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Sochi doping lab now a restaurant serving ‘B Sample,’ ‘Meldonium’

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Would you drink a sample from the Sochi doping lab?

The building at the center of a Russia doping scandal which rocked the 2014 Winter Olympics now hosts a restaurant celebrating its notoriety amid a tourism boom.

Former lab director Grigory Rodchenkov has testified to doping Russian stars and covering up for them, but four years on, the cocktails offered in the same space contain only alcohol, not steroids.

There’s the B Sample, named after the second test that often confirms whether a doping athlete is guilty. It’s a punchy shot of tequila, sambuca and hot sauce.

Meldonium, the substance for which tennis star Maria Sharapova tested positive in 2016, now lends its name to a mixture of absinthe and Red Bull.

Performance-enhancing? Probably not.

The unusual menu is “so as not to forget the story of this building … it’s (about) history,” manager Elena Dyatlova told The Associated Press, though she considers the doping scandals “really unpleasant for Russia.”

Rodchenkov says he served a different kind of cocktail back in 2014.

He’s testified he dispensed steroids dissolved in vermouth or whiskey to top Russian athletes ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in a state-backed doping program, then covered up their drug use by swapping tainted samples for clean ones through a hole in the wall of the lab’s supposedly secure storeroom.

Any evidence of that hole seems long gone after remodeling to create the restaurant and space for other businesses.

The International Olympic Committee upheld Rodchenkov’s testimony despite objections from the Russian government.

The IOC banned 43 Russian athletes from the Olympics for life and forced Russia to compete under a neutral flag in PyeongChang.

Away from the lab, Sochi is a city defined by its Olympic legacy.

Tourists flock for selfies in front of plaques in the Olympic Park bearing the names of 2014 medalists, including those sanctioned by the IOC.

Time and the weather have nearly erased some names, just as the IOC erased 13 Russian medals from its 2014 records.

For many visitors, the banned athletes are still champions.

“I react very badly to this. I think our athletes shouldn’t be left like this and shouldn’t be competing under a neutral flag,” said Karina Tolmachyova, a lawyer from the industrial city of Saratov on her first skiing holiday in Sochi.

The Russian government spent an estimated $51 billion on the Olympics and related infrastructure for Sochi, and the city is seeing the benefits.

Deputy mayor Sergei Yurchenko said the population has boomed by 50 percent to 600,000 people since the Olympics as Russians are tempted to move south for better weather.

The rapid growth is forcing local authorities to build more schools.

Sochi offers skiing in winter and beaches in summer, and Yurchenko said 6.5 million tourists visited last year, around 85 percent of them Russians.

“The Olympics was a big boost to the whole development of the city,” he told the AP. “We consider the city’s become practically like new, as if it were built all over again.” That’s certainly true of its tourism attractions, though many older houses still remain.

Political turbulence has affected other once-favored destinations, indirectly helping to boost Sochi’s profile.

Russian visitors spurned Turkey for much of 2016 when the two countries’ governments clashed over the Turkish shootdown of a Russian fighter plane in November 2015.

Flights to Egypt were suspended in 2015 and will only start again next month after an airliner carrying Russian tourists was destroyed in a suspected bombing.

In the Caucasus mountains above Sochi, business is strong, too.

During the Olympics, the mountain village of Rosa Khutor was the base for many snow sports.

However, numerous new shops were unfinished, prompting visitors to wonder if they’d ever open once the Olympics were finished.

Now there’s an array of businesses chiefly aimed at the wealthier Russians who can afford ski lessons, while a casino draws visitors from Turkey — where gambling is severely restricted — and a concert hall advertises shows by star Russian musicians.

The next step for Sochi is the soccer World Cup in June and July.

The seafront stadium that held the Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies is now reconfigured as a soccer stadium to welcome teams including Cristiano Ronaldo‘s Portugal and world champion Germany.

Local authorities are hoping a successful World Cup will bring more foreign tourists. However, its sporting legacy is far from clear.

The Fisht Olympic Stadium has hosted just seven soccer games to date, four of them at last summer’s Confederations Cup. Sochi no longer has a professional club.

FC Sochi played one game last year in front of 6,000 fans in the 47,000-seat arena, then soon after said it was “going on a one-year break” to rethink its strategy.

There have been no updates on the club’s status since June. Management did not respond to a request for comment.

Since 2003, there have been five failed attempts to run a club in the city, not counting the most recent incarnation of FC Sochi.

All collapsed due to financial problems.

“The issue is that clubs in Russia are usually financed by (government) budgets, but in this case the Sochi city budget isn’t able to support clubs,” Yurchenko said. “We’re all hoping that an investor will come in after the World Cup and we’ll enter the 2019 season with a Sochi football club.”

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MORE: List of Russia Olympic medals stripped, new Sochi medal standings

Mondo Duplantis, Sandi Morris miss attempts at pole vault records

Mondo Duplantis
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Sweden’s Mondo Duplantis and U.S. athlete Sandi Morris took turns attempting world records in the pole vault Wednesday at the Meeting d’Athlétsime Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais meet at Arena Stade Regional in Liévin, France, but both were unable to clear the bar.

Duplantis, aiming to set the world record for third time in February, had no misses leading up to his record attempts. U.S. vaulter Sam Kendricks, who has won the last two world championships, cleared 5.90m but dropped out after one attempt at 5.95m. Duplantis passed on that height, then cleared 6.07m to warm up for his shot at 6.19m, just shy of 20 feet, 3 3/4 inches.

Morris’ attempt to tie Jennifer Suhr‘s world indoor record of 5.03m from 2016 was more of a surprise. Morris holds the U.S. outdoor record at 5.00m but had never done better than 4.95m indoors. She won Wednesday’s competition with a clearance of 4.83m and asked to go immediately to 5.03m, or 16 feet, 6 inches.

Yelena Isinbayeva still holds the outdoor record of 5.06m, set in 2009. Morris is second on the all-time list and is the only athlete other than Isinbayeva or Suhr to clear 5 meters either indoors or outdoors.

In the men’s pole vault, Duplantis’ clearance of 6.18m Feb. 15 in Glasgow is the best vault indoors or outdoors.  Sergey Bubka still has the highest clearance outdoors at 6.14m. Bubka also held the indoor record of 6.15m for more than 20 years, finally losing it to Renaud Lavillenie in 2014. Duplantis cleared 6.17m Feb. 9 in Poland, then added another centimeter last week in Glasgow.

READ: Duplantis raises record in Glasgow

Duplantis, Lavillenie and Bubka are the only vaulters to clear 20 feet. Kendricks cleared 6.06m, or 19-10 1/2, last summer, the highest outdoor clearance by anyone other than Bubka.

Duplantis grew up in Louisiana and attended LSU for one year, setting the NCAA indoor (5.92m) and outdoor (6.00m) before turning pro, though he was upset in the NCAA final by South Dakota junior Chris Nilsen.

Also at Wednesday’s meet:

Ronnie Baker ran 6.49 seconds in the 60m semifinals and lowered that to 6.44 in the final, second only to Christian Coleman this season. Demek Kemp finished second and tied his personal best of 6.50.

Nia Ali and Christina Clemons finished 1-2 in the women’s 60m hurdles with identical times of 7.92. Ali is the reigning world champion and Olympic silver medalist in the 100m hurdles. She also won world indoor titles in 2014 and 2016.

Two Ethiopian runners set the fastest times of the season Samuel Tefera in the 1,500m (3:35.54) and Getnet Wale in the 3,000m (7:32.80). Wale was fourth in the 3,000m steeplechase in the 2019 world championships.

Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, racing in his home country of France, won the 60m hurdles in 7.47, second this season to Grant Holloway‘s 7.38 last week.

The World Athletics Indoor Tour ends Friday in Madrid. The world indoor championships originally scheduled for March in Nanjing, China, have been postponed a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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Susan Dunklee extends decade of surprises for U.S. biathletes

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When Susan Dunklee‘s time held up for second place in Friday’s 7.5km sprint, she became the first U.S. biathlete to win two world championship medals in her career and earned the sixth medal for the U.S. in world biathlon championship history.

Four of those medals have come in the past eight years.

First was Tim Burke, who had gained some fame among biathlon fans with his three World Cup podiums in the 2009-10 season and his relationship with German biathlete Andrea Henkel, who would win two Olympic gold medals and eight world championships before retiring and marrying Burke.

In that season, Burke led the World Cup briefly but faded and didn’t do well in the Olympics. But in 2012-13, he finished 10th in the World Cup overall and ended the American drought in the world championships, finishing second in the individual behind dominant French biathlete Martin Fourcade, who won his 11th non-relay world title Wednesday in the individual.

In 2017, Dunklee became the first U.S. woman to win a non-relay medal, taking the lead in the mass start after quickly knocking down all five targets in the last shooting and holding on for second. She didn’t come out of nowhere, having taken a few World Cup medals. That season, she ranked 10th overall in the World Cup.

Then came the stunner. Lowell Bailey, who had just one World Cup podium in a long career coming into the 2016-17 season, had bib 100 in the individual, a spot usually reserved for non-contenders. But he hit all 20 targets, always important in a race that penalizes athletes one minute per miss, and gutted it out through the last lap to keep a 3.3-second advantage and win the first world championship for a U.S. biathlete.

Like Dunklee, Bailey earned his medal in the midst of a strong season. The individual was won of his four top-10 finishes in the world championships, including a fourth-place finish in the sprint. He wound up eighth overall in the World Cup.

Bailey and Burke each stuck it out to compete in their fourth Olympics in 2018, then crossed the finish line together in their final race at the U.S. championships.

This season is their first in management. Bailey, also a bluegrass musician, is now U.S. Biathlon’s director of high performance. Burke is director of athlete development.

Dunklee, on the other hand, isn’t done. Her results slipped a bit after her 2017 breakthrough, but she has had some top 10s. When she shoots clean, as she did Friday, she’s a contender.

The first U.S. medal was in the first women’s world championship in 1984, when Holly Beatie, Julie Newman and Kari Swenson bronze in 3x5km relay. Swenson also finished fifth in the individual that year and returned to compete in the next two world championships after a harrowing experience in which she was abducted and shot, a story that inspired a film starring Tracy Pollan.

The only other U.S. medal in the world championships before Burke, Bailey and Dunklee was Josh Thompson‘s individual silver in 1987. The only athletes other than Burke, Bailey, Dunklee and Thompson to have World Cup podiums (excluding relays) are Jeremy Teela in 2009 and Clare Egan, who was third in a mass start last spring and is competing in the world championships this year.

U.S. Paralympians broke through with two gold medals on the first day of competition in the 2018 Paralympics.

READ: Kendall Gretsch, Dan Cnossen take gold

Wednesday saw another surprise finish for a U.S. biathlete. Leif Nordgren, whose career-best finish outside the relays is 16th, was the only athlete to go 20-for-20 on the shooting range and placed eighth in the individual.

The championships continue through through Sunday with the single mixed relay on Thursday, the men’s and women’s relays on Saturday, and the men’s and women’s mass starts on Sunday.

WATCH: World biathlon championships TV schedule

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