget cutbacks, tension between the local organizing committee and Brazil’s anti-doping agency, and inadequate training for the problems that included days at the Athletes’ Village when only half of the planned out-of-competition samples could be collected.

“The aggregate effect was to strain the basic sample collection process at competition venues and in the Athletes’ Village close to breaking point, with many discrepancies observed in the sample collection procedure,” the report said. “Ultimately, it was only due to the enormous resourcefulness and goodwill of some key doping control personnel working at the Games that the process did not break down entirely.

“Due to their initiative, tenacity and professionalism in the face of great difficulties, the many problems identified above were patched over and sample collection was conducted in a manner that ensured the identity and integrity of the samples.”

Doping was heavily in the spotlight in the months leading up to the Rio Games, with allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russia leading to sanctions against some Russian athletes and the retesting of 840 samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics barring dozens of other athletes from competing in Brazil.

WADA said the role of its Independent Observer Team is to help instill confidence in athletes and the public as to the quality, effectiveness and reliability of the anti-doping program for the Olympics, and to make recommendations for improvements.

Many of the recommendations related to training and treatment of volunteers, proper attention to rosters and protocol, more lead-time for doping control officers in the venues and better logistics and equipment to locate athletes for out-of-competition testing.

“Ultimately, many athletes targeted for testing in the Athletes’ Village simply could not be found and the mission had to be aborted,” the report said. “On some days, up to 50 per cent of planned target tests were aborted in this way.”

Poor planning, transport issues and a lack of catering for chaperones resulted in a higher-than-expected rates of absences, adding to the burden on doping control officers and other delegates.

A total of 3,237 athletes from 137 countries were tested during the games, representing 28.6 percent of the 11,303 athletes who participated. Of those, 2,611 — or 23.1 percent — were tested once, 527 were tested twice, 81 were tested three times and one was tested six times.

Some problems outlined by WADA’s observers:

— There were almost 500 fewer tests conducted than organizers had planned during the games. The samples taken included 4,037 urine tests, 411 blood tests and 434 blood plus ABP or ABP blood tests for a total of 4,882, significantly short of the 5,380 targeted.

— Data entry errors led to nearly 100 samples analyzed by the anti-doping laboratory not being matched to an athlete. WADA said about 40 percent of those were because of the recording of an incorrect bottle code in the computer system, but noted that Rio 2016 assisted the IOC in correcting the errors so the samples could be matched to athletes and their testing histories could be updated.

— The expected daily maximum of 350 urine samples was never reached during the games. The highest daily total was 307 on Aug. 11, but on the majority of days, fewer than 200 urine samples were received.

— There was no out-of-competition testing conducted in soccer, and “little or no in-competition blood testing” in some high risk-sports, including weightlifting.

— Blood testing sections were underutilized, with some shifts at the laboratory having no blood samples to analyze at the beginning of the games.

“As a result … full analytical capacity was not exploited, which is disappointing, given that the latest equipment and best experts in the world were available,” the report said.

On a positive note, WADA commended the International Olympic Committee for embracing new advances in the fight against doping, including the creation of the Pre-Games Intelligence Taskforce, which reported on July 24 that 4,125 of the 11,470 athletes on the entrants list for the Games had no record of any testing in 2016, including 1,913 from sports identified as higher risk.

WADA also said the Brazilian anti-doping laboratory was “superbly equipped” and “operated very securely and generally very efficiently, and now represents an outstanding legacy from the Games for the anti-doping movement in South America.”

MORE: Six of top seven from Olympic event positive in doping retests

WATCH LIVE: Nathan Chen in U.S. Figure Skating Championships free skate

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Nathan Chen tries to become the first man to win four straight U.S. figure skating titles since 1988, live on NBC Sports on Sunday.

NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage of the men’s free skate for subscribers starting at 2:30 p.m. ET in Greensboro, N.C. NBC joins with TV coverage at 3.

LIVE STREAM: Men’s Free Skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Chen, a 20-year-old Yale sophomore, is undefeated since placing fifth at the PyeongChang Olympics. He can become the seventh man since World War II to win four straight national titles.

Five of the previous six went on to earn Olympic gold, including Dick ButtonScott Hamilton and, most recently, Brian Boitano in 1988.

Chen carries a substantial 13.14-point lead from Saturday’s short program, where he landed two quadruple jumps on one week of full training following a flu bout.

The anticipated drama Sunday comes in the battle for silver and bronze medals and the last two world championships team spots.

Jason BrownAndrew TorgashevVincent Zhou and Tomoki Hiwatashi are separated by 8.78 points. Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, and Zhou, the 2019 World bronze medalist, are the only men in the field other than Chen with world team experience.

Key Skate Times
5:01 p.m. (ET) — Vincent Zhou
5:18 — Tomoki Hiwatashi
5:26 — Andrew Torgashev
5:35 — Nathan Chen
5:43 — Jason Brown

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

Mikaela Shiffrin, with 66th World Cup win, moves one shy of career dream

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Mikaela Shiffrin has said one of her career dreams is to win in every discipline in one season. She is now one victory shy of realizing it.

Shiffrin earned her 66th World Cup victory — and her second in three days — at a super-G in Bansko, Bulgaria, on Sunday.

She prevailed by .29 of a second over Italian Marta Bassino and .70 over Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami. Gut-Behrami, the last skier other than Shiffrin to win a World Cup overall title back in 2016, earned her first podium in exactly one year.

Full results are here.

“Perfect weekend for me,” said Shiffrin, who moved one shy of recently retired Austrian Marcel Hirscher for third place on the World Cup career wins list. “The whole team is excited about the whole weekend, but especially today.”

She is en route to a fourth straight World Cup overall title. And she is a combined victory away from wins in all five disciplines in one season. Only Marc GirardelliPetra KronbergerJanica Kostelic and Tina Maze have done it.

“The thing that I’m most proud of right now is that I know how to win in slalom, [giant slalom], super-G and downhill, which I never expected that would really happen,” she said.

Shiffrin struggled with confidence during a winless stretch in early January, trying not to compare herself to last season, when she won a record 17 times. She still leads the men’s and women’s tours with six victories this season, a little more than halfway through.

“Every race is such a big fight, and I haven’t been the one on top of this fight every time,” she said. “Certainly I’ve been like sometimes the expectations that I have or that other people might have, I’m not quite living up to that. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like I’m failing sometimes, even though this is still just an incredible season.”

There are two combined races left this season for Shiffrin to achieve the dream — Feb. 23 in Switzerland and March 1 in Italy. While combined — mixing a speed run and a technical run — might seem perfect for Shiffrin, she has one victory in four starts in the discipline between the World Cup and Olympics.

And Shiffrin is careful about her race schedule. She is undecided on entering a downhill and super-G next weekend at the 2014 Olympic venue in Russia.

“After this weekend my brain is a little bit dead,” she joked.

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