IOC weighs Russia Olympic ban; how, when decision will be made

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Russia could be banned from competing at the PyeongChang Olympics, a prospect that President Vladimir Putin has already warned would be humiliating for his country.

The decision will come Tuesday when the International Olympic Committee’s executive board meets in Lausanne, less than nine weeks before the Olympics open Feb. 9 in South Korea.

The 14-member board, which includes two Americans, has received a so-far confidential report from an IOC-appointed panel. That panel was asked to assess if Russian state agencies did organize the doping program used at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

IOC President Thomas Bach, a German lawyer long seen as an ally of Russia, is scheduled to announce the decision at 1:30 p.m. ET. A press conference will stream live here.

It might not be the last word, however. Russia can challenge any IOC sanction by appealing to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Here is a look at the case and the possible results:

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PUNISHMENT OPTIONS

— A total ban on Russia competing in PyeongChang.

— Some Russian athletes compete, if judged to be clean under long-term doping controls operating to international standards. They would be classed as neutral athletes competing under the Olympic flag, and would be denied hearing the Russian anthem if they win. Those rules were imposed on Russians at the world track and field championships in August.

Putin has said either of those outcomes would be humiliating and could provoke a Russian boycott.

— The IOC board could ask the seven governing bodies for Winter Olympic sports to decide on individual athlete eligibility. That compromise applied to the Rio Olympics.

— Impose a fine on the Russian Olympic Committee. Tens of millions of dollars could go toward anti-doping work worldwide.

A financial penalty would be “grossly inappropriate,” said Joseph de Pencier, chief executive of iNADO, a global group of national anti-doping agencies.

“It would send exactly the wrong message,” de Pencier said. “It’s pay to play.”

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TIMELINE

A big red flag regarding Russian doping went up in July 2013, weeks before Moscow hosted the world track and field championships.

British newspaper the Mail on Sunday reported wrongdoing by Grigory Rodchenkov and the Moscow laboratory he directed, but its claims were mostly ignored.

In December 2014, 10 months after the Sochi Olympics, German network ARD broadcast a film by journalist Hajo Seppelt about extensive doping in Russian track and field using footage secretly filmed by whistleblowers.

The World Anti-Doping Agency later appointed an investigation panel chaired by Richard Pound, a long-serving IOC member. That panel also included Richard McLaren.

Their reports in November 2015 and January 2016 led to the suspension of Russia’s track and field federation, anti-doping agency and the Moscow lab.

The Pound team interviewed Rodchenkov and concluded he was a key part of a conspiracy of supplying banned drugs, covering up doping cases and extorting athletes.

Rodchenkov fled to the United States. May 2016 reports detailed how, as lab director for the Sochi Olympics, he helped Russian athletes cheat. He said 15 of Russia’s 33 medals were tainted.

WADA appointed McLaren to verify the fresh allegations. Within two months, he delivered an interim report before the Rio Olympics which upheld Rodchenkov’s evidence.

“It can’t possibly be done by a couple of rogue individuals, or even a rogue department of an organization,” McLaren said last week of Russia’s doping program.

The IOC then set up two commissions. One chaired by IOC member Denis Oswald verified McLaren’s evidence to prosecute cases of Russian athletes from Sochi.

A second, now chaired by a former president of Switzerland, Samuel Schmid, was to assess if an “institutional conspiracy” existed.

The Oswald judging panel began giving verdicts last month.

By Monday, 25 Russians have been disqualified from Sochi and banned from the Olympics for life, and 11 medals were stripped. One Russian was cleared — figure skating champion Adelina Sotnikova.

Schmid has received a 50-page sworn affidavit from Rodchenkov for his report. It was set to be delivered to IOC board members Monday.

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SOCHI PROGRAM

Rodchenkov said some Russian athletes at the Sochi Olympics used a fast-acting “Duchess” cocktail of performance-enhancing steroids dissolved in alcohol.

During the Winter Games, the athletes were protected by a urine-swapping scheme to replace dirty samples with clean urine stored months earlier.

The late-night swaps went via a “mouse hole” into a secured room at the Sochi testing laboratory.

Secret service agents had found a way to break into tamper-proof sample bottles and return them with clean urine, Rodchenkov claimed.

Cleaned-up samples could further be tampered with by adding salt to make them more credible. In cases of some players in Russia’s women’s hockey team who did not have stored urine, male DNA was found in retesting of samples that are routinely stored by the IOC for 10 years in Lausanne.

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RUSSIAN DENIALS

Russia denies a state-sponsored doping program existed. It blames Rodchenkov, calling him a rogue employee, and wants the scientist extradited from the United States, where he is a protected witness.

“There has never been and will never be any state programs related to doping,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko said Friday ahead of the soccer World Cup draw in Moscow.

Mutko, as sports minister in 2014, was implicated in the Pound and McLaren investigations, and also in Rodchenkov’s hand-written diaries which were made available to the IOC.

Oswald’s panel called them “significant” evidence before The New York Times published extracts last week.

Mutko said Friday he met “a number of times” with IOC commissions, and risks being banned from the Olympics. The IOC board blocked his accreditation for Rio last year.

Still, Mutko remains president of Russia’s soccer federation and head of the World Cup organizing committee.

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RIO PRECEDENT?

Bach’s executive board did not impose a blanket ban on Russia before the Rio Olympics, passing on decision-making power to sports governing bodies. More than 100 Russian athletes were removed from a nearly 400-strong team.

Then, Bach was seen as an ally of Russia and a personal friend of Putin.

The “important difference” this time, Bach said last month, was that accused Russian athletes have now had due legal process and a fair hearing from the IOC.

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WHO WILL DECIDE

The IOC board will meet at a five-star hotel in Lausanne. It is chaired by Bach and includes two members of the Oswald Commission — Oswald and Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr.

The board also includes a member of the Schmid Commission, Robin Mitchell, and two Americans: Anita De Frantz and Angela Ruggiero, a four-time Olympic hockey medalist.

International Ski Federation president Gian-Franco Kasper represents the winter sports, which mostly oppose a blanket ban.

They will meet with world figure skating champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, who joined a Russian delegation that will argue for a lighter sanction.

Rodchenkov’s lawyer, Jim Walden, told The Associated Press his client hopes “Russia would recognize the severity and confess, and work itself quickly back into the world sports community.”

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MORE: Ripple effects of banning Russia from Olympics

Noah Lyles runs personal best and is coming for Usain Bolt’s world record

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Noah Lyles ran a personal-best time in the 60m on Saturday, then reaffirmed record-breaking intentions for the 100m and, especially, the 200m, where Usain Bolt holds the fastest times in history.

Lyles, the world 200m champion, won the 60m sprint in 6.51 seconds at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, clipping Trayvon Bromell by two thousandths in his first top-level meet of the year. Bromell, the world 100m bronze medalist, is a past world indoor 60m champion and has a better start than Lyles, which is crucial in a six-second race.

But on Saturday, Lyles ran down Bromell and shaved four hundredths off his personal best. It bodes well for Lyles’ prospects come the spring and summer outdoor season in his better distances — the 100m and 200m.

“This is the moment I’ve been working, like, seven years for,” he said. “We’re not just coming for the 200m world record. We’re coming for all the world records.”

Last July, Lyles broke Michael Johnson‘s 26-year-old American record in the 200m, winning the world title in 19.31 seconds. Only Bolt (19.19) and fellow Jamaican Yohan Blake (19.26) have run faster.

Lyles has since spoken openly about targeting Bolt’s world record from 2009.

How does an indoor 60m time play into that? Well, Lyles said that his success last year sprung from a strong indoor season, when he lowered his personal best in the 60m from 6.57 to 6.56 and then 6.55. He followed that by lowering his personal best in the 200m from 19.50 to 19.31.

He believes that slicing an even greater chunk off his 60m best on Saturday means special things are on the horizon come the major summer meets — the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in July (on the same Oregon track where he ran the American 200m record) and the world championships in Budapest in August.

After focusing on the 200m last year, Lyles plans to race both the 100m and the 200m this year. He has a bye into the 200m at world championships, so expect him to race the 100m at USATF Outdoors, where the top three are in line to join world champ Fred Kerley on the world team.

Lyles’ personal best in the 100m is 9.86, a tenth off the best times from Kerley, Bromell and 2019 World 100m champ Christian Coleman. Bolt is in his own tier at 9.58.

Also Saturday, Grant Holloway extended a near-nine-year, 50-plus-race win streak in the 60m hurdles, clocking 7.38 seconds, nine hundredths off his world record. Olympic teammate Daniel Roberts was second in 7.46. Trey Cunningham, who took silver behind Holloway in the 110m hurdles at last July’s world outdoor championships, was fifth in 7.67.

Aleia Hobbs won the women’s 60m in 7.02 seconds, one week after clocking a personal-best 6.98 to become the third-fastest American in history after Gail Devers and Marion Jones (both 6.95). Hobbs, 26, placed sixth in the 100m at last July’s world championships.

Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, the Olympic and world 400m hurdles champion competing for the first time since August, and Jamaican Shericka Jackson, the world 200m champion, were ninth and 10th in the 60m heats, just missing the eight-woman final.

In the women’s pole vault, Bridget Williams, seventh at last year’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships, upset the last two Olympic champions — American Katie Moon and Greek Katerina Stefanidi. Williams won with a 4.63-meter clearance (and then cleared 4.71 and a personal-best 4.77). Stefanidi missed three attempts at 4.63, while Moon went out at 4.55.

The indoor track and field season continues with the Millrose Games in New York City next Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, NBCSports.com/live, the NBC Sports app and Peacock.

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Birk Irving, last man on Olympic team, extends breakout season with Mammoth win

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One year ago, Birk Irving was the last man to make the four-man U.S. Olympic ski halfpipe team. Since, he continued to climb the ranks in arguably the nation’s strongest discipline across skiing and snowboarding.

Irving earned his second World Cup win this season, taking the U.S. Grand Prix at Mammoth Mountain, California, on Friday.

Irving posted a 94-point final run, edging Canadian Brendan Mackay by one point. David Wise, the two-time Olympic champion who won his fifth X Games Aspen title last Sunday, was third.

A tribute was held to 2015 World champion Kyle Smaine, a U.S. halfpipe skier who died in an avalanche in Japan last Sunday.

“We’re all skiing the best we have because we’re all skiing with Kyle in our hearts,” Irving said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “We’re skiing for him, and we know he’s looking down on us. We miss you Kyle. We love you. Thank you for keeping us safe in the pipe today.”

Irving also won the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain, Colorado, on Dec. 17. Plus, the 23-year-old from Colorado had his best career X Games Aspen finish last Sunday, taking second.

The next major event is the world championships in Georgia (the country, not the state) in early March. Irving was third at the last worlds in 2021, then fifth at the Olympics last February.

The U.S. has been the strongest nation in men’s ski halfpipe since it debuted at the Olympics in 2014. Wise won the first two gold medals. Alex Ferreira won silver and bronze at the last two Olympics. Aaron Blunck is a world champion and X Games champion.

Irving is younger than all of them and has beaten all of them at multiple competitions this season.

New Zealand’s Nico Porteous, the reigning Olympic gold medalist, hasn’t competed since the Games after undergoing offseason knee surgery.

In snowboarding events at Mammoth, Americans Julia Marino and Lyon Farrell earned slopestyle wins by posting the top qualification scores. The finals were canceled due to wind.

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