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Brianna Rollins, Olympic hurdles champ, banned one year in strange case

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Olympic 100m hurdles champion Brianna Rollins is banned for the entire 2017 track season for what she said was confusion regarding a computer system.

Rollins accepted full responsibility for her mistakes in a statement Thursday. She said the one-year ban, backdated to Dec. 19, was “as a result of my confusion over how the [drug-testing] whereabouts program worked.”

Rollins was not present for three random, out-of-competition drug tests in 2016, which constitutes a two-year ban under anti-doping rules. Rollins had that ban reduced by an arbitration panel to the shortest possible length — one year — given the circumstances and her drug-free record.

Two of the three missed tests came in September, one month after Rollins led a U.S. 100m hurdles sweep in Rio.

Rollins was in her Florida hometown to celebrate “Brianna Rollins Day” on Sept. 13. Two weeks later, she went to visit the White House with the U.S. Olympic team.

Drug testers showed up at Rollins’ Georgia home during both trips, but she wasn’t present as she previously stated that she would be. If Rollins had updated drug testers on her travel to Florida and Washington, D.C., as athletes are required to do, she would have avoided the missed tests.

A three-member arbitration panel stressed that Rollins is a clean athlete, showing “no evidence of avoiding testing, masking drug use, or using drugs.”

Rollins passed all 16 drug tests she took last year, but it’s the three tests that she was not present for that led to her ban.

Under U.S. Anti-Doping Agency rules, elite American athletes must provide a daily one-hour window for random testing, giving a specific location for drug testers to track them down.

If they have a change in plans, they must notify USADA.

Rollins conceded her negligence for the two September missed tests.

She disputed her first missed test from April 27, citing confusion in filling out her whereabouts on a computer program.

Rollins thought she had sufficiently updated her whereabouts for traveling to a meet in Iowa, but she failed to update the system that she would not be at her Georgia home during her daily one-hour window April 27.

A drug tester showed up at her Georgia home that morning, but Rollins was not present.

The three-member panel wrote in a 32-page summary that the computer system and the agencies connected with it “failed to design it to assist the athletes as much as possible to avoid confusion.” The panel also said Rollins still “failed to show a complete absence of negligence.”

“This is a difficult case because it involves the imposition of a serious penalty on a brilliant athlete who is not charged or suspected of using banned substances of any kind,” the panel wrote. “However, while there is much at stake for [Rollins], there is not much in dispute as to the facts or law of this case.”

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MORE: Dawn Harper-Nelson makes tearful plea about banned medication

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir retire from ice dance competition

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Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the most decorated Olympic figure skaters in history, announced their retirement late Tuesday. They’re done competing in ice dance, and their upcoming Canadian tour will be their last together.

“After 22 years, it feels like the right time to step away from the sport,” Virtue said in a video. “This is so personal and emotional for both of us.”

“It just feels for us like it’s the right time to say goodbye while we’re still loving and enjoying the sport as much as we always have been,” Moir said. “This is my first selfie video, and I’m not going to cry. What a beautiful ride it’s been.”

The news was expected.

Virtue and Moir last competed in PyeongChang, earning golds in ice dance and the team event to bring their total to five medals (three golds) and break the record for most Olympic medals in the sport (buoyed by the addition of the team event in 2014).

“It definitely feels like [this is our last Olympics],” Moir said on TODAY in PyeongChang, hours after their ice dance gold. “If it is, this is a great way for us to go out. … It feels right. It feels like a good end.”

Virtue, 30, and Moir 32, teamed in elementary school. Moir, a hockey player, followed brother Danny into dance, pairing with his first partner at 8 and then with Virtue and 9.

Virtue hit the ice at age 6 because she didn’t want to be the only one in her class who couldn’t skate during a field trip. When she was 7, she was paired with Moir through Moir’s aunt Carol, who coached both as singles skaters. Two years in, Virtue attended Canada’s National Ballet School for a summer before choosing to stick with skating.

That decision ultimately led to one of the greatest careers in Canadian sports history.

They earned a junior world title in 2006, the first of eight Canadian titles in 2008 and, in 2010, the biggest of all — home gold at the Vancouver Winter Games despite Moir messing up the steps at the end of their free dance. They faced the wrong way in their final pose.

“Scott just said thank you to me and just said look around us, take this in,” Virtue said on NBC as the final couples skated.

“I had to be positive because I messed up,” Moir later joked.

Virtue and Moir developed a rivalry with American training partners Meryl Davis and Charlie White, with whom they traded world titles in the Sochi Olympic cycle. In Russia, the Americans edged the Canadians for the title by 4.53 points.

Moir waited until the arena emptied, returned to the rink and kissed the ice. Many thought it was a goodbye to the Olympics.

Two years later, they announced a comeback, saying they still had the fire and wanted to take advantage of one more chance to go to the Games. They won all but one of their competitions in those last two seasons, including the Olympics by a slim .79 of a point over French Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron.

Now they join the other Canadian champions of their generation — Patrick ChanKaetlyn Osmond and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford — in leaving the competitive arena for good.

“We spent 22 years coasting around the outside of the rink, hanging out together, making programs, trying to just soak up our sporting experiences,” Virtue said. “We still can’t believe people care.”

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MORE: Keegan Messing explains decision to hold up Japanese flag

Keegan Messing ‘glad’ to have held Japanese flag for Yuzuru Hanyu

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Yuzuru Hanyu heard Japan’s national anthem at the medal ceremony for his season-debut event on Saturday. But didn’t see a flag.

That’s when the bronze medalist, Keegan Messing of Canada, “took initiative” and unfurled the Japanese flag so Hanyu could honor it at the Autumn Classic in Ontario.

While there were plenty of fans of the Japanese skater in the crowd holding their own flags, none were hoisted above the ice like in some competitions.

Messing took it upon himself to hold up the Japanese flag that was hanging from a flagpole behind the medal podium.

Messing explained his decision following the interaction:

That was just actually instinct, honestly. When they said that we’re gonna play the anthem for the winner, I looked out and I realized there was no flag ready. A couple of the spectators had a flag but so I decided to hold up a flag because if I were in that place, I would’ve liked to have a flag presented at that time. That’s why I did it. I felt like that’s what I would’ve wanted so I went ahead and took initiative and I did it. I’m very happy I did. It felt good to do. I’m glad.

Hanyu is next expected to compete on the Grand Prix circuit, again in Canada in October and at NHK Trophy in Japan in November.

Messing’s assignments are Skate America in October and Cup of China in November.

The next time Hanyu’s and Messing’s paths could cross is at December’s Grand Prix Final, should they both qualify.

MORE: Yuzuru Hanyu wins Autumn Classic

As a reminder, you can watch the events from the 2019-20 figure skating season live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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