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Senator suggests possible end of USOC’s tax-exempt status

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A senator floated the idea of revoking the U.S. Olympic Committee’s tax-exempt status if it fails to effectively combat the sex-abuse problem in Olympic sports.

At a hearing Wednesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said the USOC’s tax-exempt status and antitrust exemption could be at risk when Congress revisits the law that governs the federation.

Blumenthal also suggested the position of athlete advocate and inspector general be added to the USOC. The federation has an athletes’ ombudsman position and recently revealed plans to give athletes more-accessible avenues to report abuse and other wrongdoing.

Leaders of four Olympic sports federations — figure skating, bobsled, weightlifting and swimming — appeared in front of a Senate subcommittee in the latest in a series of hearings to discuss their response to the sex-abuse crisis.

Blumenthal suggested Congress would make revisions in the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act to “make sure the USOC is held to a higher standard of accountability.”

The USOC does not receive government funding and is a nonprofit, which makes it exempt from taxes. Judges also have ruled that the Ted Stevens Act has given the USOC antitrust immunity. Revoking the USOC’s tax-exempt status could potentially take a huge chunk out of an operation that brought in $336 million during the last Olympic year (2016) and uses much of that to provide assistance to athletes, either directly or through sports federations that train them.

As part of her first address to the U.S. Olympic family, new USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland said last month that athletes needed to be better represented in the decision-making process in Olympic sports.

Blumenthal grasped on that idea and asked the sports leaders if they’d be willing to increase athlete representation on boards and committees to 50 percent or more; the general standard is about 20 percent. But he was met with resistance.

“It comes down to the competence of the board,” said USA Bobsled and Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele. “A competing athlete is looking at four-year increments, and it’s difficult to think about long-term strategy when you’re actually in midst of the competition.”

US Figure Skating president Anne Cammett agreed.

“Part of what you have to look at is the learning and life experiences that come with developing from a young person to an adult,” she said. “I think you need a good balance of life experience and knowledge.”

Cammett piggybacked on Blumenthal’s calls for change, saying the U.S. Center for SafeSport, established to investigate abuse cases in Olympic sports, needs more funding and would also benefit from subpoena power to conduct its investigations.

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MORE: USOC chairman steps down in latest organization change

Asbel Kiprop, Olympic 1500m champ, banned 4 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)