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Russian athletes refuse to return stripped Olympic medals

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MOSCOW (AP) — None of the Russian athletes recently stripped of their Olympic titles for doping have returned their medals, the country’s Olympic committee said Thursday.

Russia has had 18 medalists disqualified in doping cases from Olympic retesting from the 2008 and 2012 Games. Ten more Russians are also obliged to return medals they won as part of relay teams containing dopers.

Russian Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov said his organization, which would typically handle medal transfers, hasn’t received any, saying it was “not an easy process.”

“So far, we don’t have any reports of (medals being returned),” Zhukov said.

Some Russian athletes have said they want to keep their medals while they prepare an appeal, but others have refused to give them up.

Usain Bolt, meanwhile, said he gave up his 4x100m relay gold from the 2008 Beijing Olympics as soon as teammate Nesta Carter was disqualified last week.

One Russian runner has claimed the government told him he could keep his medal. Maxim Dyldin, a member of the bronze-medal winning Russian team disqualified in the 4×400 relay at the 2008 Games, said in an interview with a local newspaper last month that “our ministry didn’t agree with the decision and told us to keep the medals.”

“I’ve got the medal at home,” Dyldin added. “Let them try to take it.”

Dyldin and the Russian Sports Ministry refused to comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

Russia’s slow response could strain relations with the International Olympic Committee at a time when the country is already under pressure over widespread doping and accusations that drug-test samples were routinely swapped to cover up doping, including at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The current retesting program has largely focused on steroids, the area where testing techniques have seen the biggest leaps since 2008. That has allowed the IOC to catch dozens of cheats in strength and speed-based events like track, weightlifting and wrestling.

Former Soviet countries have been hardest hit.

Kazakhstan, which has had eight medalists disqualified, said it will hand back two gold medals to the IOC on Thursday. They were won by weightlifter Ilya Ilyin, perhaps the country’s biggest sports star, who tested positive for steroids in retests of his 2008 and 2012 samples.

That follows earlier defiance by some Kazakh athletes, but the Central Asian country’s Olympic committee said it has convinced them otherwise.

“The whole situation for all the athletes who (are) obliged to return medals is not an easy one,” spokeswoman Zhuldyz Baimagambet told the AP in an email. “Some of them overreacted at the beginning, but they are ready to do it now and (the) process is ongoing.”

Ukraine and Belarus, two other countries required to return numerous medals, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

If athletes don’t return the medals voluntarily, it’s unclear what steps the IOC could take to force them. Any legal proceedings could be time-consuming, taking in multiple jurisdictions as well as the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Further complicating the issue, many of the athletes are retired and wouldn’t be affected by sports sanctions. In the years which have passed since the 2008 Olympics, medals also may have been lost or sold.

National Olympic committees are responsible for ensuring medals are given back, but there’s little precedent for punishing them if they don’t comply.

The IOC keeps some extra medals in reserve from past Olympics for such cases, but it’s not clear whether it has enough to cover the shortfall if dopers don’t return theirs.

The IOC didn’t respond to a request about how many spare medals it keeps, or what sanctions it could implement on those who keep medals despite a disqualification.

MORE: Russia could bid for 2028 Summer Olympics, mulls 3 cities

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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