AP

Vladimir Putin: U.S. pushing for Russia’s Olympic exclusion

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MOSCOW (AP) — The Kremlin accused the U.S. government on Friday of pushing for Russia’s exclusion from the Olympics.

A day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said the IOC was coming under pressure from the U.S., his spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin meant “state (structures), including through social and non-government organizations.”

Putin said the effort aimed to ensure Russia was either barred from next year’s Winter Olympics entirely or forced to compete under a neutral flag.

In televised comments on Thursday, Putin said the IOC depended on sponsorship income “and in turn clear signals are being given to these sponsors by certain American bodies. We aren’t simply guessing about this, we know about it.”

Missing the Olympics or competing as neutrals would be “degrading” for Russia, Putin added, and suggested it might be meant to interfere in the Russian presidential election in March. Putin is widely expected to run for re-election but has yet to confirm that.

“If someone thinks that in this way they can influence the election campaign in Russia in the spring of next year, then they are deeply confused,” Putin said.

Russia is already under IOC investigation over allegations it operated a state-backed doping program including swapping out dirty samples at the drug-testing laboratory for the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

Neither Putin nor Peskov specified which specific U.S. government bodies might be involved in the alleged pressuring of the IOC.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, a non-government body which receives part of its funding from the U.S. government, is among a group of 37 national drug-testing agencies which have called for Russia to be barred from the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games.

The IOC has said its investigators expect to have “a number” of doping cases involving Russians at the Sochi Olympics resolved by the end of November, but they have no plans to dictate the eligibility of these athletes for Pyeongchang.

Putin’s suggestion of U.S. meddling in the Russian election comes amid investigations in the U.S. into alleged interference in last year’s presidential vote.

The U.S. Senate’s special panel is conducting a probe into Russian influence in the 2016 election and whether there were any links to Donald Trump’s campaign.

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Richie Porte crashes out of Tour de France again

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Australian Richie Porte crashed out of the Tour de France on the ninth stage for a second straight year, suffering a fractured right clavicle six miles into Sunday’s stage.

“Obviously I’m devastated,” Porte said, according to Team BMC. “For the second year in a row I am ending the Tour de France like this. I was on the ground before I knew it, and straight away felt pain in my right shoulder.”

Porte, who finished fifth in the 2016 Tour de France and was an overall podium contender these last two years, was seen sitting on the side of the road, gritting his teeth and crossing his right arm over his chest.

There was a mass stoppage of riders, with at least one spectator down on the side of the narrow road. The crash came well before the Tour stage was to hit 15 arduous cobblestone sections totaling 13 miles.

Porte was in 10th place after eight stages, 57 seconds behind race leader and BMC teammate Greg Van Avermaet. Avermaet and American Tejay van Garderen, in third place, were expected to work for Porte in the mountains later this week, hoping to put him in the yellow jersey.

Now, Van Garderen is in line to be the team leader.

In 2017, Porte fractured his clavicle and pelvis on a ninth-stage crash on a descent and had to abandon the Tour.

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Chris Froome, other stars crash on Tour de France cobblestones stage

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Richie PorteTejay van GarderenRigoberto UranMikel Landa. Even Chris Froome.

Stage nine of the Tour de France promised to rattle the top riders, and the 15 sections of cobblestones totaling 13 miles delivered just that. All of the named men crashed on Sunday, with Porte abandoning the Grand Tour altogether (albeit he crashed before the first cobbles section, six miles into the stage).

In the end, German John Degenkolb got the stage win ahead of overall race leader Greg Van Avermaet and Yves Lampaert.

Van Avermaet, the Olympic road race champion from Belgium, retained the yellow jersey for a sixth straight day, extending his lead to 43 seconds over Brit Geraint Thomas. Van Avermaet rides for Team BMC, which lost its team leader in Porte.

American van Garderen presumably became the new team leader, but he crashed later in the stage and also suffered three flat tires.

Van Garderen entered the day third in the overall standings, nine seconds behind Van Avermaet. He ended it in 30th place, 6:05 behind Van Avermaet.

The best-placed favorite to finish on the podium in Paris on July 29 is now the four-time Tour winner Froome, in eighth place, 1:42 behind Van Avermaet. Froome is trying to tie the record of five Tour titles shared by Jacques AnquetilEddy MerckxBernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.

The Tour takes its first of two rest days Monday, resuming with the first day in the Alps on Tuesday live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here). Stage 10 features a beyond-category climb and three category-one climbs.

“I’m relieved to get through today and looking forward to getting into the mountains now where the real race for GC (general classification) will start,” Froome said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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