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USOC CEO Scott Blackmun resigns, cites health problems

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Scott Blackmun resigned as chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee on Wednesday, citing difficulties with prostate cancer and the federation’s need to urgently move forward to address the sex abuse scandal that has rocked gymnastics.

The 60-year-old CEO was diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier this winter and did not attend the PyeongChang Winter Games.

Blackmun leaves amid calls for his departure, including from two U.S. senators who said neither he nor the USOC at large reacted properly to sex abuse cases involving Larry Nassar, the doctor who abused members of the U.S. gymnastics team.

The USOC is conducting an independent review of when Blackmun and others learned the details about abuse cases at USA Gymnastics and whether they responded appropriately.

Susanne Lyons, a member of the board, will serve as acting CEO.

At a news conference to kick off the Olympics, USOC chairman Larry Probst said Blackmun had served the USOC with distinction and the board found no reason to relieve him.

“Given Scott’s current health situation, we have mutually agreed it is in the best interest of both Scott and the USOC that we identify new leadership so that we can immediately address the urgent initiatives ahead of us,” Probst said in a press release Wednesday.

The USOC said it was starting several initiatives, including providing new funding and resources for Nassar victims. It also will review its relationships with national governing bodies of Olympic sports and double funding to the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

John Manly, an attorney representing Nassar victims in a lawsuit that seeks monetary damages and court oversight of USA Gymnastics, said it was victims speaking out about the USOC that forced Blackmun to resign.

“USOC has focused nearly all its efforts on money and medals while the safety of our athletes has taken a back seat,” Manly said.

Blackmun’s last several years at the helm of the USOC have been focused on establishing SafeSport, which stemmed out of task forces to determine how to compel governing bodies of all Olympic sports to use the same rules for reporting and handling abuse cases.

It was a herculean task that involved raising millions of dollars to start an independent organization that polices abuse cases in a similar manner as the independent U.S. Anti-Doping Agency runs doping control in the United States.

But all the cases in question — including dozens involving USA Swimming and USA Gymnastics — occurred before the new protocols came into play. The shocking testimony from dozens of gymnasts who were abused by Nassar led to calls for a complete turnover of the USA Gymnastics board, and then for Blackmun’s removal.

“The U.S. Olympic Committee must now bring on new leadership determined to deliver answers and accountability regarding how Larry Nassar was able to freely abuse young girls for decades, as well as answers to questions about abuse in other Olympic programs,” said U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

An attorney for retired Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors, Robert Allard, said Blackmun didn’t protect athletes from predatory coaches among the governing bodies of several sports. ‘

The 28-year-old world champion has accused her former coach Sean Hutchison of sexually abusing her starting when she was 16. Hutchison has denied the accusations and has not been charged with a crime, saying they had a consensual relationship when she was of legal age.

“Moving forward, the culture that allowed sexual abuse to fester and thrive under Blackmun must be destroyed,” Allard said.

Blackmun started as CEO just before the 2010 Vancouver Games and settled an organization that had been rife with infighting after the surprise removal of Jim Scherr and his replacement with Stephanie Streeter, who lasted barely a year.

Blackmun smoothed over rocky relationships with national governing bodies and with the International Olympic Committee, renegotiating an agreement over sharing revenues from TV and sponsorship deals that caused problems between the two entities for years.

The reworked deal smoothed the way for the USOC to bring the Olympics back to the United States for the first time since 2002, when it landed the 2028 Games for Los Angeles. Some, however, criticized that deal as a consolation prize; LA really bid for the 2024 Games, which were awarded to Paris, and the IOC ended up granting 2028 to Los Angeles at the same time as the only other candidate for 2024.

Asbel Kiprop, Olympic 1500m champ, banned 4 years

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Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1500m champion and a three-time world champ, was banned four years after testing positive for EPO in November 2017, according to track and field’s doping watchdog organization.

The ban is backdated to Feb. 3, 2018, when the 29-year-old was provisionally suspended after the failed test.

Kiprop repeatedly denied doping since last May, when he first acknowledged the positive test. Most recently, a 3,000-word defense from his lawyer was posted on Kiprop’s Facebook page.

Kiprop’s defenses included saying he was a victim of extortion and that he was offered “a reward” of becoming an anti-doping ambassador if he admitted guilt. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the IAAF’s independent organization to monitor doping and corruption, denied the latter last May.

A disciplinary panel dismissed six defenses from exonerating him, including the possibility his sample was spiked, in handing out the four-year ban.

Kiprop, the pre-eminent 1500m runner of the last decade, can appeal the ban.

At 19, he finished second in the Beijing Olympic 1500m but was upgraded to gold a year later after Bahrain’s Rashid Ramzi failed a drug test. He is the youngest Olympic 1500m medalist of all time, according to the OlyMADMen.

Kiprop went on to earn three straight world titles in the 1500m in 2011, 2013 and 2015, matching the feats of retired legends Noureddine Morceli and Hicham El Guerrouj.

He struggled in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, finishing last in the London final with a hamstring injury and sixth in the Rio final won by American rival Matthew Centrowitz.

Kiprop has targeted El Guerrouj’s world record of 3:26:00, missing the mark by .69 of a second in 2015.

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Maggie Nichols is second woman in 20 years to repeat as NCAA all-around champ

Maggie Nichols
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Oklahoma junior and world champion gymnast Maggie Nichols became the first woman to repeat as NCAA all-around champion in 12 years, returning from a heel injury to compete on all four events for the first time since January on Friday.

Nichols, a Rio Olympic hopeful before being beset by a torn meniscus in 2016, joined 2004 Olympic silver medalist Courtney Kupets as the only women to win back-to-back NCAA all-arounds in the 2000s.

A junior, Nichols can next year join Jenny Hansen as the only women to three-peat in NCAA history.

Oklahoma goes for a third team title in four years on Saturday night against UCLA (featuring Olympic champions Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross), LSU and Denver.

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NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Individual Results
All-Around
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) — 39.7125
2. Lexy Ramler (Minnesota) — 39.6625
2. Kyla Ross (UCLA) — 39.6625
4. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 39.65
5. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 39.6

Vault
1. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 9.95
1. Derrian Gobourne (Auburn)
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)

Uneven Bars
1. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 9.95

Balance Beam
1. Natalie Wojcik (Michigan) — 9.95

Floor Exercise
1. Alicia Boren (Florida) — 9.95
1. Lynnzee Brown (Denver)
1. Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)