AP

Russian biathletes questioned in Austria for doping

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SALZBURG, Austria (AP) — Austrian authorities are investigating 10 members of Russia’s biathlon team for doping and fraud offenses.

Police visited the Russian team’s accommodation in Austria on Wednesday ahead of a World Cup event and spoke with athletes and staff. The case is connected to a wide-ranging bribery and doping investigation involving the International Biathlon Union, whose then-president stepped down in April following a police raid of the governing body’s offices.

Austrian prosecutors said in a statement that five Russian biathletes are suspected of “severe fraud in connection with doping,” and five team officials are suspected of “the use of prohibited substances and/or methods for the purpose of doping.” Austrian authorities have previously said they could consider prize money won by doped athletes to be fraudulent earnings.

The offenses were allegedly committed around the 2017 World Championships in Austria, prosecutors said, adding that “accused persons” have been given a formal notification they are under investigation.

No Russian athletes in any sport have yet faced criminal prosecution for a series of doping scandals which led to the country’s team being suspended from this year’s Winter Olympics.

A lawyer for Russian doping whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov said this year he provided information which led to the Austrian police action.

The Russian team is in Austria for a World Cup event, and the Russian Biathlon Union said it will “continue to compete.”

Sochi Olympic champion Anton Shipulin is “angry and furious about the witch-hunt that is going on” and has never doped, according to his Instagram.

Alexander Loginov wrote on Instagram he was accused of “some machinations with blood transfusions and something else” supposedly committed as recently as February 2017.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the overnight visit to Russian athletes ahead of a major competition looked “wild.” She added that the Russian Embassy has turned to Austrian authorities for explanation, adding that Moscow will respond if it feels the case has political undertones.

Austrian police raided the IBU headquarters in April, with prosecutors saying up to $300,000 had been paid to cover up Russian doping cases from 2012-17. Anders Besseberg, until then the only president in the IBU’s history, and general secretary Nicole Resch stepped down soon after.

Besides Russia’s team, authorities in Austria and Italy have also investigated alleged mass doping in the Kazakhstan biathlon team. Nine Kazakh athletes were suspended last month by the IBU.

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MORE: Russia Olympic biathlon gold medalists face doping charges

World short-track speedskating championships will be moved, postponed or canceled

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The International Skating Union announced Tuesday that the world short-track speedskating championships will not proceed as scheduled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Seoul’s Mokdong Ice Rink, where the competition was set to be held March 13-15, held the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships earlier this month but closed on Monday.

The ISU left open the possibility that the championships will be postponed or relocated, but the window to do so may close rapidly.

“Taking into account the uncertain world-wide development of the coronavirus, the limited and uncertain available time slots during the coming weeks and the logistical challenges of potential organizers and participating teams, a postponement and/or relocation of the Championships would be difficult to achieve,” the ISU said. “Nevertheless, a postponement and/or relocation of this Championships might be considered if the circumstances would allow so in due time.”

South Korea is one of short-track speedskating’s traditional powers. Last year, the country dominated the world championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, winning both relays and taking gold in all of the men’s individual races. South Korea also led the medal count on home ice in the 2018 Olympics.

The coronavirus outbreak has forced the cancellation of many events in China, where the illness was first found. The world indoor track and field championships were pushed back a whole year.

With the virus spreading to other regions, other countries’ sports schedules are being affected. Several soccer games are proceeding in empty stadiums in Italy and Iran.

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Daniel Romanchuk’s ascent to marathon stardom accelerated at University of Illinois

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The rise of Daniel Romanchuk has been one of the major stories of this Paralympic cycle. The wheelchair racer was eliminated in the first round of all five of his races in Rio.

But now, he’s the world’s best marathoner with a 6-foot-10 wingspan, a world-record holder on the track and already qualified for the Tokyo Games.

Romanchuk, born with spina bifida, was profiled by NBC Sports Chicago as part of a series of NBC Sports Regional Networks pieces published this week — marking 150 days until the Tokyo Olympics and six months until the Tokyo Paralympics.

NBC RSN Olympic and Paralympic Profiles
NBC Sports Bay Area

Abbey Weitzeil (Swimming) — LINK

NBC Sports Boston
Margaret Bertasi (Rowing) — LINK
Abbey D’Agostino Cooper (Track and Field) — LINK

NBC Sports Chicago
Ryan Murphy (Swimming) — LINK

NBC Sports Northwest
Galen Rupp (Marathon) — LINK
Mariel Zagunis (Fencing) — LINK

NBC Sports Philadelphia
Vashti Cunningham (Track and Field) — LINK
Julie Ertz (Soccer) — LINK

NBC Sports Washington
Katie Ledecky (Swimming) — LINK
Kyle Snyder (Wrestling) — LINK

Romanchuk, 21, swept the Boston, London, Chicago and New York City Marathon titles in 2019. He attributes that success to his native Baltimore and his training residence of the University of Illinois.

At age 2, he was enrolled in Baltimore’s Bennett Blazers, an adaptive sports program for children with physical disabilities. Tatyana McFadden, a 17-time Paralympic medalist who dominated women’s wheelchair marathons, planted her athletic roots there.

“Their motto is to teach kids they can before they’re told they can’t,” Romanchuk said.

Things really blossomed for Romanchuk after he moved from Baltimore to the University of Illinois. Illinois was designated a U.S. Paralympic training site in 2014 and has produced McFadden, Jean Driscoll and other U.S. Paralympic stars.

“Without this program, I certainly would not be where I am,” Romanchuk said. “It’s a very unique combination of coaching and teammates.”

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MORE: Ten Paralympic hopefuls to watch for 2020 Tokyo Games