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

Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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