Russia track and field ban set to extend through world champs

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MONACO (AP) — The IAAF is upholding its global ban on Russian athletes and freezing all nationality switches.

Following a council meeting in Monaco on Monday, IAAF president Sebastian Coe said Russian athletics should not expect “full reinstatement” before November. The decision rules out Russia competing at the world championships in August in London.

IAAF task force chairman Rune Andersen added that although there have been “productive meetings” with Russian officials, many conditions were yet to be met for full reinstatement.

In December, World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren published the second part of his damning report into state-sponsored doping, listing hundreds of failed drug tests which were allegedly covered up in Russia, including in disability sports. The Russian government and Russian athletics deny any state support for doping.

Andersen presented Russia’s “roadmap” for compliance, and issued firm conditions.

The testing of Russian athletes must take place without any further incidents.

Russian athletics must explain why in the past it has been unable to enforce suspensions imposed on its athletes and how it plans to go about doing this in future. The IAAF also demanded an official Russian response to McLaren’s findings from the sports ministry and the FSB, Russia’s federal security service.

“Our priority is to return clean athletes to competition but we must all have confidence in the process,” Coe said. “Clean Russian athletes have been badly let down by their national system. We must ensure they are protected and that those safeguards give confidence to the rest of the world that there is a level playing field of competition when Russians return.”

At the council meeting in December, the IAAF task force said Russia could not yet be reinstated because of the lack of a functional drug-testing agency there, and a lack of acceptance of the McLaren findings.

The IAAF suspended Russia from all international competition in November 2015 after the first part of the McLaren report alleged mass doping and cover-ups. Since then, senior Russian athletics officials have been banned, and more WADA reports provided details of drug use and the swapping of tainted samples for clean ones.

Since February 2016, testing in Russia has been overseen by the United Kingdom Anti-Doping Agency because its Russian counterpart was banned from handling samples due to corruption claims.

Last month, the IAAF provided new guidelines for Russians hoping to compete in a neutral capacity. The IAAF said 35 Russians have applied, sending in forms listing their drug-test history under newly relaxed IAAF rules which no longer insist on Russian athletes training outside their home country. If the IAAF accepts all of them, Russia will have close to a full team at the European indoor championships in Serbia next month, just without a flag.

In a separate issue, the IAAF said it was freezing all nationality switches in athletics after complaints that a rising number of people were switching allegiance to countries where they had no ties, and that some were moving repeatedly.

Coe said middlemen were touting lists of athletes around various countries, describing a form of transfer market similar to soccer.

“I have spoken to many member federations who regularly receive a list of athletes that are out there and available for trade,” he said. “This cannot be a sustainable system.”

Runners from Kenya and Ethiopia were among those who have often moved to represent other countries. Kenya-born Ruth Jebet won the 3000m steeplechase at the Rio Olympics while running for Bahrain, which also won marathon silver through Kenya-born Eunice Kirwa.

The decision did not affect 15 transfers already being processed.

Council member Hamad Kalkaba Malboum compared the situation to a “wholesale market for African talent open to the highest bidder.”

“Our present rules are being manipulated to the detriment of athletics’ credibility,” he said. “Lots of the individual athletes concerned, many of whom are transferred at a young age, do not understand that they are forfeiting their nationality. This must end and a new way forward found which respects the athletes’ rights and the sports’ dignity.”

In other issues:

— Last year, the IAAF designated five other countries whose anti-doping programs were in a critical condition: Ethiopia, Morocco, Belarus, Kenya, and Ukraine. The IAAF says it has received presentations from Morocco and Ukraine on their progress. Belarus, Ethiopia, and Kenya have to report again in three months, and Ukraine will report on a monthly basis.

— The IAAF council approved Coe’s proposal to dispense with the formal bidding process by which the IAAF has traditionally taken applications to host international competitions. Instead, the IAAF will “assess the strategic goals for growing the sport in relation to each IAAF competition, targeting cities from countries and regions which will best assist the delivery of those aims.”

MORE: Russia athletes refuse to return stripped Olympic medals

Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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Lara Gut-Behrami wins Killington giant slalom, and the overall title race may be on

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Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami rallied from third place after the first run for her 35th career World Cup victory, taking a giant slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Saturday.

Gut-Behrami, 31, earned her fifth World Cup giant slalom win and first in six years. She prevailed by .07 of a second over Italian Marta Bassino combining times from two windy runs. Sweden’s Sara Hector, the Olympic champion and first-run leader, ended up third.

“Last two years I’ve been getting better in GS again,” said Gut-Behrami, who won the GS at the last world championships in 2021. “Last year I was struggling with my health. I was all the time sick.”

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Gut-Behrami’s best events are downhill and super-G, so a strong start to the season in GS could put her on a path to winning the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. She previously lifted that crystal globe in 2016.

Reigning World Cup overall champ Mikaela Shiffrin, who previously placed second, third, fourth and fifth in Killington giant slaloms, finished 13th after winning the season’s first two races, slaloms in Finland last week. It marked her lowest World Cup GS finish since December 2019.

“[Finland] was a spectacular weekend,” Shiffrin, who has not had much recent GS training, said after her 10th-place opening run Saturday. “Every race is a different story.”

Shiffrin won all five World Cup slaloms in Killington dating to 2016 and will go for her 50th career World Cup slalom victory across all venues on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC and Peacock).

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