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Justin Gatlin fires coach, denies doping

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World 100m champion Justin Gatlin fired coach Dennis Mitchell following an undercover investigation reported Tuesday that appeared to show people linked to the sprinter offering to supply performance-enhancing drugs.

“I was shocked and surprised to learn that my coach would have anything to do with even the appearance of these current accusations,” was posted on Gatlin’s Instagram. “I fired him as soon as I found out about this.”

The IAAF’s Athletics Integrity Unit said it is investigating the allegations in conjunction with the United States Anti-Doping Agency. The report was published in Tuesday’s edition of British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

“These allegations are very serious,” said Brett Clothier, head of the AIU, “and strike at the heart of the integrity of athletics.”

IAAF President Seb Coe said the allegations are “extremely serious.”

The newspaper reported that Mitchell and a track agent, Robert Wagner, met undercover reporters at a training camp in Florida and offered to supply and administer testosterone and human growth hormone for an actor training for a film, for a fee of $250,000.

The newspaper said Mitchell and Wagner were secretly recorded saying the use of banned substances in track was widespread.

Wagner called the newspaper report “deeply flawed” and said it was based on things he said that were not true.

“I made up the comments to impress them, led on by a make-believe scenario,” Wagner said in a statement to The Associated Press. “It was just big talk. I did not actually source or supply the substances the reporters asked for but stupidly claimed I could.”

Wagner also said he notified the Athletics Integrity Unit of the situation four weeks ago.

The 35-year-old Gatlin, who also won the 2004 Olympic 100m, previously served two doping bans.

“I am not using and have not used PEDs,” was posted on Gatlin’s Instagram. “All legal options are on the table as I will not allow others to lie about me like this. I have no further comments as it is now a legal matter. They will next hear from my lawyer.”

Coe said the IAAF has started to focus on the “influences that surround athletes” and stressed that all support personnel are bound by the governing body’s anti-doping code and integrity code of conduct.

Gatlin served a four-year doping ban from 2006 to 2010 after testing positive for excessive testosterone.

He returned to competition, taking Olympic 100m bronze in 2012 and silver in 2016 behind the now-retired Usain Bolt. He has said he plans to go for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Gatlin reportedly worked under Mitchell since November 2011.

Mitchell sprinted in the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympics and was hit with a two-year ban in 1999 and testified that his coach, Trevor Graham, coerced him into taking growth hormone.

Gatlin was coached by Graham From September 2002 through his 2006 suspension. Graham, the disgraced former coach of Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery, was heavily involved in the BALCO drug scandal.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts earn maximum points on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One other gymnast can get to the maximum points on vault with one win between the last two stops (and others with two).

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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