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Caster Semenya to IAAF: Focus on dopers, not us

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MONTREUIL, France (AP) — After another winning run, a defiant Caster Semenya on Tuesday urged track’s governing body to drop its pursuit of female runners with high testosterone levels and instead focus on catching dope cheats.

Speaking after winning a 2000m on the outskirts of Paris, the South African again made clear that she will refuse to medicate to bring down her testosterone levels, to comply with hugely controversial rules pushed by the IAAF.

“I’m not an idiot. Why will I take drugs? I’m a pure athlete. I don’t cheat. They should focus on doping, not us. I’m never going to take drugs,” the two-time Olympic 800m champion said.

Another athlete affected by the rules, Francine Niyonsaba, also responded with a defiant “No!” when asked after the race if she would medicate.

“I’m sad, because it’s a discriminatory rule, you know, a rule that targeted me and other world-class athletes in certain disciplines,” said Niyonsaba, who took silver behind Semenya at the Rio Games.

Athletes affected by the rules have levels of testosterone in the male range, the IAAF says, and they must reduce them to be allowed to run in women’s events. The IAAF argues that testosterone’s muscle-building capacity and ability to help athletes carry more oxygen in their blood gives Semenya and others like her an unfair athletic advantage over other women.

The rules, which came into effect May 8, apply to races from 400m to one mile. Semenya tried but failed to have the regulations struck down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Her legal team subsequently appealed to the Swiss supreme court, which then temporarily lifted the contentious rules in her case.

Semenya wouldn’t comment Tuesday on that appeal, saying she’s not a lawyer. But she made clear that she intends to be the master of her own fate, saying: “I’m not going to change because of any man.”

“If they have a problem with me, I don’t have a problem with them. That’s their business, to worry, not mine,” she said.

On a soggy, rain-drenched and chilly evening, Semenya ran a forgettable time of 5 minutes, 38.19 seconds over 2000m, a rarely-run distance that isn’t an Olympic event.

Ultimately, if her appeal fails and Semenya can no longer compete over 800m, her signature event, she suggested that it wouldn’t be the end of the world for her. She said she could drop down to sprints or scale up to longer distances if needed.

“I can run any event I want,” she said. “I’m a talented athlete. I’m not worried about anything else.”

The IAAF rules apply to a specific group of women with medical conditions known as differences of sex development (DSD) and specifically those born with the typical male XY chromosome pattern and testosterone levels higher than the typical female range.

To compete in the Olympics, world championships or other international track and field events, each athlete must reduce her testosterone level and keep it within the acceptable range for six months prior to competing. The IAAF gives three medical options: a daily contraceptive pill, a monthly testosterone-blocking injection or surgery. The treatments could inhibit athletic performance but by how much is uncertain, while also posing risks of other negative side effects.

The treatment has been labelled as unethical by an array of experts, including the World Medical Association, which represents doctors across the world.

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Federica Brignone passes Mikaela Shiffrin for World Cup overall lead

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Italian Federica Brignone passed an absent Mikaela Shiffrin for the World Cup overall standings lead by winning a combined in Switzerland on Sunday.

Brignone prevailed by .92 of a second adding times from super-G and slalom runs in Crans-Montana. Full results are here.

Brignone moved 73 points ahead of Shiffrin in the overall through 29 of 40 scheduled races. A race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through the 30th-place finisher. The season runs through March 22.

Shiffrin, the three-time reigning World Cup overall champion, has not competed since the unexpected death of her father on Feb. 2. She has not announced if or when she will return this season.

Brignone, 29, is having a career season with five wins and 10 podiums across four disciplines.

Brignone’s best previous World Cup overall standings finish was fifth. She earned giant slalom medals at the 2018 Olympics (bronze) and 2011 World Championships (silver).

She could become Italy’s first female World Cup overall champion. The last Italian male winner was Alberto Tomba in 1995.

The women’s Alpine skiing World Cup moves to La Thuile, Italy, for a super-G and a combined next Saturday and Sunday.

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Jade Carey on brink of becoming first gymnast to qualify for U.S. Olympic team

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The U.S. Olympic gymnastics trials aren’t until late June, but Jade Carey is in position to qualify for the Tokyo Games in March.

Carey, seeking an individual Olympic gymnastics spot outside of the team competition, earned the maximum points in a World Cup series that is one path to Olympic qualification.

Carey has three wins each on floor exercise and vault with two World Cups left in March. Carey will mathematically clinch an Olympic spot if no other gymnasts earn maximum points on one of the apparatuses to force a tiebreaker.

A gymnast’s top three finishes across the eight-stop series count in Olympic qualifying. If Carey finishes atop the floor or vault standings, she goes to the Olympics.

Carey picked up those third wins on floor and vault at the sixth World Cup in Melbourne, Australia, this weekend.

So far, no other gymnast has two wins on floor. One other gymnast can get to the maximum points on vault with one win between the last two stops (and others with two).

The one downside to qualifying this route: Carey would not be able to compete in the team competition at the Olympics. Those four spots will be determined at and after June’s trials in St. Louis, with Simone Biles likely grabbing one of them.

“I knew I would be giving up being on the team,” Carey said in October of going the World Cup route, “but I think, for me, it made sense to just go for it.”

Carey is a world medalist on vault and floor, but she doesn’t have the all-around credentials of Biles and some other U.S. gymnasts.

Olympic team event roster sizes were cut from five to four for Tokyo, putting a greater onus on all-around prowess given a team must put three gymnasts on each apparatus in the Olympic final.

The U.S. is the deepest country in women’s gymnastics, so the only truly safe pick to make the four-woman Olympic team event roster is Biles.

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