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Russians stripped of Sochi Olympic skeleton medals; Uhlaender in line for bronze

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Sochi Olympic gold medalist Alexander Tretiyakov and bronze medalist Elena Nikitina of Russia were stripped of their skeleton medals for doping.

It puts the U.S. above Russia atop the Sochi Olympic total medal standings. American Katie Uhlaender is in line for her first Olympic medal.

A full IOC decision is here.

The IOC has stripped Russia of six of its leading 33 medals from the Sochi Winter Games after it commissioned investigations into reports of a state-sponsored doping program leading up to and during the Olympics.

Pending appeals, Latvian Martins Dukurs is in line to be upgraded to men’s skeleton gold, American Matthew Antoine to silver and Latvian Tomass Dukurs to bronze.

In the women’s event, Uhlaender could get her first Olympic medal from her third Games. She originally missed bronze by .04 in Sochi.

“I was half asleep,” Uhlaender said of learning the news at 6 a.m. at a World Cup stop in Whistler, B.C., according to ESPN.com. “I said to [U.S. coach] Tuffy [Latour], ‘Am I dreaming? Is this real?’ And then I got emotional.”

Tretiyakov and Nikitina, as well as two more Russian skeleton sliders sanctioned Wednesday, are disqualified from any future Olympics.

The Russian bobsled and skeleton federation president said the athletes will appeal, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Olga Potylitsina and Maria Orlova, Russians who were fifth and sixth in Sochi, also had their results stripped and were disqualified from future Winter Games.

Previously, the IOC stripped Russian cross-country skiers Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin of their five combined Sochi medals (one each of those medals was won together on a relay).

Russia Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov said he expects Russia to be stripped of its two- and four-man bobsled gold medals, too, according to TASS.

Ten Russian athletes total have been retroactively disqualified from the Sochi Olympics. The IOC will decide on Russia’s participation in the PyeongChang Olympics on Dec. 5.

If all Sochi medals are reallocated, Russia will fall from first to third in the total medal standings. Norway and the U.S. would share the lead with 29 medals.

As it stands, without any reallocations yet, the U.S. has 28 medals, Russia has 27 and Norway has 26.

Tretiyakov and Nikitina were looking like medal contenders for PyeongChang.

Tretiyakov, a 32-year-old nicknamed the “Russian Rocket,” was fourth at last season’s world championships and ranked fourth in this season’s World Cup standings.

He was third in last season’s World Cup standings despite being suspended for one race in January.

Tretiyakov, Nikitina, Potylitsina and Orlova were all provisionally suspended for three weeks last December and January after the IOC began disciplinary proceedings for athletes with “evidence of manipulation of one or more of their urine samples” from Sochi.

The suspensions were lifted after nine days “due to a lack of evidence” from a World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned report on Russian doping.

Nikitina, 25, leads this season’s World Cup standings after the first two races. She won last weekend’s race in Park City, Utah.

Uhlaender has been waiting for this decision for more than a year, since the first reports of widespread Russian doping from Sochi in spring 2016.

“I understand that it was a difference of culture and that the Russians don’t believe they did anything wrong,” Uhlaender said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. “But this was the only way to fix it.”

The 33-year-old Uhlaender reportedly had an exchange with Nikitina on Facebook after Nikitina’s name appeared on an athlete list that guided Russian doping violations in Sochi.

“I am not on the list!” Nikitina told Uhlaender in 2016, according to The New York Times. “I hope that the truth will prevail! And the perpetrators of this scandal will be punished!”

Uhlaender said in a phone interview Wednesday that she and Nikitina have not communicated since those Facebook messages.

Both women took training runs in Whistler on Wednesday ahead of a World Cup race Friday.

“It was really awkward,” Uhlaender said. “Nikitina wouldn’t make eye contact with me. Yulia, her teammate, made dirty faces at me. I don’t think it’s worth engaging in. I know the Russians don’t think they did anything wrong, and they believe it’s a conspiracy.”

The International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation is still deciding whether to sanction the Russians. As of now, they’re eligible to race in any competition that’s not the Olympics.

Uhlaender shed more tears Wednesday in what’s already been an incredibly difficult 12 months.

On May 6, she was the first to find the late Steven Holcomb, a close friend, unresponsive in his Olympic Training Center room.

“I wish Steve was here,” Uhlaender said Wednesday, according to ESPN. “He would be so elated. He would have broken into my room and woken me up. I miss him so much.”

Last year, she suffered a life-threatening autoimmune attack which put her in and out of the hospital for six weeks.

Doctors asked Uhlaender for her next of kin, she said, according to the Deseret News.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I’m dying,’” Uhlaender said in September, according to the newspaper. “I couldn’t drink, couldn’t eat, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t sleep. … I was hallucinating. Every time I took a breath, it was like someone stabbed me or punched me, so I was having to breathe really shallow. That’s why I thought I wasn’t going to make it.”

Uhlaender returned to her lodging from training in Whistler on Wednesday to find her door decorated by teammate and close friend Lolo Jones. “Congrats Oly bronze!” it read in cutout letters.

She entered the room to find a bronze No. 3 balloon, flowers and a picture of Holcomb that she keeps.

Uhlaender doesn’t believe Nikitina should be allowed to race Friday. Nor should she have been allowed to race at all while she was being investigated, Uhlaender said.

She hasn’t had time to think about what will mean the most — this moment, or when the results are officially changed (that could take a while, pending a Nikitina appeal) or when the bronze medal is in her hands.

If there is a make-up medal ceremony, Uhlaender has one request.

“I would definitely want Noelle [Pikus-Pace] and Lizzy [Yarnold] there,” she said of the silver and gold medalists, adding that the retired Pikus-Pace was one of the well-wishers Wednesday.

Martins Dukurs is in line for the first Winter Olympic gold medal for Latvia and the fourth Olympic gold overall for the former Soviet republic.

He was the world No. 1 going into the 2010 and 2014 Olympics but ended up with silver at both Games behind host-nation sliders (Jon Montgomery, Tretiyakov). He has won six of the last seven world championships.

The Dukurs brothers would become the seventh set of siblings to win Winter Olympic medals in the same individual event, according to Olympic historians.

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Sun Yang defends failure to take drug test

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MONTREUX, Switzerland (AP) — Chinese Olympic champion swimmer Sun Yang defended his failure to take a doping test by testifying at a rare public hearing Friday that inspectors drawing blood and urine samples failed to have the proper identification papers.

Courtroom translation problems in both English and Chinese marred the landmark hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, frustrating Sun’s lawyers during his opening statement and cross-examination. Sun’s mother later took the stand in sometimes-combative testimony in the afternoon, admonishing lawyers, “I haven’t finished yet.”

One lawyer said he could not tell if Sun was being evasive or if it was simply a misunderstood interpretation.

The case stems from the three-time Olympic champion’s refusal to cooperate with three anti-doping officials during a random test at his home in China in September 2018.

“During inspection, I realized they don’t have any authorized papers to prove their identification,” Sun testified.

A WADA expert disputed Sun’s account, saying the inspectors’ credentials were in order.

A tribunal appointed by swimming world body FINA gave Sun only a caution in January, but the World Anti-Doping Agency appealed the case to CAS.

Its judges are not expected to give a verdict from Friday’s 12-hour hearing until next year, and if the ruling goes against him, Sun could be banned from the Tokyo Olympics.

The 6-foot, 7-inch Sun became a star in China as its first man to win an Olympic title in swimming. He won the 400m and 1500m at the 2012 London Games. He added gold in the 200m in Rio.

The 27-year-old Sun also has 11 world championships and is a polarizing figure in the sport.

Annoyed by official secrecy surrounding Sun’s three-month ban for a positive test in 2014, Australian rival Mack Horton in Rio called him a drug cheat.

Sun provoked more anger among rivals by winning two world titles in July while the CAS appeal was pending. Horton and Brit Duncan Scott refused to stand on the podium with him in Gwangju, South Korea.

The translation problems at Friday’s hearing began almost from the start, and it was unclear at times how much of the testimony and questions were understood, with both judges and lawyers expressing frustration.

At one point, Sun’s London-based lawyer, Ian Meakin, apologized for asking his client leading questions, saying: “The translation was so bad.”

Richard Young, a lawyer for WADA, said the translation was so bad that “you couldn’t tell if he was monumentally evasive or couldn’t understand the questions.”

When the hearing resumed after a break, juding panel president Franco Frattini also apologized “for the poor quality of the interpretation.”

The court noted that Sun’s team selected the translators, who were replaced at a lunch break by a WADA staff member. Lawyers were told an accurate transcript of the morning sessions would later be provided to all parties.

Sun detailed how he and his entourage had doubted the qualifications of the officials conducting the doping test at his home that escalated into a confrontation.

“How are you able to trust them?” said Sun, whose personal doctor had been summoned to the scene in the middle of the night.

A security guard instructed by Sun’s mother used a hammer to smash a box containing a vial of his blood during a late-night dispute after the swimmer questioned the collection team’s credentials.

Sun said he was not respected by the officials, including a chaperone he said asked to take his photograph.

“This is really ridiculous,” Sun said in translated comments.

Although Sun and his entourage were criticized for their conduct, the first tribunal panel said the sample mission was void and invalid because anti-doping protocol was not followed. Technically, Sun was judged to be not properly notified of needing to give samples.

WADA has asked for a ban of between two and eight years, believing Sun voluntarily refused to submit to give samples.

“That is pretty sensational,” Young, the WADA lawyer, said of the hammer-smashing incident. “But he was nailed on a tampering violation before any of that happened.”

If WADA’s appeal is upheld, Sun risks a longer sanction that could bar him from the Tokyo Games because it would be his second offense. He served a three-month ban imposed by Chinese authorities in 2014 after testing positive for a banned stimulant.

That initial ban was quickly addressed by Sun and his legal team on Friday. He said it was a prescribed medication for a heart issue because he sometimes fainted after training.

Lawyers for WADA repeatedly asked Sun if he had learned in his long career of the serious consequences for refusing to give a sample. He repeatedly answered that the lead anti-doping official had not warned him specifically.

Sun’s anti-doping history was detailed, with 180 samples given at competitions and during training from 2012-18. A total of 60 were organized by the Sweden-based firm IDTM, which sent the collection team to Sun’s home.

CAS judge Philippe Sands pressed Sun whether IDTM staff had shown different kinds of documents of authorization on the 59 previous occasions he gave samples without problems.

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Yevgenia Medvedeva leads as Russians dominate Rostelecom Cup

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As Yevgenia Medvedeva met coach Brian Orser after her Rostelecom Cup short program, she exhaled with one word: Finally.

The world’s dominant skater in the last Olympic cycle returned to her former home of Moscow and performed her highest-scoring short program since the PyeongChang Olympics, tallying 76.93 points for the lead.

“I am happy with my skate, because it finally worked out the way it should,” Medvedeva said, according to the International Skating Union.

Russia also topped the men’s and pairs’ short programs and the rhythm dance. The last time one nation swept all four disciplines at a Grand Prix was Russia at this competition in 2005. Rostelecom Cup concludes with all of the free skates on Saturday. A full TV and live stream schedule is here.

Medvedeva, who must win after Saturday’s free skate for any chance at December’s six-skater Grand Prix Final, topped a short program at a top-level senior international competition for the first time in two years.

Since that last time, she struggled with a broken bone in her foot. She saw then-training partner Alina Zagitova surpass her as the world’s best female skater for Olympic gold (and, this season, other, younger Russian teens). She dealt with growing pains from the transition to a new coach and new environment, with Orser’s group in Toronto.

One short program does not mean the Medvedeva is all the way back, even with all clean jumping passes highlighted by a triple flip-triple toe loop. However, Medvedeva was night and day better than at Skate Canada three weeks ago, when she stumbled out of a double Axel and then fell and slid into the boards on a triple Lutz. Medvedeva replaced the Lutz for a triple loop on Friday.

It might not be possible for her to win on Saturday, though, given second-place Alexandra Trusova has the ability to land four quadruple jumps. (Quads aren’t allowed in women’s short programs, but they are in free skates).

Trusova, a 15-year-old ranked No. 1 in the world, outscored Medvedeva by 19.89 points in the free at Skate Canada three weeks ago. American Mariah Bell is in third, looking for her second straight Grand Prix medal.

Rostelecom Cup Short Programs
Women
1. Yevgenia Medvedeva (RUS) — 76.93
2. Alexandra Trusova (RUS) — 74.21
3. Mariah Bell (USA) — 67.11
4. Alexia Pagani (SUI) — 65.12
5. Ekaterina Ryabova (AZE) — 64.01
6. Satoko Miyahara (JPN) — 63.09
7. Yuna Shiraiwa (JPN) — 60.57
8. Nicole Schott (GER) — 57.29
9. Chen Hongyi (CHN) — 57.17
10. Yuhana Yokoi (JPN) — 56.51
11. Stanislava Konstantinova (RUS) — 54.36
12. Emmi Peltonen (FIN) — 52.46

Men
1. Alexander Samarin (RUS) — 92.81
2. Dmitri Aliev (RUS) — 90.64
3. Makar Ignatov (RUS) — 87.54
4. Shoma Uno (JPN) — 87.29
5. Deniss Vasiljevs (LAT) — 87.08
6. Nam Nguyen (CAN) — 87.01
7. Kazuki Tomono (JPN) — 80.98
8. Michal Brezina (CZE) — 80.27
9. Morisi Kvitelashvili (GEO) — 75.87
10. Alex Krasnozhon (USA) — 75.46
11. Daniel Samohin (ISR) — 56.94
12. Vladimir Litvintsev (AZE) — 54.42

Pairs
1. Aleksandra Boikova/Dmitriy Kozlovskiy (RUS) — 80.14
2. Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (RUS) — 76.81
3. Ksenia Stolbova/Andrei Novoselov (RUS) — 68.74
4. Minerva Fabienne Hase/Nolan Seegert (GER) — 67.74
5. Evelyn Walsh/Trennt Michaud (CAN) — 62.76
6. Miriam Ziegler/Severin Kiefer (AUT) — 61.84
7. Rebecca Ghilardi/Filippo Ambrosini (ITA) — 55.08
8. Audrey Lu/Misha Mitrofanov (USA) — 54.03

Ice Dance
1. Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov (RUS) — 86.09
2. Piper Gilles/Paul Poirier (CAN) — 82.56
3. Sara Hurtado/Kirill Khaliavin (ESP) — 72.01
4. Natalia Kaliszek/Maksym Spodyriev (POL) — 69.97
5. Allison Reed/Saulius Ambrulevicius (LTU) — 59.79
6. Anastasia Shpilevaya/Grigory Smirnov (RUS) — 67.04
7. Anastasia Skoptcova/Kirill Aleshin (RUS) — 66.52
8. Marjorie Lajoie/Zachary Lagha (CAN) — 64.70
9. Adelina Galyavieva/Louis Thauron (FRA) — 63.22
10. Jasmine Tessari/Francesco Fioretti (ITA) — 62.68

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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