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Retroactive analysis brings doping charges against Russian weightlifters

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MOSCOW (AP) — Five Russian weightlifters, all of them world or European championship medalists, face doping charges which could herald a new wave of cases across a range of sports.

The International Weightlifting Federation said Tuesday that evidence against the five lifters, including 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Ruslan Albegov, comes from new investigations by the World Anti-Doping Agency into widespread drug use in Russian sports. All five have been provisionally suspended.

Albegov was also provisionally suspended in 2017, but the suspension was lifted the next year. The entire Russian team was banned from the 2016 Olympics.

IWF president Tamas Ajan said the alleged offenses occurred “some years ago” and should be seen as part of efforts to clean up weightlifting, which was responsible for dozens of doping cases at recent Olympics.

“We have not shown any hesitation in taking the right decisions,” he said in a statement. “While the IWF has done so much to begin a bright new chapter for our sport, we will also do what we can to pursue historical cases of doping.”

Albegov is a two-time world champion who won bronze in July in a test event for next year’s Olympics in Tokyo.

The others are world champion Tima Turiyeva and double European champions Oleg Chen and David Bedzhanyan, as well as Egor Klimonov, who won European championship silver in April.

Russia was banned entirely from weightlifting at the 2016 Olympics when the IWF said its doping problem brought the sport into disrepute. For next year’s Olympics in Tokyo, Russia is among 17 countries hit with new doping-related restrictions on the size of their squads.

WADA has been analyzing a vast archive of data obtained in January from the anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, where cases were routinely covered up for years. WADA has started handing over its results to sports federations. It also obtained a batch of stored drug-test samples in April.

The lab data was crucial to bans for two Russians in the winter sport of biathlon in June. The International Biathlon Union handed Alexander Chernyshov and Alexander Pechyonkin longer bans because it deemed their conduct was aggravated by being part of an “organized doping scheme.”

WADA president Craig Reedie said at the time that he expects more than 100 new doping cases to be brought across various Russian sports. Only a small fraction has so far been announced.

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Beach volleyball player’s dog becomes social media sensation

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Norwegian beach volleyball player Mathias Berntsen‘s dog, Kiara, captivated social media this weekend.

A video of Kiara peppering with Berntsen and a pair across the net on a grass field spread from Berntsen’s Instagram across platforms. Kiara now has 12,000 Instagram followers, more than twice the total of Berntsen.

Berntsen, 24, is one half of Norway’s second-best beach volleyball team.

He and partner Hendrik Mol are ranked 45th in the world and well outside the Tokyo Olympic picture (24 teams go to the Games), but could get in the mix depending on how qualification is amended once sports resume.

Berntsen and his cousin Mol are part of a group called the Beach Volley Vikings. Mol’s younger brother, Anders, and family friend Christian Sorum are the world’s top-ranked team (profiled here).

MORE: Beach volleyball players fly to Australia, learn event is canceled

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FIFA rules on Olympic men’s soccer tournament age eligibility

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For the first time since 1988, some 24-year-olds will be eligible for the Olympic men’s soccer tournament without using an over-age exception.

FIFA announced Friday that it will use the same age eligibility criteria for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 that it intended to use in 2020 — that players born on or after Jan. 1, 1997 are eligible, plus three over-age exceptions. FIFA chose not to move the birthdate deadline back a year after the Olympics were postponed by one year.

Olympic men’s soccer tournaments have been U-23 events — save those exceptions — since the 1992 Barcelona Games. In 1984 and 1988, restrictions kept European and South American players with World Cup experience ineligible. Before that, professionals weren’t allowed at all.

Fourteen of the 16 men’s soccer teams already qualified for the Games using players from under-23 national teams. The last two spots are to be filled by CONCACAF nations, potentially the U.S. qualifying a men’s team for the first time since 2008.

The U.S.’ biggest star, Christian Pulisic, and French superstar Kylian Mbappe were both born in 1998 and thus would have been under the age limit even if FIFA moved the deadline to Jan. 1, 1998.

Perhaps the most high-profile player affected by FIFA’s decision is Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus. The Manchester City star was born April 3, 1997, and thus would have become an over-age exception if FIFA pushed the birthdate rule back a year.

Instead, Brazil could name him to the Olympic team and still keep all of its over-age exceptions.

However, players need permission from their professional club teams to play in the Olympics, often limiting the availability of stars.

MORE: Noah Lyles details training near woods, dog walkers

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