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Chris Froome: ‘Wealth of information’ shows I’m no cheater

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LONDON (AP) — Chris Froome’s renewed protestations of innocence on Thursday were accompanied by doubts about why the four-time Tour de France champion was not immediately suspended for failing a drug test.

Froome was ordered to explain to the International Cycling Union why a urine sample he provided at the Vuelta a España in September showed a concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol that was twice the permitted level.

While accepting the case is “damaging” for a sport scarred for years by doping scandals, Froome maintained Team Sky has the evidence to prove he is not guilty of cheating.

“I know that within me fundamentally I have followed the protocol and I have not overstepped any boundaries,” Froome said, “and I hope by the end of this process that will be clear to everyone and I’ll be exonerated of any wrongdoing.”

Froome offered a defense of his integrity in an interview with Sky, the broadcaster that owns his cycling team.

“I am being tested every single day of the race that I am in the leader’s jersey, I knew I was being tested,” Froome said. “We also have a wealth of information from within the team of what I ate every single day, how many times I have stopped to pee every day.

“The detail of the information that we have been able to provide is vast.”

Sky and the UCI confirmed Froome’s failed test early Wednesday in response to media reports.

Rival German rider Tony Martin, the 2012 Olympic time trial silver medalist, said he believed something was amiss with the UCI’s handling of the case.

“I am totally angry,” was posted on the four-time world champion’s Facebook. “There is definitely a double standard being applied in the Christopher Froome case. Other athletes are suspended immediately after a positive test. He and his team are given time by the UCI to explain it all. I do not know of any similar case in the recent past. That is a scandal, and he should at least not have been allowed to appear in the world championships.

“Not only the public but also I have immediately the impression that there is wheeling and dealing going on behind the scenes, agreements are being made and ways are being sought as to how to get out of this case. Do he and his team enjoy a special status?”

The UCI did not immediately respond to a request for comment about its actions, which Martin denounced as a “major blow to the difficult anti-doping fight.”

“We need a (consistent) and transparent approach by the UCI,” was posted on Martin’s Facebook. “What is going on here is (inconsistent), not transparent, unprofessional and unfair. Our credibility is at stake!”

Sky said Froome had to take an increased dosage of salbutamol without exceeding the permissible dose after experiencing “acute asthma symptoms” during the final week of the Spanish Vuelta, which he won.

Salbutamol helps expand lung capacity and can be used as a performance-enhancing drug to increase endurance.

Commonly marketed as Ventolin, salbutamol is classified as a beta-2 agonist and WADA allows it to be taken through inhalation only, in limited amounts.

“It’s sad seeing the misconceptions that are out there about athletes & salbutamol use,” was posted on Froome’s Twitter. “My hope is that this doesn’t prevent asthmatic athletes from using their inhalers in emergency situations for fear of being judged. It is not something to be ashamed of.”

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Unsere Glaubwürdigkeit steht auf dem Spiel!Ich bin total wütend. Im Fall Christopher Froome wird definitiv mit…

Posted by Tony Martin on Wednesday, December 13, 2017

WATCH LIVE: U.S. Figure Skating Championships rhythm dance, women’s free skate

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Can Bradie Tennell hold off 14-year-old Alysa Liu? The U.S. Figure Skating Championships crowns its female medalists on Friday, live on NBC Sports.

Action starts with the rhythm dance at 4:30 p.m. ET for NBC Sports Gold subscribers, with NBCSN broadcast coverage joining in at 5. The women start at 7:25 on Gold, with NBC TV coverage starting at 8.

LIVE STREAM: Rhythm dance — Gold | NBCSN | Skate Order
LIVE STREAM: Women’s free skate — Gold | NBC | Skate Order

Tennell topped Thursday’s short program with a clean slate of jumps, plus the highest artistic score.

She bettered Liu in the short program last year, too, but fell in the free skate to take silver. Liu, meanwhile, landed two triple Axels to win by 3.92 points and become the youngest U.S. champion in history.

Another skater to watch is Gracie Gold, the two-time U.S. champion competing at nationals for the first time in three years. Gold, lauded for her return from an eating disorder, depression and anxiety, struggled with jumps in the short and is in 13th place of 18 skaters.

In the rhythm dance, past U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue and Madison Chock and Evan Bates are expected to begin a duel that should come down to Saturday’s free dance.

Key Skate Times
5:32 p.m. — Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue
5:38 — Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker
5:44 — Madison Chock/Evan Bates
8:07 — Gracie Gold
10:03 — Karen Chen
10:11 — Amber Glenn
10:27 — Bradie Tennell
10:35 — Mariah Bell
10:43 — Alysa Liu

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NATIONALS: TV Schedule | Full Results

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.

Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, who defected, eyes Tokyo Games as German or refugee

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LÜNEN, Germany (AP) — Iran’s only female Olympic medalist said Friday she wants to compete for Germany after defecting from her native country.

Kimia Alizadeh is trying to rebuild her life and career after she announced this month she had left Iran, citing sexism on the part of officials there.

“Even if I do not make it to the Olympics, it does not matter because I have made up my mind,” Alizadeh said at a meeting with journalists at a taekwondo club.

“I am sure that I will be judged by many, but I am just 21 years old and can attend world tournaments and future Olympics. However, I will spare no effort to get the best result at this time as well.”

She added she doesn’t expect ever to compete in Iran again.

Alizadeh was just 18 when she won bronze in taekwondo at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, catapulting her to instant fame at home. Despite Iran’s long history of victories in men’s wrestling and weightlifting, no Iranian woman had ever won a medal before.

However, Alizadeh was frustrated with life in Iran despite her Olympic success. In an Instagram post this month announcing she had left Iran, she accused Iranian officials of sexism and criticized wearing the mandatory hijab headscarf.

Alizadeh hasn’t given up hope of being able to compete at this year’s Olympics in Tokyo. However, getting there would require highly unusual exemptions from the usual rules on nationality switches and qualification, regardless of whether she tries to represent Germany or the International Olympic Committee’s refugee team.

Alizadeh spent time in the Netherlands before heading to Germany this week to meet with taekwondo officials there. The German Taekwondo Union has spoken up in favor of Alizadeh staying in the country in what it calls a first step toward her gaining nationality and becoming eligible to compete for Germany.

“If the German government assists me and I can go through this process as fast as possible, I might be able to make it to the Olympics, too,” she said.

In recent years, many Iranian athletes have left their country, citing government pressure. In September, the former world judo champion Saeed Mollaei moved to Germany after walking off the Iranian team at the world championships in Japan. He said Iranian officials had tried to force him to withdraw so as not to compete against an Israeli opponent.

Alireza Faghani, an Iranian international soccer referee, also left Iran for Australia last year.

Alizadeh said she just wants “a peaceful life,” and she’s not looking back.

“I have a great feeling to have made a decision for my life that would definitely change my future,” she said. “I think it is not even clear enough now and. in the years to come, I will understand what a good decision I made.”

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MORE: Full list of U.S. athletes qualified for Tokyo Olympics