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Top skeleton slider’s federation boycotts Sochi World Championships

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The Latvian skeleton federation is boycotting the world championships in Sochi in February, meaning the world’s best in the sport appears set to skip the biggest competition of the season over Russia’s doping allegations.

Latvian Martins Dukurs has won seven straight World Cup skeleton season titles and four of the last five world championships.

The federation’s Sunday boycott statement was shared by a Facebook account appearing to belong to Dukurs. Dukurs’ father and coach confirmed the boycott, according to Latvian media.

Dukurs was upset for Olympic titles in 2010 and 2014, taking silver behind Canadian Jon Montgomery in Vancouver and Russian Alexander Tretiakov in Sochi.

Tretiakov is one of the athletes named on the Sochi doping list first reported by The New York Times in May and is competing this season. He finished second in the opening World Cup skeleton race in Whistler, B.C., last weekend.

Dukurs’ brother, Tomass Dukurs, finished fourth in the Sochi race won by Tretiakov.

The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation has heard public calls from Olympic medalists from the U.S., Canada, Latvia and Great Britain that holding worlds in Sochi threatens their safety amid the serious doping allegations about Russia.

While some have threatened boycott, the Latvian skeleton federation is the first organization with a high-profile bobsled or skeleton athlete to say it will definitely boycott if the February event is not moved from Sochi.

The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation said that it will “read and digest” the second part of a World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned report that was published Friday with “highest priority and urgency.”

From the Latvian skeleton federation on Sunday:

“Enough time has passed since first public WADA and IOC announcements regarding dirty athletes in our sport.
As members of skeleton sport community we feel that more can still be done to make it right.
Now, according to latest reports, we say- enough is enough.

And while our international federation is still going to: “read and digest the report”, we will do what WE can- we will be glad to race in World Championships at any track of the world, but

WE ARE NOT PARTICIPATING in World Championships in Sochi, Russia- a place where Olympic spirit was stolen in 2014.”

MORE: Over 1,000 Russian athletes involved in organized doping, probe says

Swimming short-course records in peril as FINA recognizes ISL times

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In the debut season of the International Swimming League, six U.S. short-course records have fallen. USA Swimming has recognized the new circuit’s times from the outset.

International body FINA, which at first threatened to ban swimmers who participated in the ISL and then said it would not recognize records from the team-based league, which debuted in October and will hold its first final meet Dec. 20-21 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, is now recognizing those times, and the effects on its statistics have been drastic.

MORE: Ledecky sets U.S. record in ISL debut

This morning, a downloaded list of the top times in the world this year included no ISL times. By the afternoon, times from the ISL’s meet over the weekend in College Park, Md., accounted for most of the times on the lists, including the top 10 in the women’s 50m freestyle and women’s 100m freestyle.

So far, the ISL hasn’t figured into the top five on many all-time FINA lists. But the best short-course times are typically posted near the end of the year, and the ISL has two meets remaining.

The U.S. record book has already changed. In October, Katie Ledecky set the 400m freestyle record (3:54.06) and Melanie Margalis set the 200m medley mark (2:04.18).

In College Park this weekend, Margalis also set the U.S. 400m medley record (4:24.46) and Ian Finnerty set two records the 50m breaststroke (25.99), with runner-up Michael Andrew also beating the previous record, and the 100m breaststroke (56.29). Also, Caeleb Dressel set the 50m butterfly record (22.21).

Only half of the swimmers in the ISL will advance to the final, and qualification isn’t necessarily in their hands. After the College Park meet, the Cali Condors and LA Current clinched spots in Las Vegas. That’s bad news for Andrew (New York Breakers), Finnerty (DC Trident) and Ledecky (DC Trident).

Dressel, Margalis and Lilly King — all representing the Condors — will have another shot at records in Vegas. 

FINA, as usual, is running its World Cup circuit during the fall and early winter, and some swimmers — including overall World Cup champions Vladimir Morozov and Cate Campbell — are pulling double duty between the World Cup and ISL.

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IOC announces deal with Airbnb to add housing for future Olympics

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The International Olympic Committee has moved to help with the scramble to house the influx of athletes, staff and spectators with each Olympics, making a deal with online housing broker Airbnb to add accommodations for the Games through 2028.

“The agreement includes accommodation provisions that will reduce costs for Olympic Games organizers and stakeholders, minimize the need for construction of new accommodation infrastructure for the Olympic Games period, and generate direct revenue for local hosts and communities,” the IOC announced.

Airbnb’s partnership also includes accommodation for disability athletes for the Paralympic Games, and the company will join large global companies such as Coca-Cola, Visa and Panasonic as worldwide Olympic partners.

Athletes also will have a chance to make money by hosting travelers.

“As an Olympian host, you can create and lead an experience inspired by your expertise and interests,” reads an explanation on the Olympic athlete support portal Athlete365.

Outside the Olympics and Olympic athlete experiences, the IOC and Airbnb are pledging to work together on long-term support to refugees.

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