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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.

MORE: Russia’s top track and field athlete slams ‘never-ending disgrace’

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Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

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