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Shalane Flanagan on returning to NYC Marathon finish line, future

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NEW YORK — Shalane Flanagan returned to the New York City Marathon finish line at Central Park twice in the 24 hours after she won the race.

She did not sleep in that span.

“I tried, but it didn’t work,” Flanagan, the first U.S. female runner to win the five-borough, 50,000-runner event in 40 years, said Monday morning. “So, at 3 a.m., I was eating pizza, hanging out.”

Flanagan, a 36-year-old, four-time Olympian, upset three-time defending champion and world-record holder Mary Keitany at 11:48 a.m. on a dreary Sunday. She overcame perhaps the most difficult year of her decorated career in what may have been her final race (more on that below).

Nine hours later, Flanagan was back at the finish line to hand out medals to runners who took five times as long to cover the course than she did.

Flanagan was joined by other elites, including Meb Keflezighi, the 2009 NYC Marathon champ who ran his 26th and final marathon on Sunday.

Flanagan awoke Monday for another round of media — “Good Morning America,” “Live with Kelly and Ryan” — followed by a charity-check ceremony next to the finish line.

She spoke as hundreds of finishers stood in line to get their medals engraved.

“I do wish I could go run those last two miles without, like, the scary, daunting feeling of someone stalking me,” said Flanagan, who opened up a gap in the 24th mile and won by a comfortable 61 seconds over Keitany. “I was like, just don’t let it slip through your fingers. … I didn’t hear any footsteps.”

As soon as it felt safe, a few steps from the end, Flanagan let out an “f— yeah!” that was buzzworthy on social media.

“I’ve visualized that finish line, you don’t know how many times,” said Flanagan, who ran her second NYC Marathon, seven years after finishing second in her 26.2-mile debut in New York. “What would I do in that moment? Of course I did nothing of what I thought I would do.

“That [the profanity] wasn’t planned by any means. I could just sense no one was there. Then I felt like, OK, I can celebrate just a little bit and indulge in this awesome moment.”

Before that, Flanagan dug into a list she compiled before the race.

“Of things when I was leaning into that hurt, what was I going to think about,” she said. “I was thinking about the tragedies here in New York. I was thinking about how I wanted to make Meb proud. It was his last race. And I wanted to run and honor all the people that have helped me be here.”

Flanagan teased before the race that she might retire if she pulled off the upset victory, likening it to winning the Super Bowl and walking away.

“I don’t know what it feels like to be Tom Brady or anything, but it’s pretty epic,” she said Monday. “Imagine everyone has an individual goal in their lives that they’re striving for, potentially, and achieving that ultimate goal that seems audacious at times. That seems so far-fetched.”

Flanagan hasn’t had time to think about her future or discuss it with her coaches. She has barely looked at her phone.

“I just want to soak up what I’m doing right now,” she said. “My phone is literally buzzing in my pocket right now, and I don’t know what’s going on.

“I’m 36, I love what I do,” she said earlier on “Good Morning America.” “I’m very passionate about running, but there are other things in my life that I love. … There’s other ways I want to contribute to the sport. I want to teach young women how to eat well and how to take care of themselves. Yeah, I have other passions that are starting to bubble up.”

Flanagan, who with her husband fostered two teenage girls since Rio, will release her second co-authored cookbook — “Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow” — in August. Finding the inspiration to continue a running career in the meantime may be difficult.

“I’d have to really assess what’s going to drive me forward,” she said. “If I do continue to go forward, you have to have a lot of motivation to be in this sport. It’s an all-encompassing lifestyle. It’s not a nine-to-five. It’s literally every single day you’re making decisions. How can I be the best possible athlete? You don’t check in and check out.”

This was certainly Flanagan’s biggest career victory, in her 10th marathon, but was it her greatest achievement? She has an Olympic 10,000m silver medal from 2008.

“It’s hard to compare them,” she said. “But I feel like this has been a long, long process to get here. A lot of ups and downs and disappointments and some heartache. So, in a way, maybe this is more meaningful to me just because I feel like it’s been seven years of a lot of work and a lot of disappointments at times, wondering if I have what it takes. Almost feeling like a sense of really extreme validation yesterday, more so than maybe my Olympic medal. But they’re both treasured, just in different ways.”

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Grigory Rodchenkov, Russian doping whistleblower, still lives in fear

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His head covered in a black balaclava, adjusting dark goggles obscuring his eyes, Grigory Rodchenkov grows anxious if any part of his face can be seen.

Exposing Russia’s state-sponsorship doping scheme forced Rodchenkov into hiding in the United States five years ago. Revealing his current identity is still too risky for the chemist turned whistleblower, even in a video interview from an undisclosed location.

“It’s my security measures because I have physical threats to be assassinated,” Rodchenkov told The Associated Press. “And I want to live.”

Evidence from Rodchenkov that has already turned Vladimir Putin‘s Russia into international sporting outcasts continues to be used in cases against athletes along with data from his former laboratory in Moscow.

“Putin, he is quite logical. He separates opposition in two ways — enemies … betrayers,” Rodchenkov said. “I am falling in the betrayers’ category and all betrayers should be beheaded, cut, dead. So there is no doubt that he wants me to be dead.”

It has not deterred him from documenting his life story in “The Rodchenkov Affair: How I Brought Down Putin’s Secret Doping Empire,” revisiting how he conspired with his country to corrupt sports and then tries to show contrition by turning star witness.

Rodchenkov was the brains behind the Duchess cocktail of anabolic steroids and cover-up that turned Russia into a medal machine at the home Olympics in Sochi in 2014, topping the standings with 13 gold medals before disqualifications.

Russian spies ensured the Duchess would not be detected in doping tests as FSB agents used a hole in the wall of the Sochi laboratory to swap out the dirty samples with clean urine at night.

“For me, it was the end of doping control,” Rodchenkov said. “If we can do it, why others cannot?”

The doping cover-up extended beyond the Winter Olympics, into the Summer Games, Paralympics, world track and field championships and every major sport.

Some Russians were barred from competing at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games and 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games as the International Olympic Committee remains opposed to blanket bans on countries.

So Russian athletes can still compete on the international stage if they can show they are clean, despite a four-year ban from major international sporting events being imposed on the nation last year for a fresh cover-up, including tampering with data gained from Rodchenkov’s former lab in Moscow.

“Sport is a part of Putin’s politics and showing to the West how good Russia is,” Rodchenkov said. “You cannot trust Russia. You cannot trust the certification authorities, and (anti-doping) laboratories cannot be allowed to be restored within the foreseeable future.”

Especially now, according to Rodchenkov, following constitutional changes allowing Putin to run for two more six-year terms, in 2024 and 2030,

“Until 2036,” Rodchenkov said, “no trust.”

But why now trust Rodchenkov as he presents a virtuous image at odds with his deep collusion with the state to cheat?

“When you are laboratory director and you have 50 employees and you are reporting to your high ups at the ministry, I could not even think about morals,” he said, dismissing concerns about any long-term damage to the health of athletes he allowed to be pumped with steroids.

“It’s extremely debatable and still ungrounded,” he said. “We see the generation who is now in the end of their lives of 70s and 80s, which are still … in a good physical condition after steroid programs.”

Go back four decades and Rodchenkov was starting out in a Soviet system learning how to manipulate doping controls.

“I had honestly, I’m sorry, but I had huge feelings of accomplishment,” he said. “Those athletes I helped to (win) were extremely talented and I could not understand, with the coach, how he or she may lose to others. The only explanation was doping. Then using some programs, we won gold medals. Honestly it was like leveling the field.

“Again, ‘morals’ is maybe vocabulary from American life but not from Soviet and Russian. In (the) Soviet (Union) it was the Soviet moral, in Russia there is no morals.”

It helps when the athletes are compliant.

“This is the huge problem of the militarization of Russia sport,” Rodchenkov said. “They follow orders, they are disciplined but they cannot tell the truth because they have given the oath to the Russian state and consider foreigners as potential enemies or even actual enemies. That’s why in Russia there are three ways – lying, cheating and denying.”

Rodchenkov has had to convince the world he has shed those ways and is coming clean. More of the cases he helped to cover-up could soon come to light after the World Anti-Doping Agency shared data – of samples tested up to 2015, and tampering that continued into 2019 – that was retrieved from the Moscow testing lab at the heart of the state-backed doping program.

“The problem is that the people from outside cannot understand what is going on inside sports,” he said. “Only whistleblowers could do that. But in corrupted countries you have to escape and we need to be preserved.”

For Rodchenkov that means living a life constantly in fear of being recognized as happened on a train in the US.

“It was a student,” he recalled. “I told him, `Forget you are meeting me, yes it’s me, don’t tell anyone.’ … I disappeared again.”

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Noah Lyles, more world champs race in Monaco; TV, live stream schedule

Noah Lyles
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Noah Lyles headlines a bevy of world champions slated for the first full-on Diamond League meet of the abbreviated track and field season, live on NBC Sports on Friday.

Monaco hosts the strongest fields of any meet since the world championships 10 months ago. Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold air coverage on Friday at 2 p.m. ET.

Reigning world champions include Lyles (200m), Grant Holloway (110m hurdles), Donavan Brazier (800m) and Sam Kendricks (pole vault), and those are just the Americans.

Swede Mondo Duplantis, who twice raised the pole vault world record in February, takes on Kendricks in Monaco. Distance stars Sifan Hassan, Hellen Obiri, Beatrice Chepkoech, Timothy Cheruiyot and Joshua Cheptegei dot the fields, too.

The Diamond League season was due to start in April, but the coronavirus pandemic halted large-gathering track meets until now. Repurposed versions of Diamond League meets in Oslo and Zurich were held the last two months with fewer events and athletes and some entrants racing from different countries.

After Monaco, more Diamond League meets are scheduled for Stockholm (Aug. 23), Lausanne (Sept. 2), Brussels (Sept. 4), Naples (Sept. 17), Doha (Sept. 25) and China (Oct. 17).

Here are the Monaco entry lists. Here’s the schedule of events (all times Eastern):

1:40 p.m. ET — Men’s Pole Vault
2:03 — Men’s 110m Hurdles
2:05 — Women’s High Jump
2:12 — Men’s 800m
2:17 — Women’s Triple Jump
2:19 — Women’s 5000m
2:42 — Men’s 400m Hurdles
2:50 — Women’s 100m
2:57 — Men’s 1500m
3:07 — Women’s 400m
3:13 — Men’s 5000m
3:32 — Men’s 200m
3:39 — Women’s 100m
3:47 — Men’s 3000m Steeplechase

Here are five events to watch (statistics via Tilastopaja.org):

Men’s Pole Vault — 1:40 p.m.
The top field event of the meet includes the reigning Olympic champion (Brazil’s Thiago Braz), reigning world champion (Kendricks) and the world-record holder (Duplantis, who must be the favorite here). Kendricks and Duplantis already went head-to-head this spring, competing virtually from respective home pole-vault setups. Kendricks took their first six head-to-heads, back when Duplantis was a teenager, but the Louisiana-born Swede won all four of their indoor duels in February. Duplantis is the clear Tokyo Olympic favorite until proven otherwise.

Men’s 800m — 2:12 p.m.
The top four from the 2019 World Championships are entered. Brazier, 23, caught fire the last year. He broke the American record to win the world title. He broke his own American indoor record in February. Then, last month, Brazier took 1.33 seconds off his 1500m personal best. Nobody in the Monaco field has beaten Brazier since the start of 2018.

Women’s 5000m — 2:19 p.m.
Ethiopian-born Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan in world champion at 1500m and 10,000m, but she’s lost four of five meetings with two-time world champion Hellen Obiri of Kenya at 5000m. Hassan appears to be gearing up to race the 5000m in Tokyo, though, saying last month her eye was on a 1500m-5000m Olympic double had the Games been held this year. The 1500m preliminary heats and the 5000m final are separated by about 12 hours at the Olympics next year. Also in this field: three-time Olympian and former American record holder Shannon Rowbury, set for her first Diamond League race in nearly three years and since the birth of daughter Sienna.

Men’s 1500m — 2:57 p.m.
Last we saw Kenyan Timothy Cheruiyot in a 1500m, he led wire-to-wire en route to a 2.12-second victory in the world championships final. Only one man has beaten Cheruiyot in three years, countryman Elijah Manangoi, who is provisionally suspended due to whereabouts failures. The Monaco field does include Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen (second-fastest man of 2019), Ethiopian Yomif Kejelcha (indoor mile world-record holder), Pole Marcin Lewandowski (world bronze medalist) and Craig Engels (2019 U.S. champion who was 10th at worlds).

Men’s 200m — 3:32 p.m.
Lyles and younger brother Josephus Lyles go head-to-head for the first time since January 2017. Noah has lost just one outdoor 200m since placing fourth at the 2016 Olympic Trials coming out of high school. Josephus, primarily a 400m sprinter in his developmnt, last month took a half-second off a five-year-old 200m personal best. His new best time — 20.24 seconds — would have placed third at the 2019 USATF Outdoor Championships behind Noah (19.78) and Christian Coleman (20.02).

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