Viktor Ahn
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Viktor Ahn writes letter to IOC, asks why he can’t go to Olympics

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MOSCOW (AP) — Six-time Olympic gold medalist Viktor Ahn wants to know why he has been barred from the PyeongChang Winter Games.

Ahn is a short-track speed skater who was born in South Korea but switched allegiance to Russia ahead of the Sochi Olympics.

Russian officials said the International Olympic Committee refused to grant Ahn an invitation amid its vetting of the country’s athletes for possible doping links.

“It is outrageous that there is no concrete reason which explains my exclusion from the Olympics, and furthermore people now view me as an athlete who used doping,” Ahn wrote in an open letter to IOC President Thomas Bach.

Competing in South Korea would have been “an especially significant part of my career for several reasons,” said Ahn, who won his first three 2006 Olympic titles while competing for his native country. “I hope that the IOC will ultimately declare their reason for my exclusion, so I will be able to defend my honor and dignity.”

Ahn’s letter was published Friday by the Russian Skating Union.

Asked about the letter, the spokesman for President Vladimir Putin said Russia would support all athletes, whether they take part in the Olympics or are barred.

“Intensive contacts are under way with the International Olympic Committee to clarify the situation and so that the interests of our athletes who are able to take part in the Olympics are completely secured and respected,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

“There are athletes who are disputing their rights in a legal context. There are athletes who are appealing to public opinion. There are athletes who are appealing to the Olympic committee leadership. That is their right.”

The IOC hasn’t confirmed which Russians will be invited to compete in PyeongChang and hasn’t explained any individual decisions.

However, it said newly obtained records from the Moscow anti-doping laboratory played a role in the decision-making.

Russia announced an Olympic team of 169 athletes on Thursday.

The list didn’t contain Ahn or some other Russian medal contenders, including cross-country skiing world champion Sergei Ustyugov and biathlete Anton Shipulin.

The IOC refusals for some are separate from the doping bans for 43 Russian athletes because of what the Olympic body ruled was a doping program and cover-up at the Sochi Games.

Of those, 42 launched appeals at the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is due to rule next week.

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The full letter:

Dear Mr. President Thomas Bach,

Back in 2002, I got my first opportunity to participate in Olympic Games. The present ones in Korea were supposed to become an especially significant part of my career for several reasons. Two weeks before the start of the Olympics I found out that the Olympic movement does not consider me an athlete, who deserves to be a part of it without even providing an explanation.

During my entire career journey in short track, I’ve never given a reason to doubt my honesty and my integrity, especially when it comes to my victories which I achieved with nothing but my strength and dedication. I have always maintained respect to  the sport itself, my rivals, the Olympic movement, and I’ve always complied with the anti-doping legislation. I honestly thought that properly completing all the steps to meet the criteria to be a part of the Olympic Games, a “clean” athlete deserves a right to compete there. However, the IOC commission has decided otherwise and didn’t provide me with reasons why so.

I thoroughly went over the criteria which commission utilized when they made this decision. I can honestly declare that I haven’t done anything that would justify putting me on the list of athletes barred from participating in the Olympic Games.

It is outrageous that there is no concrete reason which explains my exclusion from the Olympics, and furthermore people now view me as an athlete who used doping. After all these years in sports, this verdict of preventing me to be in Olympics has become a symbol of mistrust to me from the side of IOC as well as the reason of mistrust from the side of the entire sport community.

I hope that the IOC will ultimately declare their reason for my exclusion, so I will be able to defend my honor and dignity. I have a full right to believe and hope that I have the trust of my supporters, as well as journalists, after my long journey in short-track and with absolute absence of my fault in this situation, when I’m deprived an opportunity to participate in the Olympics.

Sincerely,
Victor Ahn

World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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