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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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Regan Smith swims another historic backstroke time at Pro Series meet

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Regan Smith, who last summer broke both backstroke world records, put up the fastest 100m back in history outside of a major international meet or trials competition on Saturday.

Smith, a 17-year-old Minnesota high school senior, clocked 58.26 seconds to win at a Pro Series meet in Knoxville, Tenn. It tied for the 12th-fastest time in history. None of the other fastest dozen came in January, six months out from when swimmers peak for the world’s biggest events like the Olympics.

Making it more impressive: Smith did it 27 minutes after finishing second in the 200m butterfly, which she’s also expected to contest at June’s Olympic trials in Omaha.

“It actually wasn’t as bad, as I was nervous it was going to be,” Smith, whose world record is 57.57, said of the double on NBCSN. Smith entered two events per day at the three-day Knoxville meet, in part to prepare for the trials, where she is slated to race six straight days in a bid to make the Olympic team in enough events to swim eight straight days in Tokyo.

On Saturday, Smith held off fellow 17-year-old Phoebe Bacon by six tenths. Bacon beat Smith at the U.S. Open in December, posting the second-fastest time among Americans in the event for 2019.

The teen emergence puts pressure on Kathleen Baker, the Rio Olympic silver medalist who had the world record before Smith took it at worlds.

Full Knoxville results are here. USASwimming.org live streams the last night of finals Sunday at 6:30 ET.

In other events Saturday, world silver medalist Hali Flickinger overcame Smith in the 200m fly, winning in 2:08.34. Smith, third-fastest among Americans last season, was .39 behind. The second-fastest American last year, Katie Drabot, was not in the field. The top two at trials make the Olympic team.

Erika Brown beat world champion Simone Manuel in a freestyle sprint for a second straight meet, taking the 50m free in 24.57 seconds.

Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, edged Manuel by .06 and took .01 off her personal best. Brown ranked third among Americans last year behind Manuel (24.05) and Abbey Weitzeil (24.47).

Brown also defeated Manuel in the 100m free at the U.S. Open in December, moving to fourth-fastest in the U.S. last year in that event. The top six in the 100m free at trials are in line to make the Olympic team, given relay spots.

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Mikaela Shiffrin nearly makes it three-way tie for World Cup win

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Mikaela Shiffrin came .01 shy of making it a three-way tie for a World Cup giant slalom win on Saturday, confirming GS has been the most up-for-grabs discipline for either gender in recent years.

Shiffrin, beaten in her last two slaloms, had the fastest second run to place third behind co-winners Italian Federica Brignone and Slovakian Petra Vlhova in Sestriere, Italy. The reigning Olympic and World Cup champion in the GS rallied from fourth place and .42 behind after the first run.

Shiffrin still leads the World Cup overall standings by 233 points over Vlhova. The American last won Dec. 29. Though she made the podium in three of her four races since, Shiffrin expressed a lack of confidence heading into this weekend’s races at the 2006 Olympic venue.

“The most exciting thing for me is that people have stopped asking me, like, are you unbeatable?” said Shiffrin, who won a record 17 World Cup races last season and has four victories nearly halfway through this season, tied with Vlhova for most on tour. “I feel really good in GS. It’s just been a long time since [the last GS on Dec. 28].”

Vlhova earned her third victory this month after beating Shiffrin those last two slaloms. Brignone leads the GS season standings by 61 points over Shiffrin, seeking to become the sixth different woman to win that discipline title in the last six years. There are four more GS races left this season.

It’s the second straight season with a World Cup GS tie. Last Feb. 1, Shiffrin and Vlhova tied in Maribor, Slovenia.

It’s the first time the top three finishers were separated by such a small margin since the last three-way tie for a win in 2006, when Lindsey VonnMichaela Dorfmeister and Nadia Styger had the same super-G time, and fourth-place Kelly VanderBeek was .01 behind.

“Last season, I had the lucky side of the hundredths many times, so sometimes I’m not going to be on the lucky side, too,” said Shiffrin, who had three victories by .16 or tighter last season.

World Cup racing continues with a parallel giant slalom on Sunday at 5:45 a.m. ET on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and streaming on NBC Sports Gold.

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