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.

Dmitriy Balandin, surprise Olympic swimming champion, retires

Dmitriy Balandin
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Dmitriy Balandin, the Kazakh swimmer who pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2016 Rio Olympics, retired at age 27.

“Today I would like to announce the end of my sports career,” Balandin said last week, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee. “I am still inspired. A new phase of my life begins. I have a lot of cool projects in my head that will soon be implemented.”

Balandin reportedly has coaching aspirations.

In 2016, he won the Olympic men’s 200m breaststroke out of lane eight as the last qualifier into the final. He edged American Josh Prenot by seven hundredths of a second and became Kazakhstan’s first Olympic swimming medalist.

He followed that up with 11th- and 17th-place finishes in the breaststrokes in Tokyo last year.

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U.S. women’s basketball team scores most points in FIBA World Cup history

Brionna Jones
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SYDNEY — A’ja Wilson and the U.S. put on quite a show, breaking the World Cup scoring mark in a record rout of South Korea.

Brionna Jones scored 24 points and Wilson added 20 to help the U.S. beat South Korea 145-69 on Monday. Shakira Austin’s layup with 9 seconds left helped the Americans break Brazil’s record of 143 points set in 1990.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a team that can score the basketball like this,” Wilson said. “This is crazy, we put up 145 points. I think when you look at us and just knowing how talented we are, we just came together and we play together very, very well.”

The U.S. always has the most talented and deepest roster of any team in the World Cup with 12 WNBA stars on the roster. Still, the Americans had never come close to that sort of offensive output during it’s storied World Cup history. The previous team record was 119 points against Angola in 2014 and China in 2006. The scoring margin was also the biggest in U.S. history as well surpassing the 75-point win over Angola in 2014.

The win was also the 26th in a row in World Cup play for the Americans, who haven’t lost since the 2006 semifinals when they fell to Russia. The U.S. also won 26 in a row from 1994-2006. The Soviet Union holds the World Cup record with 56 straight wins from 1959-1986.

MORE: FIBA World Cup Results

What started with Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles has now been passed on to Breanna Stewart and Wilson. A legacy of excellence that doesn’t look like it’s ending anytime soon.

The U.S. (4-0), which has been playing stellar defense, was challenged by South Korea early. The teams were trading baskets for the first 8 minutes and it was tied at 21 before the Americans took control, scoring the final 11 points of the period.

Kahleah Copper came off the bench for the first time of the tournament and scored six points during that spurt. The Americans kept the streak going to start the second quarter, scoring nine of the first 11 points to put the game away.

By the time the game reached the half the U.S. was up 68-40, including scoring 44 points in the paint against the undersized Koreans.

“We were trying to get the ball inside,” Jones said. “We had an advantage there.”

The only suspense in the second half was how many records the Americans could break. They took down their own scoring mark on Sabrina Ionescu’s 3-pointer with 6:15 left in the game and kept putting up points with Austin’s layup capping off the contest.

Other records broken on Monday included the 62 field goals made, 36 assists and 94 points in the paint.

“Our size was a problem for them and I thought we shared the ball,” U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said.

The Americans were well rested for the game after having their first day off of the tournament on Sunday.

Despite the rout, South Korea (1-3) can still advance to the quarterfinals with a win over Puerto Rico on Tuesday.

Leeseul Kang, who had 37 points in a win over Bosnia and Herzegovina, scored 10 points. Hyejin Park had 17 to lead the team.

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