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Ukraine track and field federation offered secret bans for doping confessions

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MOSCOW (AP) — A plan to offer amnesty to Ukrainian track and field athletes who confess to doping has led to inquiries from the IAAF and World Anti-Doping Agency.

The Ukrainian Athletics Federation wrote on its website last week that athletes on the country’s national team using performance-enhancing drugs could serve very short bans in secret if they confess. Secret bans, however, would break IAAF rules.

“We’re informed. We’re in discussions with WADA and we’re seeking clarification from the Ukrainian federation,” IAAF spokesman Chris Turner told The Associated Press last week.

Ukraine, which has been stripped of three track medals from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, has a poor record on doping and conducts few drug tests by European standards.

The UAF website referred to a month-long amnesty period running until April 3. If athletes “voluntarily confess” to their own drug use, “the information will not be made public and the athlete will not face sanctions other than quarantine (temporary suspension from competition) for the period taken for traces of banned substances to leave the body.”

It can take only a few days for some banned steroids to leave the body. A standard doping ban under WADA rules is four years, which can be halved for a voluntary confession. Keeping offenders’ names secret breaks IAAF regulations, which demand “automatic publication” unless the athlete is a child.

The UAF also suggested there could be harsher punishment for athletes who didn’t confess and are caught later, since the lack of a confession would be an “aggravating circumstance.” That appears to breach WADA rules.

WADA has also said it has contacted Ukrainian authorities for clarification.

Ukraine’s repeated doping violations have seen it classed as in IAAF “critical care” — one step away from a Russia-style ban from international competition.

There have been conflicting responses about the amnesty offer from Ukrainian officials.

UAF vice president Fidel Timchenko told the AP in a recent interview that the statements on the website — since deleted — should have specified athletes would have to inform on other dopers, not just confess their own drug use. Providing “substantial assistance” to investigations can mean a potential ban is cut by up to 75 percent or even eliminated altogether in exceptional cases, under WADA rules.

Timchenko also said he didn’t consider the plan to be an amnesty, but his views didn’t appear to match statements made by UAF president Ihor Hotsul in an interview with Russia’s TASS news agency. Hotsul compared the initiative to a weapons amnesty run by police, and his interview didn’t mention any requirement for athletes to inform on others.

In a further twist, Timchenko told the AP that athletes who only confessed their own drug use might also be let off without punishment because they hadn’t failed a doping test.

“Words aren’t enough,” Timchenko said. “The main thing is a medical document, not a confession.”

The UAF wouldn’t say how many athletes have taken up its offer and has yet to contact WADA about the cases, Timchenko said.

WADA approval would be needed for any reduced sanctions for whistleblowers, under rules designed to prevent the system from being abused. Timchenko argued names could be kept secret for a time for whistleblowers’ safety, but the IAAF said all names would have to be published.

Timchenko combines his track federation duties with a role as head of the Ukrainian anti-doping agency’s disciplinary committee. He denied his dual role was a conflict of interest and said he wouldn’t rule on sanctions for track athletes.

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MORE: Russian track and field stars cleared to compete

Eddy Alvarez, Olympic short track medalist, to play for Miami Marlins

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Eddy Alvarez realized his MLB dream, six years after earning a Winter Olympic medal, and during a global pandemic that affected his club more than any other U.S. professional sports franchise.

Alvarez, a 2014 U.S. Olympic short track speed skating medalist, is being added to the Miami Marlins roster for Tuesday’s restart of their abbreviated season, president of baseball operations Mike Hill said Monday, according to Marlins beat reporters.

The 30-year-old was among a group added after as many as 18 Marlins tested positive for the coronavirus last week, forcing the club to cancel seven games.

Alvarez is believed to be the first U.S. Winter Olympian to become a Major League Baseball player.

He may be the second Olympic medalist in a sport other than baseball to make it to the majors, joining Jim Thorpe. (Michael Jordan tried to do so with the Chicago White Sox, playing Double-A in 1994, but returned to the Chicago Bulls in 1995.)

Alvarez, a Miami native, played baseball in high school and at Salt Lake Community College before focusing on short track in 2012 for a 2014 Olympic run.

He came back from missing the 2010 Olympic team and surgeries on both knees, reportedly leaving him immobile and bedpan dependent for four to six weeks, to make the Sochi Winter Games. Eddy the Jet earned a silver medal in the 5000m relay.

Then Alvarez returned to baseball after three years away. He signed a minor-league contract with the Chicago White Sox in June 2014. He worked his way through the minors between that franchise and the Marlins system.

Alvarez was a Kannapolis Intimidator, a New Orleans Baby Cake and a Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.

Now, he’s a big leaguer.

“It definitely was a chance, picking up a kid who hasn’t played in three years who is starting at the age of 24,” Alvarez said in 2014. “It’s not your typical story, but I play like a 17-year-old kid. I’m running around everywhere. I’m diving around everywhere. I’m full of life. I definitely see my progression moving at a rapid pace.”

MORE: What Olympic baseball, softball return looks like in 2021

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Katie Ledecky balances glass of chocolate milk on her head while swimming

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Katie Ledecky will always remember Aug. 3 as the date she won her first Olympic gold medal, at age 15 in 2012.

Now, she can also associate it with the time she created another kind of buzz on social media.

The five-time Olympic champion posted video of her swimming the length of a pool while balancing a glass of chocolate milk on her head. Barely any, if any, milk spilled into the pool.

Ledecky swam as part of a new got milk? ad campaign.

“Hoooowww nervous were you when you did this?!” fellow Olympic champion and training partner Simone Manuel asked Ledecky on Instagram.

“I have never braced my core so hard,” Ledecky wrote. “It’s a great drill!”

“Try doing it breaststroke,” British Olympic 100m breaststroke champion and world-record holder Adam Peaty wrote.

“Is it wrong of me to think this is even more impressive than a few of your WR’s?!!!” wrote 1992 Olympic champion Summer Sanders.

MORE: The meet where Kathleen Ledecky became Katie Ledecky

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