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Grigory Rodchenkov’s name comes up as police raid biathlon federation

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Biathlon’s governing body was raided by Austrian police on Wednesday in an operation that officials said was linked to a doping investigation.

The World Anti-Doping Agency said the raid of the International Biathlon Union’s headquarters in Salzburg was part of a wider investigation into the IBU by law enforcement in Austria and Norway. WADA told The Associated Press in an e-mailed statement that “the issue is linked to doping.”

The IBU said the raid was focused on Anders Besseberg, who has been the governing body’s president since it was founded in 1993, and secretary general Nicole Resch, who handles much of the day-to-day running of the sport.

The IBU said Resch “has requested a leave of absence” because of the investigation, but didn’t comment on Besseberg’s future. Austria’s federal prosecutor’s office for financial crimes and corruption was responsible for the case, police said. The prosecutor did not immediately comment on the investigation.

Biathlon, which combines skiing and shooting, is one of the most popular winter sports in Europe, but it has been shaken by doping scandals involving the Russian team. Some of the sport’s key names have called for the IBU to take stronger action against Russia, while nations including the United States and Canada boycotted a World Cup round in Russia last month.

The investigation into the IBU was related to testimony given by Russian doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, Besseberg’s wife, Wenche Besseberg, told the AP. Anders Besseberg was not immediately available for comment.

Norwegian broadcaster NRK published an interview with Rodchenkov on Wednesday in which he said the IBU had colluded with Russian anti-doping authorities to cover up suspicious blood tests by the country’s athletes in previous years.

“Dr. Rodchenkov has been cooperating with the investigation of the International Biathlon Union, and with other investigations. We are hopeful that all doping fraud and corruption in international sports is fully exposed, and we will continue to work diligently to make that a reality,” Rodchenkov’s lawyer Jim Walden said in a statement.

Several Russian athletes have been sanctioned for doping in recent years, including Olympic medalists from the 2014 Sochi Games, where Russia has been accused of operating a doping scheme and cover-up.

The IBU and Resch did not respond to questions Wednesday about Rodchenkov’s allegations.

The IBU said its executive board “is taking the matter (of the raid) extremely seriously and continues to be committed to operating under the highest standards of good governance and transparency.”

Austrian authorities have tried to tackle doping in biathlon before.

Police raided the lodgings of the Kazakhstan team ahead of last year’s world championships after a box containing medical equipment and team documents was left by the roadside. The raid didn’t result in any criminal charges and the team passed drug tests, though a team doctor was provisionally suspended by the IBU.

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix fields look very different this season

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Before Nathan Chen is expected to go for a historic fifth straight U.S. figure skating title in January, he will, in a first, compete against most of his top countrymen later this month.

Fields for the Grand Prix Series, figure skating’s autumn international circuit, were published Thursday. As expected, every top skater entered will compete in his or her home country, or nearest to where he or she trains, and in one of the six events.

Traditionally, skaters compete in two of the six events and are scattered among competitions in the U.S., Canada, France, Russia, China and Japan based on world rankings.

But the International Skating Union restricted travel this season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Skaters are limited to compete locally. And the Grand Prix Final at the conclusion of the Grand Prix Series has been postponed from its scheduled December setting in Beijing.

That means that Chen vies for a record-tying fourth straight Skate America crown in Las Vegas in three weeks against a field mostly made up of countrymen, including Olympic teammate Vincent Zhou and U.S. bronze medalist Tomoki Hiwatashi.

In all, there are eight U.S. men entered in Skate America, 11 women (including past national champions Bradie Tennell and Gracie Gold), six pairs and nine ice dance couples (including U.S. champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue), plus some skaters from other nations who train in the U.S.

Traditionally, a country has no more than three entries per discipline at a Grand Prix event.

GRAND PRIX FIELDS: Men | Women | Pairs | Ice Dance

Sochi Olympian Jason Brown, who trains in Toronto, is entered in Skate Canada the week after Skate America.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix Series until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

All of the reigning Olympic champions are absent from the series.

Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan previously announced he wouldn’t compete due to virus-related travel risks. Russian Alina Zagitova extended her indefinite break from competition dating to last autumn, rather choosing to participate in a skating-themed TV series.

Ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada retired. The German pairs’ team of Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot last competed in the 2018 Olympic season.

Instead, the headliners include Chen, the two-time world champion undefeated since placing fifth in PyeongChang. And a deep crop of Russian teenage women, all of course entered in the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow in November.

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French Open: Karolina Pliskova, top player sans Slam, again exits early

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No. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova exited yet another Grand Slam in the early stages, falling to 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the second round at Roland Garros on Thursday.

Ostapenko, whose only match wins at the French Open before this week came in her title run three years ago, bounced the big-serving Czech 6-4, 6-2.

Pliskova put fewer than half of her first serves in play, while Ostapenko fired 27 winners to 19 unforced errors. Pliskova was on the ropes in her first round, too, needing three sets to get past an Egyptian qualifier.

“Maybe same level as the match before, but of course [Ostapenko] is much better player,” Pliskova said. “Not much to say about this match.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Pliskova is the highest-ranked player of either gender (No. 4) without a Grand Slam title, yet hasn’t made it past the fourth round at a major since the 2019 Australian Open.

She’s played six Slams as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, one shy of Caroline Wozniacki‘s total before she broke through at the 2018 Australian Open and two shy of Simona Halep‘s total before she won the 2018 French Open.

Ostapenko, meanwhile, is having a very different career.

She won the 2017 Roland Garros title, two days after turning 20, while ranked 47th. She hasn’t gotten past the third round of a major since 2018 Wimbledon, including first-round French Open exits the last two years, and is back down to No. 43 in the WTA rankings.

“It’s hard to compare with 2017. As I said, it was like three years ago, and I was much younger, and also I was fearless. Nobody knew me,” Ostapenko said. “The world doesn’t stop with winning only one Grand Slam. Of course I want to achieve more, and I want to be back in top five, top 10.”

She dropped just nine games in four sets this week.

Ostapenko gets 87th-ranked Spaniard Paula Badosa in third round. Badosa dispatched 2018 French Open runner-up Sloane Stephens 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

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