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

In a tie, Wendy Holdener puts to rest a remarkable stat in Alpine skiing

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Swiss Wendy Holdener ended one of the most remarkable victory droughts in sports by tying for the win with Swede Anna Swenn Larsson in a World Cup slalom in Killington, Vermont, on Sunday.

Holdener, after 15 second-place finishes and 15 third-place finishes in her career, stood on the top step of a World Cup slalom podium for the first time. She shared it with Swenn Larsson, who had six World Cup slalom podiums before Sunday and also earned her first win.

They beat Austrian Katharina Truppe by .22 of a second combining times from two runs.

ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule

Holdener, 29, previously won three World Cups in other disciplines, plus two world championships in the combined and Olympic and world titles in the team event.

“To be tied first when I came into the finish was such a relief,” Holdener said while shoulder to shoulder with Swenn Larsson. “On the end, it’s perfect, because now we can share our first win together.”

Mikaela Shiffrin had the best first-run time but lost her lead midway through the second run and finished fifth. Shiffrin, who won the first two slaloms this season last weekend, was bidding for a 50th World Cup slalom victory and a sixth win in six slaloms in Killington.

“I fought. I think some spots I got a little bit off my timing, but I was pushing, and that’s slalom,” she said before turning her attention to Holdener and Swenn Larsson. “It’s a pretty special day, actually.”

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves next weekend to Lake Louise, Alberta, with two downhills and a super-G.

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Injured Ilia Malinin wins Grand Prix Finland, qualifies for Grand Prix Final

Ilia Malinin
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Ilia Malinin, competing “a little bit injured” this week, still won Grand Prix Finland and goes into the Grand Prix Final in two weeks as the world’s top-ranked male singles skater.

Malinin, who was second after Friday’s short program, landed four clean quadruple jumps in Saturday’s free skate to overtake Frenchman Kevin Aymoz.

Malinin, who landed a quad flip in competition for the first time, according to SkatingScores.com, also attempted a quad Axel to open his program, but spun out of the landing and put his hand down on the ice.

Malinin also won his previous two starts this season in come-from-behind fashion. The 17-year-old world junior champion became the first skater to land a clean, fully rotated quad Axel in September, then did it again in October at Skate America, where he posted the world’s top overall score this season.

Next, Malinin can become the second-youngest man to win the Grand Prix Final after Russian Yevgeny Plushenko. His biggest competition is likely to be world champion Shoma Uno of Japan, who like Malinin won both of his Grand Prix starts this fall. Malinin and Uno have not gone head-to-head this season.

Grand Prix Finland highlights air on NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET.

FIGURE SKATING: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Earlier, Japan’s Mai Mihara overtook world silver medalist Loena Hendrickx of Belgium to become the only woman to win both of her Grand Prix starts this season. Mihara prevailed by .23 of a point. The top three women this season by best total score are Japanese, led by a junior skater, 14-year-old Mao Shimada, who isn’t Olympic age-eligible until 2030.

Mihara and Hendrickx qualified for the Grand Prix Final, joining world champion Kaori Sakamoto and Rinka Watanabe, both of Japan, South Korean Yelim Kim and American Isabeau Levito, the world junior champion.

Italians Rebecca Ghilardi and Filippo Ambrosini won both pairs’ programs and qualified for their first Grand Prix Final.

Japan’s Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara and Americans Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier headline the Final. Both pairs won each of their Grand Prix starts earlier this fall. The Japanese have the world’s two best scores this season. The Americans are reigning world champions.

At least one Russian or Chinese pair made every Grand Prix Final podium — usually pairs from both countries — but neither nation competed in pairs this Grand Prix season. All Russian skaters are banned due to the war in Ukraine. China’s lone entry on the Grand Prix across all disciplines was an ice dance couple.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier improved on their world-leading score for this season in winning the ice dance by 17.03 points over Americans Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker. Both couples qualified for the Grand Prix Final in the absence of all three Olympic medalists this fall.

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