Russian sports ‘among the cleanest in the world,’ deputy prime minister says

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s deputy prime minister, responding to calls for the nation’s sports teams to be excluded from all international competitions because of doping, said Wednesday that the country is “among the cleanest in the world.”

Following a summit this week, leaders from 19 national anti-doping organizations also called for Russia to be stripped of the right to host major sports events, a measure which would affect next year’s World Cup.

Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko, who oversees sports policy in the country, accused the group of meddling in politics.

“The people who should be analyzing urine have started pressuring the people who take political decisions,” Mutko said in comments to Russian news agency R-Sport. “Russian sports are among the cleanest in the world.”

The British anti-doping agency is in charge of collecting samples in Russia, and the number of positive tests in the country dropped last year. The Russian anti-doping agency remains suspended following allegations of corruption.

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov accused the foreign anti-doping agencies of trying to usurp the powers of international sports bodies.

“Federations and Olympic committees, as you know, develop sports,” Kolobkov told state news agency TASS. “So I’d ask people to do their own jobs and not to put themselves in the position of various sports organizations.”

The call for extra sports sanctions on Russia follows last month’s publication of a report by anti-doping investigator Richard McLaren. The report accused Russia of operating a wide-ranging doping cover-up which included illicit sample swaps at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The Russian government strongly denies ever having supported performance-enhancing drug use.

The national anti-doping agencies for the United States, Germany and Japan were among those who recommended the extra sanctions on Russia, though the British agency was not listed as a signatory.

While arguing for Russian teams to be banned, the agencies said individual Russian athletes could compete as “neutrals” if they can show they are clean. A similar system is already used in track and field, where Russia has been suspended since November 2015.

National anti-doping agencies do not have the power to exclude Russian teams or move competitions from Russia, though some, such as the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, are influential voices in global sports administration.

MORE: Russian gymnastics star retires at age 19

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone appears in ‘This is SportsCenter’ commercial

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Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone appears in an ESPN “This is SportsCenter” commercial that was published Friday and debuts on the network on Saturday night, after she races for the first time this year at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix on NBC.

In the commercial, ESPN (and former NBC Sports) anchor Hannah Storm asks McLaughlin-Levrone if she has a minute to catch up.

McLaughlin-Levrone replies by saying she has 51.46 seconds right after lunch, 51.41 seconds later in the afternoon or 50.68 seconds right now. The numbers represent the last three times that McLaughlin-Levrone clocked when breaking the 400m hurdles world record.

McLaughlin-Levrone is scheduled to race the 60m at the New Balance meet in Boston, which airs on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock from 4-6 p.m. ET on Saturday.

The commercial first airs during the North Carolina-Duke men’s basketball game that starts at 6:30 on ESPN.

In the last two years, McLaughlin-Levrone lowered the 400m hurdles world record four times, winning the Tokyo Olympics and last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon. She brought the record down from countrywoman Dalilah Muhammad‘s 52.16 from 2019 to 50.68 at July’s worlds.

The 23-year-old said after last season that she wants to expand by adding the flat 400m to the 400m hurdles, but she has not yet publicly committed to racing it at the next major outdoor meet, the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in Eugene in July.

For the first time, McLaughlin-Levrone has a bye into the 400m hurdles at the world championships in August, meaning she does not have to race it at USATF Outdoors. That could make the flat 400m more appealing.

Past “This is SportsCenter” spots included Olympians Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt and Kerri Strug,

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Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
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