Mariya Lasitskene, Russia’s top track and field athlete, slams ‘never-ending disgrace’

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MOSCOW (AP) — The only Russian track athlete currently holding a world title called on the country’s officials and coaches in the sport to be replaced because of the slow pace of anti-doping reforms.

High jumper Mariya Lasitskene’s message — in a country where top athletes rarely speak out against officials — came shortly after Russia’s ban from international athletics was prolonged on Sunday.

“I hope that the people involved in this never-ending disgrace still have the courage to leave. By themselves. And don’t think I’m only talking about the management,” Lasitskene wrote on Instagram.

“It’s also about the current coaches who are still sure that you can’t win without doping. They’re long overdue for retirement. A new generation of our athletes must grow up with a different philosophy, and for any athlete, it’s the coach who provides that.”

Lasitskene’s statement echoed Russian Anti-Doping Agency CEO Yuri Ganus, who said a month ago the Russian Athletics Federation was in “a world of illusion” and needed a purge of top officials. Ganus and federation president Dmitry Shlyakhtin held talks with Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov on Monday.

Lasitskene won world titles in 2015 and 2017, but was barred from the 2016 Olympics because of sanctions against the Russian team. She competes internationally under a neutral flag.

Long jumper Darya Klishina, a world silver medalist in 2017, commented on Instagram that Lasitskene’s call was “right on target.”

Russian Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov said the Russian track leadership could struggle without the trust of its top athletes.

“I think that for the federation it’s a bad signal, a bad sign,” he said.

“They don’t have that direct connection with the young guys, the young athletes, and it’s unpleasant information for the federation. Of course, Dmitry Shlyakhtin should meet with them and say what kind of work is being done … and build complete support from our clean athletes, the guys representing our country.”

Sunday’s IAAF decision left Russia with little over three months to avoid competing under a neutral flag at the world championships in Qatar. After Russia was barred from international athletics in 2015 because of widespread doping, the country’s competitors participated at the 2017 worlds as neutral athletes.

The head of the IAAF’s Russia task force, Rune Andersen, said there was evidence the country was “backsliding” on anti-doping reforms. He cited evidence that banned coaches have continued to work with athletes, and an ongoing investigation into whether Russian officials provided fake medical documentation to give high jumper Danil Lysenko an alibi for failing to notify drug testers of his whereabouts.

“I have instructed the federation president (Shlyakhtin) to be completely candid and provide any information that’s required for the special IAAF investigation,” sports minister Kolobkov said.

“It’s in our own interests for this situation to be fully investigated. If there really was a forged document or note, then everyone who was involved in that should be punished.”

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MORE: Russia investigated for doping forgery claim related to silver medalist

Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

Teri McKeever
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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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