AP

Russia doping cases nearly double in 2018

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MOSCOW (AP) — Doping cases in Russia have almost doubled this year as athletes come under more scrutiny, the country’s national anti-doping agency said Tuesday.

Yuri Ganus, the director general of the agency, said it had detected 113 potential breaches of doping rules in the first eight months of 2018 — almost double the 59 it found in all of 2017. The rise comes as Russia tries to reform its anti-doping system after years of scandals across multiple sports.

“The number of breaches is alarming,” Ganus said.

It isn’t clear how many of the cases have resulted in athletes being banned, a process which can take months or even years. Athletes are typically cleared in about 10 percent of cases, Ganus said.

The rise may be partly because of extra testing. Ganus said the agency, known as RUSADA, collected 7,013 samples in the first eight months of 2018, about 800 more than all of last year.

If that pace continues until the end of 2018, RUSADA would roughly match the number of samples that major nations like the United States and China collected last year.

Russia was the leader by quantity of tests ahead of hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. However, RUSADA and the national laboratory were both suspended in 2015 when the World Anti-Doping Agency found evidence of corruption.

WADA later ruled Russian anti-doping authorities routinely covered up positive samples from leading athletes. The number of tests in Russia plummeted as RUSADA was reformed with new staff.

Ganus said Russia’s testing was now much more reliable, in part because of a greater focus on using intelligence to target specific athletes for testing.

There’s also an investigative unit which tracked one group of Russian track and field athletes to a remote part of Kyrgyzstan, where they allegedly worked with a coach who is supposed to be serving a life ban for numerous doping cases.

WADA’s executive committee is due to vote Sept. 20 on whether to formally lift RUSADA’s suspension, although the agency is already carrying out most of its official duties.

“I don’t have any optimism (that the suspension will be lifted),” Ganus said.

He added that the main obstacle was that Russian law enforcement was refusing to release samples from the closed Moscow lab, claiming they are needed for an investigation.

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MORE: Two Russian dopers get Olympic medal upgrades

Asbel Kiprop, Olympic 1500m champ, banned four years

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Kenyan Asbel Kiprop, the 2008 Olympic 1500m champion and a three-time world champ, was banned four years after testing positive for EPO in November 2017, according to track and field’s doping watchdog organization.

The ban is backdated to Feb. 3, 2018, when the 29-year-old was provisionally suspended after the failed test.

Kiprop repeatedly denied doping since last May, when he first acknowledged the positive test. Most recently, a 3,000-word defense from his lawyer was posted on Kiprop’s Facebook page.

Kiprop’s defenses included saying he was a victim of extortion and that he was offered “a reward” of becoming an anti-doping ambassador if he admitted guilt. The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), the IAAF’s independent organization to monitor doping and corruption, denied the latter last May.

A disciplinary panel dismissed six defenses from exonerating him, including the possibility his sample was spiked, in handing out the four-year ban.

Kiprop, the pre-eminent 1500m runner of the last decade, can appeal the ban.

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.

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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Maggie Nichols is second woman in 20 years to repeat as NCAA all-around champ

Maggie Nichols
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Oklahoma junior and world champion gymnast Maggie Nichols became the first woman to repeat as NCAA all-around champion in 12 years, returning from a heel injury to compete on all four events for the first time since January on Friday.

Nichols, a Rio Olympic hopeful before being beset by a torn meniscus in 2016, joined 2004 Olympic silver medalist Courtney Kupets as the only women to win back-to-back NCAA all-arounds in the 2000s.

A junior, Nichols can next year join Jenny Hansen as the only women to three-peat in NCAA history.

Oklahoma goes for a third team title in four years on Saturday night against UCLA (featuring Olympic champions Madison Kocian and Kyla Ross), LSU and Denver.

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NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships Individual Results
All-Around
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma) — 39.7125
2. Lexy Ramler (Minnesota) — 39.6625
2. Kyla Ross (UCLA) — 39.6625
4. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 39.65
5. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 39.6

Vault
1. Kennedi Edney (LSU) — 9.95
1. Derrian Gobourne (Auburn)
1. Maggie Nichols (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)

Uneven Bars
1. Sarah Finnegan (LSU) — 9.95

Balance Beam
1. Natalie Wojcik (Michigan) — 9.95

Floor Exercise
1. Alicia Boren (Florida) — 9.95
1. Lynnzee Brown (Denver)
1. Brenna Dowell (Oklahoma)
1. Kyla Ross (UCLA)