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Timeline of Russia’s doping cases and cover-ups

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The Russian flag and national anthem have been banned from the Olympics and other major sports events for four years by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

That’s just the latest development in a five-year saga of revelations about widespread drug use by Russian athletes that has marred at least the last five Olympic Games.

Here is a timeline of the drug use, investigations and cover-ups:

Feb. 2014 — Russian President Vladimir Putin opens the Winter Olympics in Sochi, the first time Russia has hosted the Olympics since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Russian team surprises many onlookers by finishing on top of the medal table, with nearly twice as many medals as it won in 2010.

Dec. 2014 — German television channel ARD reports on allegations of corruption and systematic doping throughout Russia. Reports include accusations from former Russian Anti-Doping Agency official Vitaly Stepanov and his wife, Yulia, an 800m runner who had been banned for doping. The Stepanovs go into hiding, saying they fear for their safety.

Nov. 2015 — Citing a report by its former president Dick Pound, WADA declares Russia’s anti-doping agency noncompliant and shuts down the national drug-testing laboratory. Track and field’s governing body, the IAAF, suspends the Russian track federation in a ban that remains in place today.

May 2016 — The New York Times publishes explosive testimony by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former director of the anti-doping laboratory in Moscow. He says he switched out dirty samples for clean ones as part of a state doping program at the 2014 Winter Olympics and other major events. A follow-up investigation helmed by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren flags hundreds of covered-up doping cases in dozens of sports. The International Olympic Committee starts retesting old samples from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, eventually banning dozens of athletes from Russia and other countries.

Aug. 2016 — Russia competes at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro with a reduced squad after dozens of athletes fail vetting of their drug-test history by sports federations. The IOC resists calls to ban Russia entirely, but the Paralympics kick Russia out. Russia’s Olympic weightlifting team is barred entirely for bringing its sport into disrepute and the track team consists of just one athlete, Darya Klishina, who gets a waiver to compete because she’s based abroad. The Russian team is fourth in the Olympic medal count.

Aug. 2017 — Nearly two years into its track ban, Russia is allowed to send a team of 19 officially neutral athletes to the world championships in London after they’re vetted by the IAAF. When Mariya Lasitskene wins gold in women’s high jump, the Russian anthem isn’t played. Two Russian silver medalists later have their IAAF status revoked amid investigations into whether they broke anti-doping rules.

Dec. 2017 — Faced with evidence of mass Russian cheating at the 2014 Winter Olympics, the IOC officially bans Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. However, it allows 168 Russians to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” They win gold in women’s figure skating and men’s hockey. Two Russians fail drug tests during the Games.

June-July 2018 — Russia hosts the men’s soccer World Cup. Before the tournament, soccer body FIFA looks into alleged doping in Russian soccer but doesn’t issue any sanctions.

Sept. 2018 — WADA reinstates the Russian anti-doping agency against opposition from many Western athletes, who feel Russia hasn’t publicly accepted it cheated. WADA’s condition is for Russia to turn over stored data and samples from the Moscow laboratory that could implicate more athletes. Russia misses the initial December deadline but finally hands over the files in Jan. 2019.

Oct. 2018 — U.S. prosecutors allege Russian military intelligence officers hacked sports organizations, including at the 2018 Olympics, as it tried to paint athletes from other countries as cheats.

June 2019 — Former IAAF president Lamine Diack is ordered to stand trial in France over accusations of corruption, including an alleged scheme to cover up failed drug tests in return for payments from athletes. Evidence has emerged suggesting that as much as $3.5 million may have been squeezed out of Russian athletes to hush up their doping.

Sept. 2019 — With four days to go until the track world championships in Doha, Qatar, WADA says it has found signs that the lab data handed over by Russia eight months earlier may have been tampered with. Russia is given three weeks to explain, and the Russian Olympic Committee expresses concern it could be barred from the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Dec. 2019 — The Russian flag and national anthem are banned from the Olympics and other major sports events for four years by WADA. Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in major events as neutrals only if they are not implicated in positive doping tests or their data was not manipulated.

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MORE: Russia track and field faces expulsion threat over new doping allegations

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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