The ripple effects of banning Russia from 2018 Olympics

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MOSCOW (AP) — When the International Olympic Committee board prepares to vote Tuesday on whether to ban Russia from February’s Winter Olympics, its members will decide the fate of numerous medals yet to be won.

If there’s a blanket ban on Russia for its doping offenses at the 2014 Olympics — or restrictions that prompt Russia to boycott the 2018 Games — it could mean the end of compelling storylines and a slide into irrelevance for the men’s hockey tournament.

Gracenote Sports, which forecasts a “virtual medal table” based on recent results, predicts Russia will win 21 medals, six of them gold, if it competes in Pyeongchang.

That puts Russia eighth on predicted gold medals, or joint fifth on total medals. If Russia is banned, opportunities open up for many other countries.

Here is a look at more possible consequences.

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HOCKEY IN JEOPARDY

The men’s hockey tournament at the next Winter Olympics is already the first without the NHL’s participation since 1994, but banning Russia could diminish it even further.

The Moscow-based Kontinental Hockey League is widely considered the world’s second-strongest league, and it’s threatening to withdraw all its players from the Olympics if Russia is banned.

Russia would otherwise be the gold medal favorite thanks to ex-NHL players like Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk, who now play in the KHL.

The U.S., Canada and other countries also plan to use KHL players, so losing them could deal a heavy blow to the audience figures of a tournament that’s already struggling to attract attention.

The International Ice Hockey Federation called Tuesday for “full participation of all clean Russian athletes,” saying that punishing Russia too harshly would put “the health of ice hockey at risk.”

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BACKLASH

A Russia ban could also cause a backlash against athletes perceived to benefit.

Gabriela Koukalova of the Czech Republic, one of the biggest names in biathlon, called for a ban on Russia on her Facebook page last week, only to be deluged with hundreds of insults in English and Russian.

Alongside sexist putdowns, some suggested Koukalova — who is in line to pick up a relay bronze from 2014 due to a Russian disqualification — wouldn’t be safe if she competes in Russia again.

The issue of Russian doping has caused rifts between athletes, too.

During February’s world biathlon championships, French athlete Martin Fourcade walked off the podium when the Russian mixed relay team — which included an athlete newly returned from a doping ban — was awarded its medals.

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AHN’S RETURN

One of Pyeongchang’s most compelling storylines depends on Russia taking part.

Viktor Ahn was a star speedskater for South Korea under the name Ahn Hyun-soo, winning three Olympic gold medals, but his career seemed finished when he failed to make the team for Vancouver in 2010.

Ahn then stunned skating fans by switching to Russia and winning three more gold medals in Sochi.

His return home to South Korea in a Russian uniform for the Pyeongchang Olympics is hotly anticipated.

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NORDIC OPPORTUNITIES

With no Russians, the Nordic events would be shaken up.

Cross-country skier Sergei Ustyugov won two gold and three silver medals at February’s world championships in a compelling rivalry with Norwegian Martin Johnsrud Sundby.

If he’s absent from Pyeongchang, that opens up opportunities for the Norwegians, plus countries like Finland, Italy and Canada.

The United States is hunting its first ever women’s cross-country medal, an easier task if Russia isn’t there.

The absence of Russia’s top biathlete, Anton Shipulin, would help Germany and France’s medal chances.

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YOUNG STARS BARRED

A blanket ban for offenses from 2014 inevitably hits athletes who weren’t part of any doping system.

There’s been no suggestion of any wrongdoing by reigning two-time world figure skating champion Evgenia Medvedeva — not least because she was just 14 years old in February 2014.

Medvedeva’s teammate Alina Zagitova, also a medal contender for Pyeongchang, was just 11 during Sochi.

Sports like figure skating and curling have seen some accusations of wrongdoing by athletes around the time of the Sochi Olympics, but no cases have resulted in bans.

The only figure skater so far to have faced an IOC disciplinary panel, 2014 gold medalist Adelina Sotnikova, was cleared.

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OTHER OPTIONS

The IOC has never before imposed a blanket ban for doping and refused to do so for last year’s Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Instead, the IOC passed the decision to the various sports federations, resulting in Russia being kicked out of track and field — except for one athlete — and weightlifting, but allowing Russia to field full teams in many sports.

The Winter Olympics are different, not least because the most serious allegations against Russian officials relate to its hosting of the last Winter Games in Sochi in 2014.

The IOC has already banned 25 individual Russians for doping in Sochi. Even if the Russian team competes, those 25 won’t be there unless they can overturn those bans on appeal.

Besides a blanket ban, the IOC could also force Russians to compete as neutrals, without their flag or anthem.

Neutral status has been used before when a country is under United Nations sanctions — like Yugoslavia in 1992 during the conflict there — or last year when Kuwait was suspended by the IOC due to government interference in sports. The Kuwaitis were officially known as “Independent Olympic Athletes.”

A similar approach was used for Russia at this year’s world track championships, but it often seemed to draw extra attention to the Russians who competed. As “neutral” high jumper Ilya Ivanyuk said, “everyone knows where we’re from.”

Russian authorities fiercely oppose neutral status as a symbolic humiliation but have stopped short of saying they would boycott the Olympics if it came to pass. For many of Russia’s critics, taking away the flag does nothing to remove questionable Russian competitors.

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MORE: Yevgenia Medvedeva to speak at IOC meeting on Russia, reports say

U.S. men’s gymnastics team named for world championships

Asher Hong
Allison and John Cheng/USA Gymnastics
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Asher Hong, Colt Walker and world pommel horse champion Stephen Nedoroscik were named to the last three spots on the U.S. men’s gymnastics team for the world championships that start in three weeks.

Brody Malone and Donnell Whittenburg earned the first spots on the team by placing first and second in the all-around at August’s U.S. Championships.

Hong, Walker and Nedoroscik were chosen by a committee after two days of selection camp competition in Colorado Springs this week. Malone and Whittenburg did not compete at the camp.

Hong, 18, will become the youngest U.S. man to compete at worlds since Danell Leyva in 2009. He nearly earned a spot on the team at the U.S. Championships, but erred on his 12th and final routine of that meet to drop from second to third in the all-around. At this week’s camp, Hong had the lowest all-around total of the four men competing on all six apparatuses, but selectors still chose him over Tokyo Olympians Yul Moldauer and Shane Wiskus.

Walker, a Stanford junior, will make his world championships debut. He would have placed second at nationals in August if a bonus system for attempting difficult skills wasn’t in place. With that bonus system not in place at the selection camp, he had the highest all-around total. The bonus system is not used at international meets such as world championships.

Nedoroscik rebounded from missing the Tokyo Olympic team to become the first American to win a world title on pommel horse last fall. Though he is the lone active U.S. male gymnast with a global gold medal, he was in danger of missing this five-man team because of struggles on the horse at the U.S. Championships. Nedoroscik, who does not compete on the other five apparatuses, put up his best horse routine of the season on the last day of the selection camp Wednesday.

Moldauer, who tweeted that he was sick all last week, was named the traveling alternate for worlds in Liverpool, Great Britain. It would be the first time that Moldauer, who was fourth in the all-around at last fall’s worlds, does not compete at worlds since 2015.

Though the U.S. has not made the team podium at an Olympics or worlds since 2014, it is boosted this year by the absence of Olympic champion Russia, whose athletes are banned indefinitely due to the war in Ukraine. In recent years, the U.S. has been among the nations in the second tier behind China, Japan and Russia, including in Tokyo, where the Americans were fifth.

The U.S. women’s world team of five will be announced after a selection camp in two weeks. Tokyo Olympians Jade Carey and Jordan Chiles are in contention.

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Paris 2024 Olympic marathon route unveiled

Paris 2024 Olympic Marathon
Paris 2024
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The 2024 Olympic marathon route will take runners from Paris to Versailles and back.

The route announcement was made on the 233rd anniversary of one of the early, significant events of the French Revolution: the Women’s March on Versailles — “to pay tribute to the thousands of women who started their march at city hall to Versailles to take up their grievances to the king and ask for bread,” Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet said.

Last December, organizers announced the marathons will start at Hôtel de Ville (city hall, opposite Notre-Dame off the Seine River) and end at Les Invalides, a complex of museums and monuments one mile southeast of the Eiffel Tower.

On Wednesday, the rest of the route was unveiled — traversing the banks of the Seine west to the Palace of Versailles and then back east, passing the Eiffel Tower before the finish.

The men’s and women’s marathons will be on the last two days of the Games at 8 a.m. local time (2 a.m. ET). It will be the first time that the women’s marathon is held on the last day of the Games after the men’s marathon traditionally occupied that slot.

A mass public marathon will also be held on the Olympic marathon route. The date has not been announced.

The full list of highlights among the marathon course:

• Hôtel de ville de Paris (start)
• Bourse de commerce
• Palais Brongniart
• Opéra Garnier
• Place Vendôme
• Jardin des Tuileries
• The Louvre
• Place de la Concorde
• The bridges of Paris
(Pont de l’Alma; Alexandre III;
Iéna; and more)
• Grand Palais
• Palais de Tokyo
• Jardins du Trocadéro
• Maison de la Radio
• Manufacture et Musées
nationaux de Sèvres
• Forêt domaniale
des Fausses-Reposes
• Monuments Pershing –
Lafayette
• Château de Versailles
• Forêt domaniale de Meudon
• Parc André Citroën
• Eiffel Tower
• Musée Rodin
• Esplanade des Invalides (finish)

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