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Russian gold medalist from Sochi Olympics retires after 2017 ban

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Alexander Legkov, the lone Russian cross-country skier to take gold at the Sochi Olympics who was later banned for most of 2017, had that gold stripped for three months and was excluded from the PyeongChang Winter Games, has reportedly retired from international competition.

“I say stop here to my professional career on international tournaments,” Legkov said Friday, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Legkov, 34, led a Russian sweep of the 50km in podium in Sochi. He also took silver as part of the 4x10km relay.

The three-time Olympian saw his career turn in May 2016, when CBS and The New York Times first reported about a Sochi doping list kept by Grigory Rodchenkov, former director of a Moscow drug-testing lab.

Legkov was one of many Russian medalists from Sochi who were on a state-run doping program leading into the Sochi Games, according to those reports.

Legkov said in 2016 that he had never failed a doping test, claiming he was tested so often that he couldn’t have doped without being caught, according to The Associated Press.

“You’d have to be a complete kamikaze to do that in Russia if you’re an athlete representing our nation,” Legkov said then, according to the AP.

In December 2016, Legkov and Sochi 50km silver medalist Maxim Vylegzhanin were among six Russian skiers named in the McLaren report on Russian doping in Sochi and suspended from international competition by the International Ski Federation (FIS).

Then on Nov. 1, Legkov became the first Russian retroactively banned from the Sochi Olympics and excluded from all future Games by the IOC. His medals were stripped, though he was allowed to compete until FIS suspended him again Nov. 30.

However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport lifted the Olympic ban and reinstated the medals on Feb. 1 due to insufficient evidence. Legkov and other Russians appealed to be allowed into the PyeongChang Olympics, but the IOC’s decision not to invite them was upheld.

Legkov competed in small events in Russia in February and March.

Vylegzhanin, whose three silver medals in Sochi were also stripped in November and reinstated Feb. 1, reportedly said earlier this week that he will retire after the 2018-19 season.

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VIDEO: Photo finish decides famed World Cup 50km cross-country race

Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

MORE: Michael Phelps qualifies for first Olympics at age 15

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

MORE: Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis competition

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