Officials plan to strip Alpine skier of World Cup win for oxygen mask use

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SELVA DI VAL GARDENA, Italy (AP) — The International Ski Federation (FIS) intends to strip German Alpiner Stefan Luitz of his first World Cup win for using an oxygen mask but will not seek a further ban.

FIS secretary general Sarah Lewis said Friday that the German Ski Association has been notified that the rules call for “disqualification from the race at the event where the offense occurred.”

Racing in a giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Dec. 2 that started at 10,340 feet, Luitz was seen using an oxygen tank between runs. He won by retaining his first-run lead.

The victory ended runner-up Marcel Hirscher’s five-race winning streak in the event, but the Olympic champion in giant slalom could yet be awarded the win, the 61st of his career.

FIS anti-doping rules state oxygen tanks cannot be brought to race venues, and “competition results achieved after the use of the equipment shall be automatically disqualified.”

“It’s part of the anti-doping and medical guide regulation but it’s related to a prohibited method so it’s very different from blood doping or taking of anabolic steroids and different offenses are categorized in different ways,” Lewis said. “This is just a breach of the regulations.”

The German association was informed of the FIS decision this week and now has two weeks to request a hearing before a decision will be made. After the decision is issued, the German association can appeal the ruling to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

While there were reports that other German skiers also used oxygen masks, Lewis said no other athletes were investigated.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”