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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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2020 French Open women’s singles draw, results

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If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.

Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.

Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.

If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.

Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.

The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.

Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.

The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

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2020 French Open men’s singles draw, results

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Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.

Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.

Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.

Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.

The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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