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Russia’s doping ban from Paralympics ends, with conditions

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia’s 2½-year suspension from the Paralympics was lifted Friday, though the country’s athletes face extra doping tests ahead of next year’s games in Tokyo.

The International Paralympic Committee also put Russia on probation through 2022. Conditions include extra drug testing before competitions — with Russia footing the bill — and a ban on government officials serving on the Russian Paralympic Committee.

“We are looking forward to welcoming the RPC back as an IPC member,” IPC president Andrew Parsons said. “The organization should be under no illusions, however, that should it at any stage not meet the post-reinstatement criteria, the IPC governing board can reconsider its membership status. This could include the IPC revoking the conditional reinstatement.”

Parsons added the probation period is needed because Russia “disappointingly” hadn’t done enough to admit and atone for previous doping and cover-ups.

Russia faces a total bill of more than $1 million, including $125,000 a year for extra drug testing in 2020, 2021 and 2022. Athletes in all but one of 27 Paralympic sports will need to show they’ve been tested in the six months before entering key IPC events, including Paralympic qualifiers. Powerlifting is rated the highest-risk sport, with three prior tests required.

The Russian Paralympic Committee accepted the probation conditions, saying they “do not go beyond” measures it’s already taken to earn reinstatement.

Russia was barred from the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro after the IPC found a “medals over morals mentality” led to widespread cheating.

Documents from the Moscow anti-doping laboratory published as part of a 2016 World Anti-Doping Agency inquiry showed staff discussing how to cover up for disabled athletes who tested positive and suggested some blind athletes may have been given banned substances by coaches without their knowledge. However, no Russian athlete has faced individual doping charges related to the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi.

The IPC first softened its Russia stance when 30 athletes from the country were allowed to enter as Neutral Paralympic Athletes for last year’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The IPC ruled in January that Russia had reformed enough to lift the ban, but only after dropping its demand for Russian authorities to admit earlier doping-related wrongdoing.

At the time, Parsons said there was a stalemate because Russia would “most probably never accept” a report by World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren. He found in 2016 there was widespread doping involving a cover-up by sports ministry officials.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country never encouraged or covered up doping.

Documents from Moscow’s anti-doping lab revealed in McLaren’s investigation showed that failed doping tests were covered up for athletes across numerous sports, including some with disabilities.

Track and field is the only sport still with a doping ban on the country, though it allows dozens of certified Russians to compete as neutral athletes.

Mo Farah focused on Chicago Marathon defense, not ruling out 10,000m double

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Mo Farah said all of his training focus is on defending his Chicago Marathon title on Oct. 13, but the British star also said Tuesday that he can wait until “the last minute” to change his mind and also enter the world championships 10,000m on Oct. 6.

“I am a reigning world champion, so I do get an automatic spot anyway,” Farah said of the 10,000m, where he is a three-time reigning world champion.

Farah transitioned to road racing after the 2017 season and was thought to be done with major track championships. Farah was the distance king for more than a half-decade, sweeping the 5000m and 10,000m at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.

Farah said Tuesday that he didn’t know what the deadline would be to enter the world championships 10,000m.

“I really don’t know. I think the last minute,” he said. “As I said, I get an automatic spot anyway. I don’t know. My main target is to defend my [marathon] title, come out to Chicago. All the training is geared toward the marathon.”

An IAAF spokesperson said Farah must be entered as part of the British team by Sept. 16 to be eligible for worlds.

British Athletics said Wednesday that its team will be selected Sept. 2.

“Should Mo wish to race the 10,000m in Doha, he would need to advise the selection panel prior to this date,” a spokesperson said.

Farah enticed his followers about the 10,000m in a July 27 Instagram with the hashtag #doha10k, referencing the site of world championships in Qatar. Farah was asked Tuesday why he included the hashtag.

“Anything is possible,” he said. “I’m a reigning champion. I get an automatic spot. There’s nothing I have to do. I just thought why not?”

It’s not an unprecedented type of move to race a 10,000m one week before a marathon. Former training partner Galen Rupp placed fifth in the 2016 Olympic 10,000m on Aug. 13, then took bronze in the marathon on Aug. 21.

Farah said he hasn’t set any major racing plans beyond Chicago. He finished what he called a disappointing fifth in the London Marathon in 2:05.39 on April 28, three minutes behind winner Eliud Kipchoge. Farah said a satisfying result in Chicago would be a win above worrying about a specific time. The last man to repeat as Chicago champ was Kenyan Sammy Wanjiru in 2010.

The 2020 London Marathon is three and a half months before the Tokyo Olympic marathon, a tight turnaround.

“I think I can get back in form for the London Marathon before the Olympics, and then the Olympics, I guess, but I haven’t decided,” Farah said. “My main target now is just Chicago, then work from there.”

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Race Imboden, Gwen Berry get probation for Pan Am Games podium protests

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DENVER (AP) — The letter went to the two protesters. The message was meant for a much wider audience.

The CEO of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee sent letters of reprimand to hammer thrower Gwen Berry and fencer Race Imboden for protesting on the medals stand last week at the Pan American Games, but the 12-month probations that came with the letters also included a none-too-subtle signal for anyone vying for next year’s Olympics.

“It is also important for me to point out that, going forward, issuing a reprimand to other athletes in a similar instance is insufficient,” Sarah Hirshland wrote in the letters sent Tuesday. The Associated Press obtained copies of the documents.

Neither Berry’s raised fist nor Imboden’s kneel-down on the Pan Am medals stand were met with immediate consequences, in part because they happened at the tail end of the Games that were wrapping up in Lima, Peru.

Hirshland’s letter was as clear a sign as possible that athletes who try the same next year in Tokyo could face a different reaction.

It’s the IOC’s role to discipline athletes who break rules that forbid political protest at the Olympics — much the way the IOC triggered the ouster of John Carlos and Tommie Smith after their iconic protest in 1968 — though national federations can get into the mix, too. Before going to the Olympics, athletes sign forms stating they’re aware of the rules and won’t break them.

“We recognize that we must more clearly define for Team USA athletes what a breach of these rules will mean in the future,” Hirshland wrote. “Working with the (athletes and national governing body councils), we are committed to more explicitly defining what the consequences will be for members of Team USA who protest at future Games.”

Neither athlete immediately returned messages sent to them by AP via their social media accounts and agents.

Both will be eligible for the Olympics next summer, when the United States will be in the heat of a presidential campaign.

In a tweet sent shortly after his team’s medals ceremony at the Pan Am Games, Imboden said: “Racism, gun control, mistreatment of immigrants, and a president who spreads hate are at the top of a long list” of issues that need to be addressed.

Berry said she was protesting social injustice in America, and that it was “too important to not say something.”

Hirshland said she respected the perspectives of the athletes and would work with the IOC “to engage on a global discussion on these matters.”

“However, we can’t ignore the rules or the reasons they exist,” she wrote.

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