Katie Ledecky, Chase Kalisz
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U.S. swimming rankings going into national championships

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The U.S. Swimming Championships are in two weeks, and it’s arguably the second-most important domestic meet of the Olympic cycle.

Nationals will not only determine the team for the year’s major international meet — August’s Pan Pacific Championships — but also partially determine the team for the 2019 World Championships. The selection procedures all but assure the top two per individual event at nationals make Pan Pacs with third-place finishers also strongly in the running. Heck, some fourth-place finishers made the 2014 Pan Pacs team.

The 2019 Worlds team is made up by best times between nationals and Pan Pacs (top two per individual event). Those who struggle at nationals will miss Pan Pacs, and all but assure they miss worlds as well.

The Tyr Pro Swim Series — USA Swimming’s regular-season tour — wrapped up in Columbus, Ohio, over the weekend. It’s as good a time as any to take stock of the best U.S. times for the year and size up the favorites for nationals now that all of the top tune-up meets are behind us.

As expected, Katie Ledecky is far and away No. 1 in the 200m freestyle (by 2.65 seconds), 400m freestyle (6.29 seconds), 800m freestyle (17.78 seconds) and 1500m freestyle (48.22 seconds).

Likewise, Simone Manuel is No. 1 and No. 2 in the 50m and 100m freestyles, Kathleen Baker leads both backstrokes and Lilly King is atop the 100m breaststroke.

The male rankings are a little more surprising. Chase Kalisz, reigning world champion in both individual medleys, also leads the 200m butterfly. That’s not unexpected.

But the man right behind Kalisz in both IMs is an eye-catcher. That’s Ryan Lochte, who came back from suspension to put himself right in the mix to make the Pan Pac and world teams at age 33. An injured Lochte was third in the 400m IM at the Olympic Trials and was a disappointing fifth in the Olympic 200m IM.

Lochte’s best times this year — 1:58.90 and 4:15.80 — are well off the all-important second-place times from 2017 Nationals, though (1:56.79 and 4:09.31).

Caeleb Dressel, who won seven golds at 2017 Worlds, ranks third in each of his primary events (50m and 100m frees and 100m fly), but he swam a full NCAA season and just one Pro Series meet this spring. Expect time drops at nationals in two weeks in Irvine, Calif.

Rankings updated through July 15

50m Freestyle
1. Simone Manuel — 24.59
2. Margo Geer — 24.72
3. Madison Kennedy — 24.88
4. Mallory Comerford — 24.94
5. Kelsi Dahlia — 24.99

100m Freestyle
1. Margo Geer — 53.74
2. Simone Manuel — 53.84
3. Lia Neal — 53.95
4. Mallory Comerford — 54.06
5. Allison Schmitt — 54.34

200m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 1:54.56
2. Allison Schmitt — 1:57.21
3. Leah Smith — 1:57.41
4. Melanie Margalis — 1:57.49
5. Simone Manuel — 1:58.06

400m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 3:57.94
2. Leah Smith — 4:04.23
3. Hali Flickinger — 4:06.72
4. Katie Drabot — 4:08.29
5. Melanie Margalis — 4:08.84

800m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 8:07.27
2. Leah Smith — 8:25.05
3. Ashley Twichell — 8:29.35
4. Haley Anderson — 8:29.64
5. Cierra Runge — 8:29.93

1500m Freestyle
1. Katie Ledecky — 15:20.48
2. Ashley Twichell — 16:08.70
3. Erica Sullivan — 16:09.88
4. Haley Anderson — 16:10.78
5. Hannah Moore — 16:15.37

100m Backstroke
1. Kathleen Baker — 58.77
2. Olivia Smoliga — 59.14
3. Regan Smith — 59.38
4. Ali Deloof — 59.79
5. Isabelle Stadden — 1:00.06

200m Backstroke
1. Kathleen Baker — 2:07.02
2. Isabelle Stadden — 2:08.37
3. Regan Smith — 2:08.64
4. Asia Seidt — 2:08.91
5. Lisa Bratton — 2:09.86

100m Breaststroke
1. Lilly King — 1:05.61
2. Molly Hannis — 1:06.09
3. Katie Meili — 1:06.49
4. Micah Sumrall — 1:07.51
5. Breeja Larson — 1:07.67

200m Breaststroke
1. Melanie Margalis — 2:24.62
2. Emily Escobedo — 2:24.71
3. Lilly King — 2:24.83
4. Madisyn Cox — 2:25.10
5. Micah Sumrall — 2:26.16

100m Butterfly
1. Kelsi Dahlia — 57.29
2. Kendyl Stewart — 57.80

3. Amanda Kendall — 58.29
4. Katie McLaughlin — 58.33
5. Hellen Moffitt — 58.39

200m Butterfly
1. Hali Flickinger — 2:07.88
2. Katie Drabot — 2:08.38
3. Kelsi Dahlia — 2:09.22
4. Ella Eastin — 2:09.82
5. Katie McLaughlin — 2:10.40

200m Individual Medley
1. Madisyn Cox — 2:09.82
2. Melanie Margalis — 2:10.26
3. Kathleen Baker — 2:11.58
4. Asia Seidt — 2:12.63
5. Evie Pfeifer — 2:12.87

400m Individual Medley
1. Melanie Margalis — 4:36.81
2. Leah Smith — 4:37.64
3. Madisyn Cox — 4:37.94
4. Ella Eastin — 4:38.43
5. Katie Ledecky — 4:38.88

50m Freestyle
1. Michael Andrew — 21.69
2. Nathan Adrian — 21.97
3. Caeleb Dressel — 22.15
4. Justin Ress — 22.36
5. Michael Chadwick — 22.37

100m Freestyle
1. Nathan Adrian — 48.58

2. Jack Conger — 48.76
3. Caeleb Dressel — 48.96
4. Michael Chadwick — 49.01
5. Blake Pieroni – 49.04

200m Freestyle
1. Jack Conger — 1:46.96
2. Conor Dwyer — 1:47.28

3. Blake Pieroni — 1:48.08
4. Zane Grothe — 1:48.18
5. Andrew Seliskar — 1:48.35

400m Freestyle
1. Zane Grothe — 3:48.59
2. Jack Levant — 3:51.47
3. Jordan Wilimovsky — 3:51.48
4. Grant Shoults — 3:51.82
5. Mitch D’Arrigo — 3:51.93

800m Freestyle
1. Zane Grothe — 7:50.94
2. Andrew Abruzzo — 7:54.51
3. Jordan Wilimovsky — 7:58.10
4. Logan Houck — 7:58.18
5. Grant Shoults — 7:58.80

1500m Freestyle
1. Zane Grothe — 15:05.31
2. Jordan Wilimovsky — 15:11.70
3. Andrew Abruzzo — 15:13.79
4. Nick Norman — 15:16.81
5. Logan Houck — 15:17.42

100m Backstroke
1. Ryan Murphy — 53.24
2. Justin Ress — 53.30
3. Matt Grevers — 53.73
4. Jacob Pebley — 53.93
5. Ryan Lochte — 54.75

200m Backstroke
1. Ryan Murphy — 1:55.46

2. Jacob Pebley — 1:55.85
3. Clark Beach — 1:58.58
4. Joey Reilman — 1:58.87
5. Nick Alexander — 1:58.97

100m Breaststroke
1. Andrew Wilson — 59.19

2. Michael Andrew — 59.79
3. Devon Nowicki — 1:00.00
4. Josh Prenot — 1:00.23
5. Will Licon — 1:00.60

200m Breaststroke
1. Andrew Wilson — 2:08.52
2. Will Licon — 2:09.47
3. Daniel Roy — 2:09.73
4. Chase Kalisz — 2:09.90
5. Josh Prenot — 2:10.15

100m Butterfly
1. Jack Conger — 51.00
2. Michael Andrew — 51.86
3. Caeleb Dressel — 52.20
4. Tripp Cooper — 52.36
5. Giles Smith — 52.55

200m Butterfly
1. Chase Kalisz — 1:55.63
2. Jack Conger — 1:55.88
3. Justin Wright — 1:57.77
4. Pace Clark — 1:57.93
5. Sam Pomajevich — 1:58.07

200m Individual Medley
1. Chase Kalisz — 1:57.50
2. Ryan Lochte — 1:58.90
3. Josh Prenot — 1:59.47
4. Will Licon — 2:00.11
5. Jay Litherland — 2:00.55

400m Individual Medley
1. Chase Kalisz — 4:08.92
2. Ryan Lochte — 4:15.80
3. Jay Litherland — 4:17.09
4. Josh Prenot — 4:18.58
5. Charlie Swanson — 4:19.38

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Yevgenia Medvedeva leads after short program at Autumn Classic

Yevgenia Medvedeva
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Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva leads after Thursday’s short program at her season opener, the Autumn Classic International. In her first competition since moving to Toronto to train under Brian Orser, Medvedeva scored 70.89 points.

Olympic team event bronze medalist Bradie Tennell sits in second place heading into Friday’s free skate with 69.26 points. Tennell, the reigning U.S. national champion, was joined by countrywoman Starr Andrews in Ontario. Andrews scored 56.70 points and finished fifth in the short program.

France’s Mae Berenice Meite rounds out the top three with 58.23 points.

Earlier on Thursday, Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres from France scored 73.81 points to build their lead over the pairs’ field. Kirsten Moore-Towers and Michael Marinaro from Canada were second with 64.73 points, followed by the two American teams: Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier (61.91) and Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson (50.25), who competed internationally as new partners for the first time.

Competition at the Autumn Classic continues this weekend. Friday features the rhythm dance, men’s short program, and the pairs’ and ladies’ free skates. Saturday concludes competition with the free dance and men’s free skate. The event will stream live on Skate Canada’s Dailymotion page.

Elsewhere in the world of figure skating this weekend, Rika Kihira took the ladies’ short program at the Nepela Trophy in Bratislava. The reigning world junior champion attempted her triple Axel to open her “Clair de Lune” program but fell and was awarded -5 Grades of Execution across the board. She tallied 70.79 points and leads Kazakhstan’s Elizabet Tursynbaeva by just 0.8 points. Russian Stanislava Konstantinova is third with 65.03 points.

Russian men lead the field after the short program in Bratislava. Mikhail Kolyada scored 96.82 points while Sergei Voronov earned 81.77 points. Japan’s Keiji Tanaka currently sits third with 77.53 points.

Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc have a three-point lead on the pairs’ field after the short program with 65.68 points. Deanna Stellato and Nathan Bartholomay, the other Americans in the field, are third with 59.60 points in their first competition of the season.

Competition continues at the Nepela Trophy this weekend with the rhythm dance and pairs’ free skate on Friday and the ladies’ free skate, free dance, and men’s free skate on Saturday.

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Despite protests, Russias anti-doping agency reinstated

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The World Anti-Doping Agency declared Russia’s scandal-ridden drug-fighting operation back in business Thursday, a decision designed to bring a close to one of sports’ most notorious doping scandals but one bitterly disputed by hundreds of athletes and described as “treachery” by the lawyer for the man who exposed the corruption.

On a 9-2 vote, the executive committee took the advice of the agency’s compliance review panel and declared RUSADA as having satisfied conditions of reinstatement that were gradually softened over the summer.

In most tangible ways, the decision doesn’t change much: RUSADA has been up and running for a while, bringing one of the world’s largest testing programs back on line with the help of officials from Britain and elsewhere. And Russia’s Olympic committee was brought back into the fold after the Pyeongchang Olympics, where athletes who could prove they were clean were able to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.”

But RUSADA’s reinstatement now clears the country to again bid for major international events — although soccer’s World Cup was held there this summer despite that restriction.

It also clears a major hurdle for Russia’s track team to be declared compliant by that sport’s international governing body, one of the few to take a strong, consistent stand against doping.

Perhaps most importantly, hundreds of athletes and dozens of world anti-doping leaders see it as a stinging rebuke to the ideal of fair play.

“WADA’s decision to reinstate Russia represents the greatest treachery against clean athletes in Olympic history,” said Jim Walden, the attorney for Grigory Rodchenkov, the former Moscow lab director who exposed much of the Russian scheme.

WADA had been telegraphing the move since Sept. 14, when it released the recommendation of its compliance review committee. Olympic champion Beckie Scott resigned from that committee afterward.

“I’m profoundly disappointed,” Scott said to Canadian broadcaster CBC after the decision. “I feel this was an opportunity for WADA, and they have dealt a devastating blow to clean sport. I’m quite dismayed.”

Even in Russia, where the news was welcomed, it came with a sense that there’s still work to be done.

“These questions will always follow us,” said RUSADA CEO Yuri Ganus, whose appointment to the job was part of the housecleaning at the agency that WADA demanded. “These aren’t the kind of skeletons which can lie unnoticed in the closet. These are the skeletons which will be banging on the closet door all the time.”

The two biggest roadblocks to RUSADA’s reinstatement involved the country accepting findings from a report by investigator Richard McLaren that concluded the government had engineered the doping scandal to win medals at the Sochi Olympics. It also involved Russia agreeing to hand over a trove of data and samples that could be used to corroborate potential doping violations that stemmed from the cheating.

Over a summer’s worth of correspondence between WADA leaders and Russia’s sports minister about how to bridge the gap, a pattern emerged of WADA backing down from its initial requirements and, at one point, essentially asking Russia what it would be willing to say in a letter designed to satisfy the WADA review committee.

“We think that a small addition to the letter, if acceptable to you, could ensure that the letter is well received … and that a positive recommendation is provided,” WADA CEO Olivier Niggli wrote to sports minister Pavel Kolobkov in May in a letter obtained by BBC Sport .

In the end, Russia agreed to accept findings of an IOC-commissioned report that put less onus on the Russian government for the scheme, a move that Rodchenkov said earlier this week was done “for the pure purpose of protecting their top-level apparatchiks who destroyed the Olympic Games in Sochi.”

Russia also agreed to hand over the samples and data by Dec. 31. If it does not, RUSADA will again be declared noncompliant.

“Without this pragmatic approach, we would continue with the impasse and the laboratory data could have remained out of our reach indefinitely,” WADA president Craig Reedie said after Thursday’s executive committee meeting in Seychelles.

Critics said reinstating RUSADA before obtaining the data only amounts to accepting another promise from a country that hasn’t kept many over the five-year course of the scandal.

Travis Tygart, the CEO for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, called the decision “bewildering and inexplicable,” and urged a full revamping of WADA; Reedie also serves as a member of the IOC, which is one of the many conflicts of interest that bother critics of the agency.

“Let’s be clear: Absolutely nothing will be off the table for how we, the anti-doping community, begin the work of reforming WADA,” Tygart said.

Reedie said “WADA understands that this decision will not please everybody.”

“Clean athletes were denied places at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as other major events, and others were cheated of medals,” he said. “It is entirely understandable that they should be wary about the supposed rehabilitation of offenders.”