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Zubkov among four Russian bobsledders banned for Olympic doping

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MOSCOW — Five years after the Sochi Olympics, the man who carried the Russian flag at the opening ceremony has been banned for doping at those games.

Alexander Zubkov, already stripped of two Olympic gold medals, was among four Russian bobsledders banned Wednesday until December 2020 for their part in organized doping at the 2014 Games.

They are the first cases in any sport with athletes receiving full bans as a result of Russia’s doping sample swaps at the games, rather than only being disqualified from the competition itself.

Zubkov told The Associated Press he could appeal the verdict, and won’t step down as Russian Bobsled Federation president.

“I’m going to talk it all over with my lawyer,” Zubkov said.

All four were banned for two years by the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation, which accepted an earlier Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling that they were part of a scheme to swap steroid-tainted samples for clean urine.

The sanctions bar them from any role in the sport, which in Zubkov’s case would include his role as president of the Russian Bobsled Federation. However, that could be complicated by Zubkov’s own legal maneuvers in Russia. In November, he won a ruling from a Moscow court that the earlier CAS verdict did not apply in Russia, and an appeal by the Russian Olympic Committee was rejected last week.

Zubkov said he didn’t think the IBSF should be able to remove him as the top official in Russian bobsledding.

“I don’t see so far the link. I wasn’t elected by the federation, I was elected by the country,” Zubkov said. “I will look at what grounds they are using to remove me from the post of president. After that I will take my decision.”

The International Olympic Committee is still demanding Zubkov return his gold medals.

The other Russians banned by the IBSF were Alexander Kasyanov, Aleksei Pushkarev and Ilvir Khuzin. Of those, Pushkarev and Kasyanov have competed this season in the bobsled World Cup, recording a pair of 13th-place finishes at an event last month in Latvia.

Two more bobsledders’ cases are still ongoing, including that of Alexei Voevoda, who entered the Russian parliament in 2016.

Swimming short-course records in peril as FINA recognizes ISL times

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In the debut season of the International Swimming League, six U.S. short-course records have fallen. USA Swimming has recognized the new circuit’s times from the outset.

International body FINA, which at first threatened to ban swimmers who participated in the ISL and then said it would not recognize records from the team-based league, which debuted in October and will hold its first final meet Dec. 20-21 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, is now recognizing those times, and the effects on its statistics have been drastic.

MORE: Ledecky sets U.S. record in ISL debut

This morning, a downloaded list of the top times in the world this year included no ISL times. By the afternoon, times from the ISL’s meet over the weekend in College Park, Md., accounted for most of the times on the lists, including the top 10 in the women’s 50m freestyle and women’s 100m freestyle.

So far, the ISL hasn’t figured into the top five on many all-time FINA lists. But the best short-course times are typically posted near the end of the year, and the ISL has two meets remaining.

The U.S. record book has already changed. In October, Katie Ledecky set the 400m freestyle record (3:54.06) and Melanie Margalis set the 200m medley mark (2:04.18).

In College Park this weekend, Margalis also set the U.S. 400m medley record (4:24.46) and Ian Finnerty set two records the 50m breaststroke (25.99), with runner-up Michael Andrew also beating the previous record, and the 100m breaststroke (56.29). Also, Caeleb Dressel set the 50m butterfly record (22.21).

Only half of the swimmers in the ISL will advance to the final, and qualification isn’t necessarily in their hands. After the College Park meet, the Cali Condors and LA Current clinched spots in Las Vegas. That’s bad news for Andrew (New York Breakers), Finnerty (DC Trident) and Ledecky (DC Trident).

Dressel, Margalis and Lilly King — all representing the Condors — will have another shot at records in Vegas. 

FINA, as usual, is running its World Cup circuit during the fall and early winter, and some swimmers — including overall World Cup champions Vladimir Morozov and Cate Campbell — are pulling double duty between the World Cup and ISL.

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IOC announces deal with Airbnb to add housing for future Olympics

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The International Olympic Committee has moved to help with the scramble to house the influx of athletes, staff and spectators with each Olympics, making a deal with online housing broker Airbnb to add accommodations for the Games through 2028.

“The agreement includes accommodation provisions that will reduce costs for Olympic Games organizers and stakeholders, minimize the need for construction of new accommodation infrastructure for the Olympic Games period, and generate direct revenue for local hosts and communities,” the IOC announced.

Airbnb’s partnership also includes accommodation for disability athletes for the Paralympic Games, and the company will join large global companies such as Coca-Cola, Visa and Panasonic as worldwide Olympic partners.

Athletes also will have a chance to make money by hosting travelers.

“As an Olympian host, you can create and lead an experience inspired by your expertise and interests,” reads an explanation on the Olympic athlete support portal Athlete365.

Outside the Olympics and Olympic athlete experiences, the IOC and Airbnb are pledging to work together on long-term support to refugees.

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