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Rosie Ruiz, Boston Marathon course cutter, dies at 66

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BOSTON (AP) — Rosie Ruiz, the Boston Marathon course-cutter who was stripped of her victory in the 1980 race and went on to become an enduring symbol of cheating in sports, has died. She was 66.

Ruiz, who was also known as Rosie Vivas, died in Florida of cancer on July 8, according to an obituary that made no mention of her Boston Marathon infamy. Running magazine first made the connection this week, a fitting end to one of the oddest chapters in the history of the race.

“It’s a colorful part of the Boston Marathon history, that’s for sure,” said Bill Rodgers, who won the men’s race that year and was immediately suspicious of the woman sitting next to him on the awards podium. “Poor Rosie, she took all the brunt of it.”

An unknown who didn’t look or act like she had just run 26.2 miles, Ruiz finished first in the women’s division in Boston in 1980 in a then-record time of 2 hours, 31 minutes, 56 seconds. Even as she was awarded her medal and the traditional olive wreath, her competitors wondered how a woman they hadn’t ever heard of — or seen on the course — could have won.

“We knew that she had jumped in. We, who knew what the marathon was, we got it,” Rodgers told The Associated Press on Thursday. “She wasn’t sweating enough; she had on a heavy shirt; she didn’t know about running.

“I was with her the next day on TV, and she was just crying her head off,” Rodgers said, adding that he thought Ruiz wanted to confess. “If she had just said, ‘I’m sorry. I made a mistake.’ Runners — we all drop out of races — we would have understood.”

In an era before tracking chips and electronic checkpoints, race organizers used spotters to scribble down the bib numbers of runners going by. (They focused mainly on the men’s race.) Ruiz did not show up there, on videotape or in any of 10,000 photographs taken along the first 25 miles of the course.

Grilled by the Boston Athletic Association about her training methods and pace, she had no answers and did not seem to recognize terms that would be common for elite marathoners; she also could not identify landmarks she would have passed on the course. Two Harvard students soon came forward to say they saw her join the race near Kenmore Square, about a mile from the finish.

Ruiz was stripped of her title eight days after the race. Canadian Jacqueline Gareau was declared the rightful winner and brought back to Boston the next month to receive her due.

“People, they’re still sorry for me. But at the same time I think they should feel sorry more for her,” Gareau, who also came in second in Boston twice and had two other top-10 finishes, told the AP.

“Like everybody says, she’s part of my life. I cannot separate from her because of that story. She’s not a friend, but she’s been there so long.

“I wish she would have contacted me some time and said ‘I’m so sorry,’ but no,” Gareau said. “She would have probably had a better life and felt better.”

It was never established how Ruiz got to Kenmore Square, but the ensuing investigation showed she took the subway during the 1979 New York City Marathon to obtain her qualifying time for Boston.

The B.A.A. declined to comment on her death.

Ruiz always maintained that she won the race fairly and never returned the medal she received on race day. (Gareau was given a substitute.)

Ruiz vowed to run Boston again, to prove that she could do it.

She never did.

Gareau said she bumped into Ruiz at a 10K run in Miami in 1981, about nine months after Boston.

“She presented herself to me, she said ‘Hi, I’m Rosie Ruiz.’ I just said, ‘Hi,’” Gareau recalled. “She still told me she won. So I didn’t really discuss it with her.”

Born in Havana, Cuba, Ruiz came to the United States as an 8-year-old and settled with relatives in the Miami area. According to the obituary posted by the Quattlebaum Funeral, Cremation and Event Center in West Palm Beach, Florida, she studied piano at Wayne State College in Nebraska, moved to New York for five years and then back to Florida, where she worked as an accounts manager for a medical laboratory and as an accreditation specialist for the Better Business Bureau.

She married Aicaro Vivas in 1984 and the couple divorced 2 1/2 years later. According to the obituary, she is survived by her domestic partner, Margarita Alvarez, and a brother, Robert Ruiz.

The marathon shortcuts were not Ruiz’s only — or most serious — transgressions: The Boston Globe reported that she was arrested in New York on charges of stealing $60,000 in cash and checks from her employer in 1982. A year later, she was sentenced to three years of probation for cocaine trafficking.

“She had a family. She was a loving person. She studied music, which tells me she did some good stuff in her life. But then this part of her life was a little bit weird. Never admitting it, too,” Gareau said. “I would not like to be in her place.”

Maria Sharapova appears set to miss Tokyo Olympics

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Maria Sharapova, who would have a difficult time qualifying for the Olympics next year, committed to play an event in California the week of the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova is scheduled to play World Team Tennis matches in California during the Olympic tennis events in late July, according to a press release. Sharapova’s longtime agent hasn’t responded to a message seeking confirmation that she is ruling out the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova, 32 and the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, was barred from the Rio Games due to her 15-month meldonium suspension in 2016 and 2017. That alone could rule her ineligible for Tokyo, given the World Anti-Doping Agency’s sanctions against Russia on Monday.

Sharapova is ranked No. 131 after a season shortened by shoulder surgery. She would have to be among the top four ranked Russian women after the French Open in June for possible automatic Olympic qualification. She is currently the 14th Russian.

Olympic eligibility rules include minimum participation requirements in Fed Cup, which Sharapova hasn’t done in this Olympic cycle, though exceptions can be made.

Sharapova’s passion for the Olympics is well documented.

She carried the Russian flag into the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and carried the Olympic flame into Fisht Stadium at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony, where she worked for NBC Olympics.

“It was the one thing that my parents allowed me to watch on TV late into the evening was the Olympics,” Sharapova said in 2017. “I grew up watching figure skating and hockey and a little bit of tennis. … Just capturing the Opening Ceremonies and seeing all the countries and the little hats that they wore, and I, as a little girl, I just imagined that maybe it would be me. But I never, ever thought that I would be carrying the flag.

“I received that [flag] honor in a text message, which is a very Russian way of communicating. I originally thought it was a joke, a big fat joke. Then I showed it to my mother, and she [said], no, they probably wouldn’t joke like that.”

In February 2016, Sharapova entered a Fed Cup tie, despite saying she was injured, in order to receive Olympic eligibility. One month later, her failed drug test was announced.

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Russia banned from Olympics, world champs for 4 years; athletes could compete as neutrals

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Russia is banned from the next two Olympics and other major sports events for four years, though its athletes could still compete without representing the country if cleared by anti-doping authorities.

Russia’s hosting of world championships in Olympic sports also face being stripped after the World Anti-Doping Agency executive committee approved a full slate of recommended sanctions for tampering with a Moscow laboratory database.

Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in major events — including world championships — only if they are not implicated in positive doping tests or their data was not manipulated, according to the WADA ruling. “In this circumstance, they may not represent the Russian Federation,” according to a WADA release.

“While I understand the calls for a blanket ban on all Russian athletes whether or not they are implicated by the data, it was the unanimous view of the CRC [compliance review committee], which includes an athlete, that in this case, those who could prove their innocence should not be punished, and I am pleased that the WADA ExCo [executive committee] agreed with this,” WADA CRC chairman Jonathan Taylor said.

There are 145 unnamed athletes within WADA’s “target group of most suspicious athletes” from 2012-15 who would not be allowed to compete at the Olympics, Taylor said, adding that it’s possible those names will be made public. About one-third of them are still active.

Russia’s anti-doping agency can appeal the decision within 21 days. Russia previously signaled it would appeal the ruling.

“The decision will come into effect only when it becomes final ie when either RUSADA accepts it or it is upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” a WADA spokesperson said in an email.

Russia avoided blanket bans for the Rio and PyeongChang Olympics after a state-run doping program was exposed by media and WADA investigations after Russia hosted the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Approved Russian athletes competed as neutrals — “Olympic Athletes from Russia” — including in team sports in PyeongChang. Those Russians combined to earn two gold medals (figure skater Alina Zagitova and men’s hockey) and 17 overall, compared to the leading 33 Russia earned at the Sochi Olympics before medals were stripped for doping.

“Will Russian athletes be accepted as Olympic Athletes from Russia?” during the ban, Taylor said. “No, they are neutral athletes, which means not representatives of any country. Not representatives of Russia.”

Going forward, “they cannot use the name of the country in the name of the team,” WADA president-elect Witold Bańka told The Associated Press.

Two of the 168 Russians who competed in PyeongChang failed drug tests and were punished for doping.

More recent evidence shows that Russian authorities tampered with a Moscow laboratory database to hide hundreds of potential doping cases and falsely shift the blame onto whistleblowers, WADA investigators and the International Olympic Committee said last month. “Flagrant manipulation” of the Moscow lab data was “an insult to the sporting movement worldwide,” the IOC said last month.

“Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order … but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial,” WADA president Craig Reedie said.

Russia will be allowed to participate in the Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland, that open Jan. 9.

WADA’s inability to fully expel Russia from the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Games frustrated the doping watchdog’s vice president.

“I’m not happy with the decision we made today. But this is as far as we could go,” said Linda Helleland, a Norwegian lawmaker who serves on WADA executive committee and has long pushed for a tougher line against Russia. “This is the biggest sports scandal the world has ever seen. I would expect now a full admission from the Russians and for them to apologize on all the pain all the athletes and sports fans have experienced.”

Although the IOC has called for the strongest possible sanctions, it wants those sanctions directed at Russian state authorities rather than athletes or Olympic officials.

“To allow Russia to escape a complete ban is yet another devastating blow to clean athletes, the integrity of sport and the rule of law,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement. “And, in turn, the reaction by all those who value sport should be nothing short of a revolt against this broken system to force reform.”

Russia’s Olympic champion women’s handball team is currently competing at the world championships in Japan. Its next match is Tuesday against Montenegro. Russia has been the scheduled host for the world luge championships in Sochi in mid-February.

The “major sports” events that fall under WADA’s sanctions do not include European Championships or other non-world championships events such as tennis’ upcoming Australian Open.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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