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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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Coco Gauff delivers speech, demands change, promises to use platform

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Coco Gauff, the 16-year-old tennis star, delivered a speech at a peaceful protest in her hometown on Wednesday, demanding change and promising to use her platform to spread vital information.

“I’ve been spending all week having tough conversations, trying to educate my non-black friends on how they can help the movement,” Gauff told a crowd, holding an affixed microphone atop a lectern in front of Delray Beach City Hall in Florida, after her grandmother spoke. “You need to use your voice, no matter how big or small your platform is. You need to use your voice. I saw a Dr. [Martin Luther] King quote that said, ‘The silence of the good people is worse than the brutality of the bad people.'”

Earlier this week, Gauff posted links on her social media accounts — with more than 800,000 combined followers — to register to vote and a petition for justice for the death of George Floyd. On Wednesday, she shared video of her participating in a march, saying her hometown police chief was part of the group.

Click here for NBC News’ coverage of Floyd’s death and protests in Minneapolis and around the country.

Last summer, Gauff, then 15, became the youngest player to reach Wimbledon’s fourth round since Jennifer Capriati in 1991. She followed that with third- and fourth-round runs at the U.S. Open and the Australian Open, sandwiched between her first WTA Tour title.

The full text of the beginning of her speech, which she shared on social media:

“Hello everyone. My name is Coco, and who just spoke was my grandma. I think it’s sad that I’m here protesting the same thing that she did 50-plus years ago. So I’m here to tell you guys this: that we must, first, love each other no matter what. We must have the tough conversations with my friends. I’ve been spending all week having tough conversations, trying to educate my non-black friends on how they can help the movement. Second, we need to take action. Yes, we’re all out here protesting, and I’m not of age to vote, but it’s in your hands to vote for my future, for my brother’s future and for your future. So that’s one way to make change. Third, you need to use your voice, no matter how big or small your platform is. You need to use your voice. I saw a Dr. [Martin Luther] King quote that said, ‘The silence of the good people is worse than the brutality of the bad people.’ So, you need to not be silent, because if you are choosing silence, you’re choosing the side of the oppressor. So, I’ve heard many things this past week. One of the things I’ve heard is, well, it’s not my problem. This is why I have to tell you this. If you listen to black music. If you like black culture. If you have black friends. Then this is your fight, too. It’s not your job. It’s not your duty to open your mouth to say, ‘Lil Uzi Vert‘s my favorite artist, but I don’t care what happened to George Floyd.’ Now how does that make sense? So, I demand change now. It’s sad that it takes another black man’s life to be lost for all of this to happen, but we have to understand that this has been going on for years. This is not just about George Floyd. This is about Trayvon Martin. This is about Eric Garner. This is about Breonna Taylor. This is about stuff that’s been happening. I was 8 years old when Trayvon Martin was killed. So why am I here at 16 still demanding change? And it breaks my heart because I’m fighting for the future for my brothers. I’m fighting for the future for my future kids. I’m fighting for the future for my future grandchildren. So, we must change now, and I promise to always use my platform to spread vital information.”

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Hayato Sakamoto, Japanese baseball MVP, tests positive for coronavirus

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Hayato Sakamoto, an MVP of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league, is one of two players from the Yomiuri Giants to test positive for the coronavirus, according to several Japanese media reports.

Sakamoto, a 31-year-old shortstop, and catcher Takumi Oshiro tested positive ahead of the NPB’s planned June 19 start to the season that had been delayed to the coronavirus.

The tests showed traces of the coronavirus, according to Kyodo News.

The Giants canceled Wednesday’s practice game with the Seibu Lions to limit the spread of the virus.

Sakamoto is the reigning Central League MVP. He has been called the Derek Jeter of Japan for playing the same position as the Yankee great and being the veteran captain of Japan’s equivalent club, the Giants, which own a record 22 Japan Series titles.

Sakamoto, who played in the last two World Baseball Classics, has been considered a lock for Japan’s baseball team at the Tokyo Games in 2021 as the most well known active player who hasn’t left for Major League Baseball. MLB is not expected to allow its top players to participate in the Olympics, which would keep the likes of Shohei Ohtani and Masahiro Tanaka off the Olympic roster.

The sport returns to the Olympic program for the first time since 2008, though it is not on the 2024 Olympic program nor guaranteed a place at the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Japan reached the semifinals of all five Olympic baseball tournaments when the sport was previously on the medal program but never took gold.

In a 2018 survey, Sakamoto was ranked as Japan’s eighth-most popular athlete across all sports, foreign or domestic, active or retired.