Yul Moldauer, Sam Mikulak
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U.S. men’s gymnastics team sets medal goals after hard talk

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BOSTON — The U.S. men’s gymnastics team gathered in May for what director Brett McClure called “a hard discussion.”

The topic? Goals and accountability through the 2020 Olympics. McClure wants a team medal in Tokyo.

“Absolutely,” McClure said on the eve of the U.S. Championships at TD Garden on Wednesday. “We want to win a team medal at the world championships this year.”

This marks the first year of the Olympic cycle with a team event at the world championships. The U.S. men finished fifth at the last world championships in 2015 and at the Olympics in 2016, their first time off the podium in back-to-back global competitions since 2006 and 2007.

That led to major changes.

McClure, a 2004 Olympic team silver medalist, replaced Kevin Mazeika as the leader of the men’s program six months after Rio. A quartet of two-time Olympians retired — Jake DaltonJonathan HortonDanell Leyva and John Orozco — all of them individual medalists at the Olympics or worlds.

“We had over half of our senior national team retire,” McClure said. “This is a brand-new group.”

With a brand-new mindset at nationals, a two-day meet (Thursday and Saturday for the men; Friday and Sunday for the women). A TV and streaming schedule is here.

In a change, the five-man roster for October’s world championships in Doha will not be named this weekend.

The U.S. men adopted something similar to a longtime U.S. women’s team procedure — a later selection camp — with a two-month break between nationals and worlds.

Up to eight men will be chosen after nationals for the September camp, which will count just as much to the selection committee as nationals.

Expect Sam Mikulak and Yul Moldauer to be there. The two-time Olympian Mikulak won every U.S. all-around title the last Olympic cycle. He ceded the crown to Moldauer last year, competing in a limited fashion after a torn Achilles, but plans a full slate this week.

Both of them are the front-runners, without question,” NBC Sports analyst Tim Daggett said.

Moldauer, then a University of Oklahoma junior, proved he belonged at the world champs last October. In his first worlds, Moldauer did what Mikulak could not in two Olympics and three prior world championships — earn an individual medal (bronze on floor exercise).

Moldauer made that podium despite having the least-difficult routine of the eight men in the final. Difficulty — or start value — scores were emphasized by McClure.

“The difficulty is not quite up at the top of the world,” he said. “This young U.S. team is trying to find their way. … Our start values are a lot lower than China, Japan, even Russia.”

A team medal at the world championships would not only keep the U.S. from a full-fledged drought, but also qualify a men’s team for the Olympics a year earlier than usual.

Mikulak in particular is motivated by international medals. The only Olympian in this week’s field, he is one of the greatest U.S. gymnasts of all time without a single individual Olympic or world medal.

“Until I can check some of that off will I feel like I’ve earned my right to retire,” said Mikulak, a 25-year-old who plans to compete through Tokyo 2020, then maybe take it year by year.

This week, Mikulak can become the first man to win five U.S. all-around titles since Blaine Wilson from 1996-2000.

Wilson was a three-time Olympian, like Mikulak aspires to be. Wilson also earned no individual international medals, but he went out on a high with a team bronze at Athens 2004, a team that included McClure.

“I’m trying to look into the world and international scene a little bit more,” Mikulak said, “and if this [U.S.] title comes along in the process, that’s a little cherry on top.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly reported the men’s selection camp is closed-doors. 

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MORE: Morgan Hurd’s path to gymnastics gold began with 6-hour bus ride

Does Lance Armstrong believe doping contributed to cancer?

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Lance Armstrong said on Sunday’s ESPN film “Lance” that he didn’t know whether he got testicular cancer because of his doping in the early-to-mid 1990s.

“I don’t know the answer to that,” he said. “And I don’t want to say no because I don’t think that’s right, either. I don’t know if it’s yes or no, but I certainly wouldn’t say no. The only thing I will tell you is the only time in my life that I ever did growth hormone was the 1996 season [before being diagnosed with moderate to advanced cancer in October 1996]. So just in my head, I’m like ‘growth, growing, hormones and cells.’ Like, if anything good needs to be grown, it does. But wouldn’t it also make sense that if anything bad is there, that it, too, would grow?”

Armstrong was asked a similar question by Oprah Winfrey in his January 2013 doping confession.

“Do you think that banned substances contributed to you getting cancer?” Winfrey asked.

“I don’t think so,” Armstrong said then. “I’m not a doctor, I’ve never had a doctor tell me that or suggest that to me personally, but I don’t believe so.”

That was not the first time doping and cancer were part of the same conversation.

Teammate Frankie Andreu and then-fiancee Betsy said that Armstrong told a doctor on Oct. 27, 1996, at Indiana University Hospital that he had taken performance-enhancing drugs; EPO, testosterone, growth hormone, cortisone and steroids.

Armstrong said he probably began doping at age 21, in 1992 or 1993.

“I remember when we were on a training ride in 2002, Lance told me that [Michele] Ferrari [the infamous doctor who provided performance-enhancing drugs] had been paranoid that he had helped cause the cancer and became more conservative after that,” former teammate Floyd Landis said in 2011, according to Sports Illustrated.

TIMELINE: Lance Armstrong’s rise and fall

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Cortina requests to postpone Alpine skiing worlds from 2021 to 2022

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The Italian Winter Sports Federation was making a formal request on Monday to postpone next year’s world Alpine skiing championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo until March 2022.

Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malagò revealed the plans during an interview with RAI state TV on Sunday night.

Considering the fallout in Italy from the coronavirus pandemic, Malagò said “this is the best solution” in order to avoid the championships being canceled or shortened.

“It’s a decision in which we both lose but we realize this is the best — or maybe the only thing — to do,” Malago said.

The Italian federation confirmed that the proposal would be presented during an International Ski Federation (FIS) board meeting Monday. The Italian federation added that the decision to make the proposal was made jointly by the organizing committee in Cortina, the Veneto region and the Italian government.

It will be up to FIS to decide on any postponement.

Cortina was already forced to cancel the World Cup Finals in March this year due to the advancing virus, which has now accounted for more than 30,000 deaths in Italy.

Moving the worlds to March 2022 would put the event one month after the Beijing Olympics and likely force FIS to cancel that season’s finals in Méribel and Courchevel, France.

The Cortina worlds are currently scheduled for Feb. 7-21, 2021.

Worlds are usually held every other winter, in odd years.

Cortina is also slated to host Alpine events during the 2026 Milan-Cortina Olympics.

MORE: Anna Veith retires, leaves Austrian Alpine skiing in unfamiliar territory

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