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Tokyo Olympics remain on track amid coronavirus outbreak in China

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TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo Olympic organizers and the International Olympic Committee said Friday there is no “Plan B” for the 2020 Games, which open in just over five months and have been jolted by the outbreak of a virus in neighboring China.

The coronavirus has infected almost 64,000 people globally with almost 1,400 deaths in China, but only one in Japan where fear is rising with so much attention focused on the outbreak.

“Certainly the advice we’re received externally from the WHO (World Health Organization) is that there’s no case for any contingency plans or cancelling the Games or moving the Games,” John Coates, the head of an IOC inspection team, said to wrap up a two-day visit that was dominated by the virus issue.

Coates and Tokyo Olympic organizers took 11 questions at a news conference on Friday. All 11 were about the virus, or the presence of Chinese athletes in 19 remaining test events in Japan, or about Chinese fans, or repeated questions seeking reassurance the games will go ahead as planned.

A Japanese reporter asked Tokyo organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori if, given the fact the Games are going ahead, would there be any “organizational changes” in how the Games are run.

“No, at this stage, no. We are not thinking of any such possibility,” said Mori, a former Japanese prime minister, speaking in Japanese.

Mori, Coates and CEO Toshiro Muto looked glum sitting at a head table taking essentially the same question over and over.

“We can confirm that Tokyo 2020 remains on track,” Coates said in his opening statement.

Coates was asked by a CNN reporter if he was 100% confident that the Tokyo Olympics would go on as scheduled and open on July 24.

“Yes,” he replied.

Coates talked positively about keeping a close watch on Chinese athletes, and talked optimistically about their eventual presence in Tokyo, where they would probably field a team of 600 athletes — one of the largest delegations.

“We continue also to monitor, particularly the Chinese that will be coming here,” Coates said. “You’ll find that the Chinese teams are mostly out of China. That’s the athletes and officials.”

He didn’t offer any specific numbers.

Others away from the Olympic circle are uncertain what course the virus outbreak will take.

“Frankly speaking, there is no guarantee that the outbreak will come to an end before the Olympics because we have no scientific basis to be able to say that,” Shigeru Omi, a former regional director of the WHO and an infectious disease expert from Japan, said Thursday.

“So it is meaningless to predict a timing when it may come to an end,” he added. “We should assume that the virus has already been spreading in Japan. People should understand that we cannot only rely on border controls to prevent the spread of the disease.”

Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, told The Associated Press in an email: “I don’t think anyone right now can confidently predict the state of affairs come late summer.”

“One slight word of caution,” he added. “Influenza is regarded as a winter infection in the northern hemisphere. But when we encountered a new strain in 2009-10 — pandemic strain, or swine flu — we did see cases in the summer months.”

That is not particularly good news, where many talk of the hot, humid Tokyo summer taking its toll on the virus.

The AP requested but was declined an interview with Dr. Richard Budgett, the IOC’s medical and scientific director who was in Tokyo for the meetings.

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Olympic wrestlers tie for gold medal, 8 years after the competition

Bilyal Makhov
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A pair of doping cases led to the first Olympic gold-medal tie in wrestling history, eight years after the matches took place.

Russian Bilyal Makhov was upgraded to 2012 Olympic freestyle super heavyweight gold, joining Iranian Komeil Ghasemi, who was upgraded last year, according to the IOC’s website.

In February, Russian media reported that Makhov recently tested positive for growth hormone, which would have no bearing on 2012 results.

The move came after the finalists in 2012 — Uzbek Artur Taymazov and Georgian Davit Modzmanashvil — were stripped of their gold and silver medals last year in retests of doping samples from the London Games.

Makhov and Ghasemi each originally earned bronze medals. In wrestling, bronze medals are awarded to each match winner in repechage finals.

Ghasemi, whose only loss in London came to gold medalist Taymazov, was originally upgraded to gold by United World Wrestling in 2019. Makhov, whose loss came to Modzmanashvil, was originally upgraded to silver before the later upgrade to a second gold.

American Tervel Dlagnev and Kazakh Daulet Shabanbay, who lost the bronze-medal matches to Ghasemi and Makhov, were upgraded to bronze-medal positions last year, according to United World Wrestling.

Taymazov became the second athlete to be stripped of gold medals from multiple Olympics for doping, losing his London 2012 title two years after giving up his Beijing 2008 crown. Both were because of retests coming back positive for banned steroids.

Wrestling has been contested at every modern Olympics save 1900.

In 1912, Sweden’s Anders Ahlgren and Finland’s Ivar Bohling wrestled for nine hours in a final without deciding a winner, according to Olympedia.org. The match was declared a “double loss” and both awarded silver medals. There was no gold medalist.

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Deajah Stevens, Olympic sprinter, suspended through Tokyo Games

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Deajah Stevens, a U.S. Olympic 200m sprinter, was suspended through Aug. 15, 2021, for missing drug tests, ruling her out of the Tokyo Games unless she successfully appeals.

Stevens, who placed seventh in Rio, missed three drug tests in 2019, grounds for a suspension between one and two years.

The exact length depends on an athlete’s degree of fault and, with the timing in this case, determined whether she would be banned through the Olympics.

Full details of her case are here.

The 18-month ban was backdated to Feb. 17, the date that Stevens requested her case be expedited. Her last of three missed tests was Nov. 25.

Stevens’ lawyer requested the suspension be backdated to the third missed test, which would have kept her eligible for the Olympics, or the date of Stevens’ request for an expedited hearing on Feb. 17, which could have kept her Olympic eligible if the ban was closer to one year.

For Stevens’ second missed test, she did not hear door knocks from a back bedroom. The drug tester called her five times but never received an answer. Stevens said her phone was out of battery power.

For her last missed test, the drug tester again tried to call Stevens. But Stevens changed her phone number six weeks earlier, after somebody was harassing her and threatening her fiance’s life. She had not yet notified drug-testing authorities that she changed her number.

“Despite our sympathy for the athlete, we have not been satisfied on a balance of probability that her behavior was not negligent and did not cause or contribute to her failure to be available for testing,” a disciplinary tribunal found. “She already had missed two doping tests in the last six months. She should have been on red alert and conscious that she could not miss the next one.”

Stevens’ initial provisional suspension was announced May 1 ahead of a June 25 disciplinary tribunal hearing.

Stevens, 25, was disqualified from the 2019 U.S. Outdoor Championships 200m semifinals in her only outdoor meet of the year, according to World Athletics.

She ranked No. 3 in the U.S. in the 200m in 2017 (and placed fifth at the world championships), No. 31 in 2018 and No. 59 in 2019.

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