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Asbel Kiprop claims extortion, denies doping after positive drug test

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Kenyan runner Asbel Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1500m gold medalist and three-time world champion, said he was the victim of extortion and denied doping Thursday, one day after reports surfaced he tested positive for the banned substance EPO.

“I remain perplexed on how my innocent sample could turn positive on the only time when money was extorted from me,” was posted on Kiprop’s Facebook page and confirmed by Kiprop’s agent in an email as being the Kenyan’s words. “It is not beyond my suspicion that my sample turned positive because I might have remitted less money than I was expected to remit.

“I have been asked to admit that I doped so that I would be made an ambassador of I.A.A.F [track and field’s international governing body] on anti-doping. I have refused, as this is not only untrue but also a fraud. I do not need absolution on the allegations.”

The IAAF’s independent organization to monitor doping and corruption, the Athletics Integrity Unit, has not responded to a request for comment.

Kiprop said he was informed Feb. 3 that he failed a Nov. 27 drug test.

“I pray to be given the benefit of doubt even as I am cast into this lonely isolation,” was posted on the Facebook page of Kiprop, who has no other publicly announed failed drug tests in a decade of elite racing. “I know it may be impossible to defend myself from any accuser who has made up his mind and who would view my protestations as a mere denial.”

Kiprop, 28, has been the pre-eminent 1500m runner of the last decade. 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.

“So many emotions running thru me regarding the Kiprop news,” was posted on Centrowitz’s Instagram story Wednesday. “So much I wanna say. Best I collect my thoughts/emotions on this flight & speak on it later.”

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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Weekend Gymnastics Roundup: Carey and McCusker on World Cup podium

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World medalists Jade Carey and Riley McCusker headlined gymnastics action over the weekend as the World Cup circuit continued with an all-around competition in Birmingham, England, and an apparatus event in Doha, Qatar.

Carey won both the vault and floor events in Doha, pushing her to the top of the standings on both apparatus (she also won the vault and floor competitions the previous weekend at the World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan).

Doha marked the halfway point of apparatus World Cups, putting Carey in a promising position to qualify for the Tokyo Games heading into the next four events. The apparatus World Cup series includes a total of eight competitions spread over two seasons, and one gymnast per apparatus will qualify for the Olympics based on his or her top three results across the eight events.

Carey, 18, was the 2017 world silver medalist on vault and floor. But she opted not to try for a spot on the 2018 World Championships team due to the International Gymnastics Federation’s rules that active team members who help their countries qualify team spots for Tokyo (as the U.S. women did in November) cannot earn individual spots. Carey, an apparatus specialist rather than an all-around gymnast, chose the World Cup route to keep open her options of qualifying individually.

McCusker, who was part of the U.S. team that won the world title last year, finished second at the all-around World Cup in Birmingham, posting the top scores on the uneven bars and floor. Russia’s Aliya Mustafina, a seven-time Olympic medalist, won the event. Mustafina bounced back from a shaky showing last weekend at the World Cup in Stuttgart, where she finished fifth in an event won by Simone Biles. Mustafina, 24, is trying to qualify for her third Olympics after giving birth to daughter Alisa in June 2017.

The all-around World Cup circuit continues on April 7 in Tokyo, Japan, where two-time world all-around medalist Morgan Hurd and two-time Olympian Sam Mikulak are expected to compete.

First Olympic women’s aerials champion Cheryazova dies at 50

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MOSCOW — Lina Cheryazova, the first woman to win an Olympic aerials skiing gold medal, has died. She was 50.

Officials in the Russian city of Novosibirsk, where Cheryazova was living for the last two decades, said she died “following a lengthy illness,” without giving further details.

Competing for Uzbekistan, Cheryazova won gold with a triple flip when aerials skiing debuted on the Olympic program in 1994 in Lillehammer.

Shortly after winning, she learned her mother died three weeks before.

Cheryazova’s career was derailed later that year when she suffered a serious head injury while training in the United States, and spent days in a coma. She retired after failing to qualify for the 1998 Winter Olympics.