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.

12-year-old skateboarders earn medals at world championships

Chloe Covell
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At the world skateboarding championships, 12-year-olds Chloe Covell from Australia and Onodera Ginwoo from Japan earned silver and bronze medals, respectively, in Sunday’s street finals.

In the women’s event, Covell took silver behind Brazilian 15-year-old Rayssa Leal, who was a silver medalist herself at the Tokyo Games.

Frenchman Aurélien Giraud, a 25-year-old who was sixth in skateboarding’s Olympic debut in Tokyo, won the men’s final in the United Arab Emirates. Ginwoo was third behind Portugal’s Gustavo Ribeiro.

The top Americans were Olympic men’s bronze medalist Jagger Eaton in sixth and 15-year-old Paige Heyn in seventh in the women’s event.

Nyjah Huston, a six-time world champion who placed seventh in Tokyo, missed worlds after August surgery for an ACL tear.

Up to three men and three women per nation can qualify per event (street and park) for the 2024 Paris Games. World rankings come June 2024 determine which Americans qualify.

In Tokyo, four of the 12 skateboarding medalists were ages 12 or 13.

Japan’s Kokona Hiraki, then 12, won silver in women’s park to become the youngest Olympic medalist since 1936, according to Olympedia.org. Japan’s Momiji Nishiya, then 13, won women’s street and became the youngest gold medalist in an individual event since 1936.

Worlds conclude this week with the men’s and women’s park events. The finals are Saturday.

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Francesco Friedrich, most decorated bobsledder in history, rebounds for 12th world title

Francesco Friedrich
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A week after his first major championships defeat in seven years, German Francesco Friedrich returned to his winning ways to close the world bobsled championships on Sunday.

Friedrich’s four-man sled won the world title by 69 hundredths of a second over British and Latvian sleds that tied for silver, combining times from four runs over the last two days in St. Moritz, Switzerland. It marked Great Britain’s first world championships men’s bobsled medal since 1966.

Geoff Gadbois drove the lone U.S. sled in the field, finishing 18th.

Friedrich, the most decorated bobsledder in history, extended his records with a fifth consecutive world four-man title and 12th world championship between two- and four-man events.

Germany swept all four titles at bobsled worlds with four different drivers taking gold.

Friedrich had won 12 consecutive Olympic or world titles before taking two-man silver at worlds last week in St. Moritz, Switzerland. He was dethroned in that event by countryman Johannes Lochner.

Friedrich has been hampered recently by a muscle injury from sprint training in late December. Going into worlds, Lochner had won four consecutive World Cup two-man races, while Hall won the last two World Cups in four-man.

Friedrich, 32, said before this season that he plans to make the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Games his final competition. Friedrich and push athlete Thorsten Margis can break the record of four career Olympic bobsled gold medals that they currently share with retired Germans Andre Lange and Kevin Kuske.

The World Cup season concludes with stops in Igls, Austria, and Sigulda, Latvia, the next two weekends.

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