IOC: 28 Russians from Sochi Olympics face doping cases

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GENEVA (AP) — On yet another doping-tainted day for Russian sport, 28 athletes now face IOC cases linked to cheating at the Sochi Winter Olympics and a major cross-country skiing event was removed from the country.

The IOC said Friday it has opened 28 disciplinary proceedings against Russian athletes whose urine samples were likely tampered with at the 2014 Olympics.

Six cases involve cross-country skiers who are now provisionally suspended by the International Ski Federation (FIS), which did not identify them. Six Russian men won five medals, including one gold, in cross-country skiing on home snow at Sochi.

The new wave of Olympic doping cases is set to produce a flow of verdicts and disqualifications next year that could fuel calls for some or all of the Russian team to be banned from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The cases are based on evidence provided this month by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren.

McLaren detailed vast state-backed cheating in Russian sport that included swapping athletes’ tainted samples for clean urine through the testing laboratory at Sochi.

The Canadian law professor offered evidence of a method for state intelligence officers to break open supposedly tamper-proof glass sample bottles which had scratches behind the lid. Urine samples retained by the IOC since Sochi included some with unnatural levels of salt in healthy humans.

In further fallout from McLaren’s report, the world ski body said Russian officials have handed back hosting rights for the end-of-season World Cup finals in cross-country skiing.

The event was scheduled in March in Tyumen, which on Thursday also lost the right to host a biathlon World Cup event in March.

“The findings in the McLaren Report have seriously damaged the integrity of sport and we are determined to ensure the necessary measures are undertaken to punish the offences,” said FIS President Gian-Franco Kasper, who is also a member of the IOC’s executive board.

The IOC said the 28 new cases being examined by its disciplinary commission are not positive doping tests. However “the manipulation of the samples themselves could lead to an Anti-Doping Rule Violation and sanctions.

Samples from Russian athletes at Sochi are now being re-tested at the WADA-accredited lab in Lausanne, Switzerland, the IOC said.

The IOC cites legal reasons for not identifying the athletes.

FIS said it was the responsibility of the Russian ski federation and the athletes themselves if they wished to be identified.

On Thursday, the International Biathlon Union said it provisionally suspended two Russians whose cases from Sochi were opened by the IOC.

The re-testing of Russian athletes’ samples for traces of steroids and other banned substances now involves all four Olympic Games from 2008 through 2014.

The IOC said Friday that it already disqualified 27 Russian athletes, stripping an array of titles and medals, in re-tests of samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics. All Russian samples from the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics are now being re-analyzed.

At Vancouver, an underachieving Russia team placed 11th in the medals table. That performance is often cited as the motive for Russia to orchestrate a doping program to ensure better results in the home Sochi Olympics, which cost $51 billion to build and run.

Russia did top the Sochi medals table, but looks certain to lose that place to Norway when the IOC processes the disciplinary cases announced Friday.

MORE: IOC president wants life bans for Russian cheats

Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

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Elena Fanchini, an Italian Alpine skier whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini, the 2005 World downhill silver medalist at age 19, passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in the combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her World Cup win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won her world downhill silver medal in Italy in 2005, exactly one month after her World Cup debut, an astonishing breakout.

Ten months later, she won a World Cup downhill in Canada with “Ciao Mamma” scribbled on face tape to guard against 1-degree temperatures. She was 20. Nobody younger than 21 has won a World Cup downhill since. Her second and final World Cup win, also a downhill, came more than nine years later.

In between her two World Cup wins, Fanchini raced at three Olympics with a best finish of 12th in the downhill in 2014. She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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