Getty Images

More Russian Olympic skiers banned, Sochi medals stripped

1 Comment

MOSCOW (AP) — Four more Russian cross-country skiers were found guilty of doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Thursday, including silver medalist Maxim Vylegzhanin.

The Russian Cross-Country Ski Federation said the four have been disqualified by the International Olympic Committee and banned from all future Olympics. The IOC later confirmed.

The other three skiers found guilty are Alexei Petukhov, Yulia Ivanova and Yevgenia Shapovalova. Vylegzhanin won three silver medals in Sochi, but none of the others won a medal.

Six Russian cross-country skiers have now been found guilty of doping at the Sochi Olympics by an IOC commission. Alexander Legkov, who won 50km gold ahead of Vylegzhanin in a Russian sweep, and Evgeny Belov were banned last week.

Vylegzhanin also finished second in the team sprint and the 4x10km relay. Russia’s relay silver was already stripped last week when Legkov was banned.

The IOC bans leave Russia with only one medal in cross-country skiing, the bronze won by Ilya Chernousov in the 50K. The IOC will decide if he should be upgraded to gold.

Russia remains at the top of the Sochi medals table, but more verdicts are expected which could affect other golds, potentially pushing the Russians below Norway.

Without positive doping tests, the IOC disciplinary panel used evidence of cover-ups and tampering of sample bottles that was first gathered last year by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren.

With calls to ban Russia’s team from the PyeongChang Olympics likely to increase, the IOC’s executive board will meet from Dec. 5-7 to discuss the matter.

The Russian ski federation said it is preparing an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport on the four cases announced Thursday. Legkov and Belov have also said they will appeal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin disputed the bans, saying evidence of tampering wasn’t proof of guilt.

In comments reported by Russian news agencies, Putin didn’t mention the skiers by name but said his government had never supported or covered up doping.

Putin also claimed that U.S. interests were trying to use Russia’s doping scandals to discredit the government and influence the country’s presidential election in March.

“In response to our supposed interference in their elections, they want to cause problems in the Russian presidential election,” he said.

Putin is widely expected to run for re-election but has yet to confirm that.

Russian sports officials reacted angrily to the new bans.

“[The IOC] is just spitting on us and thinking we’ll swallow it,” Russian Cross-Country Ski Federation vice president Sergei Kryanin told the R-Sport agency. “Why is it issuing these rulings with no proof?”

The cross-country World Cup season starts on Nov. 24.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Russian skier stripped of Olympic gold defiant in Instagram post

Ehsan Hadadi, Iran’s first Olympic track and field medalist, has coronavirus

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ehsan Hadadi, Iran’s lone Olympic track and field medalist, tested positive for the coronavirus, according to World Athletics and an Iranian news agency.

“We’ve received word from several Asian journalists that Iranian discus thrower Ehsan Hadadi has tested positive for coronavirus,” according to World Athletics. “[Hadadi] trains part of the year in the US, but was home in Tehran when he contracted the virus.”

Hadadi, 35, became the first Iranian to earn an Olympic track and field medal when he took silver in the discus at the 2012 London Games. Hadadi led through four of six rounds before being overtaken by German Robert Harting, who edged the Iranian by three and a half inches.

He was eliminated in qualifying at the Rio Olympics and placed seventh at last fall’s world championships in Doha.

Jordan Larson preps for her last Olympics, one year later than expected

Jordan Larson
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Whether the Tokyo Olympics would have been this summer or in 2021, Jordan Larson knew this: It will mark her final tournament with the U.S. volleyball team, should she make the roster.

“I’m just not getting any younger,” said Larson, a 33-year-old outside hitter. “I’ve been playing consistently overseas for 12 years straight with no real offseason.

“I also have other endeavors in my life that I want to see. Getting married, having children, those kinds of things. The older I get, the more challenging those become.”

Larson, who debuted on the national team in 2009, has been a leader the last two Olympic cycles. She succeeded Christa Harmotto Dietzen as captain after the Rio Games. Larson started every match at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

As long as Larson was in the building, the U.S. never had to worry about the outside hitter position, said two-time Olympian and NBC Olympics volleyball analyst Kevin Barnett.

“She played as if she belonged from the start,” he said. “They will miss her all-around capability. They’ll miss her ability to make everyone around her better. She’s almost like having a libero who can hit.”

Karch Kiraly, the Olympic indoor and beach champion who took over as head coach after the 2012 Olympics, gushed about her court vision.

“It’s a little dated now, but somebody like Wayne Gretzky just saw things that other people didn’t see on the hockey rink,” Kiraly said in 2018. “And I remember reading about him one time, and the quote from an opposing goalie was, oh my god, here he comes, what does he see that I don’t see right now? She sees things sooner than most people.”

Larson grew up in Hooper, Neb., (population 830) and starred at the University of Nebraska. She was a three-time All-American who helped the team win a national title as a sophomore. She had the opportunity to leave Nebraska and try out for the Olympics in 2008 but chose to remain at school for her final season.

She earned the nickname “Governor” as a Cornhusker State sports icon.

Larson helped the U.S. win its first major international title at the 2014 World Championship. She was also part of the program’s two stingers — defeats in the 2012 Olympic final and 2016 Olympic semifinals, both matches where the U.S. won the first set (and convincingly in 2012).

“It just gives me chills thinking about it now,” Larson said of the Rio Olympic semifinals, where Serbia beat the U.S. 15-13 in the fifth. “That team, we put in so much. Not just on the court but off the court working on culture and working on how are we best for each other. How can we be the best team? How can we out-team people? Certain teams have a better one player that’s a standout that we maybe didn’t have or don’t have. So how can we out-team the other teams? We had just put in so much work that was just heartbreaking.”

Larson and the Americans rebounded to win the bronze-medal match two days later.

“I don’t know anybody that didn’t have their heart ripped out. It was just a soul-crusher of a match,” Kiraly said of the semifinal. “More meaningful was what a great response everybody, including Jordan, mounted to the disappointment of that loss.”

The U.S. took fifth at worlds in 2018 and is now ranked second in the world behind China.

Larson spent the past club season in Shanghai. The campaign ended in mid-January. She hadn’t heard anything about the coronavirus when she took her scheduled flight back to California, learning days later that LAX started screening for it. Now, she’s working out from her garage.

Larson is in line to become the fifth-oldest U.S. Olympic women’s volleyball player in history, according Olympedia and the OlyMADMen.

Her decade of experience could go a long way to help the next generation of outside hitters, led by three-time NCAA champion and Sullivan Award winner Kathryn Plummer.

“If you’re coming into the USA program as an outside hitter, in the next year or the quad or the quad after that,” Barnett said, “the measuring stick is going to be Jordan Larson.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics