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.

Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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