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Russia set to lose another Sochi Olympic gold medal, fall into tie with U.S.

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SALZBURG, Austria (AP) — Russia is set to lose a biathlon gold medal from the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics in a new doping case.

The International Biathlon Union on Saturday announced a two-year ban for Evgeny Ustyugov, who was part of the gold medal-winning men’s relay team six years ago, citing evidence he used the banned steroid oxandrolone around the time of the Olympics.

His results from the 2013-14 season have been disqualified, including the Olympic victory.

When confirmed by the International Olympic Committee, that will knock Russia off top spot in the Sochi medal table in terms of golds. The host nation would have 10 golds, against 11 for Norway, and 28 total medals, the joint-most along with the United States.

Germany is in line to inherit the relay gold, subject to IOC confirmation.

Ustyugov, who is also facing another anti-doping charge on another matter, denies any wrongdoing and suggested the IBU was unfairly targeting him with a series of investigations.

“I’m no longer surprised. An outrage is an outrage,” he told the Russian state news agency Tass. “Time will show who is right.”

The Salzburg-based IBU also announced a similar two-year sanction for Svetlana Sleptsova, a Russian who didn’t win any medals at Sochi, over the banned substance ostarine.

The cases are based on disputed data from the Moscow anti-doping laboratory.

The computer files were obtained last year by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which has since said it considers some of the data to have been tampered with to cover up doping. WADA has banned Russia’s name and flag from the 2020 Olympics as a consequence.

A WADA panel said in November that attempts were made to delete files in two biathlon cases whose details appear to match those of Ustyugov and Sleptsova, but that computer experts recovered the files.

Any appeal by Ustyugov is likely to focus on whether the data can be considered reliable evidence. Even if he wins an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, he could still face a ban in a separate doping case.

The Biathlon Integrity Unit, a new anti-doping arm of the IBU, said Thursday it charged Ustyugov with a doping violation based on unusual data in blood samples he gave between Jan. 2010 and Feb. 2014. That could potentially threaten his gold medal in mass start and relay bronze from the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

The IOC and WADA didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

MORE: Russia appeals Olympic doping ban to Court of Arbitration for Sport

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Sam Mikulak to retire from gymnastics after Tokyo Olympics

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Sam Mikulak, the U.S.’ top male gymnast, said he will retire after the Tokyo Olympics, citing a wrist injury and emotional health revelations during a forced break from the sport due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It does sound like some pretty crazy news, but there’s a lot of factors that go into it,” Mikulak said in a YouTube video published Sunday night. “I’ve had a lot of time to think about it during quarantine.”

The 27-year-old is a two-time Olympian, six-time U.S. all-around champion and the only active U.S. male gymnast with Olympic experience.

Mikulak said he noticed significant wrist inflammation last year that was temporarily healed by a November cortisone shot. But during quarantine, the wrist worsened even though he wasn’t doing gymnastics. He took a month off from working out, but the wrist didn’t heal.

He thought for a time that he might not return to gymnastics at all. A doctor told him he would need cortisone shots for the rest of his career.

“At that point, it was really made for me that this has to be my final year of gymnastics because I don’t want to ruin myself beyond this sport,” Mikulak said.

Mikulak also noted realizations from the forced time out of the gym. He learned that he’s much less stressed while not doing gymnastics, a sport he began at age 2. Mikulak’s parents were gymnasts at Cal.

“For so long, I’ve been sacrificing, and I’m sick of it,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to being able to be free from gymnastics and being able to do all these things that I’ve been putting off in my life for so long.”

Mikulak realized a career goal in 2018 when he earned his first individual world championships medal, a bronze on high bar. He wants to cap his career with a first Olympic medal in Tokyo, then, perhaps, become a coach or open his own gym.

Mikulak recently got engaged to Mia Atkins, and they got another puppy, Barney.

“Everything I’ve done in gymnastics is enough for me right now,” said Mikulak, who plans to document the next year on YouTube. “I was actually somewhat happy that I was able to come to that type of decision because for so long I felt like gymnastics really wasn’t going to be fulfilling until I’ve gotten my Olympic medal. And during quarantine, I had this whole revelation where, you know what, I am happier than I’ve ever been in my entire life, and I’m not doing gymnastics, so even if I don’t accomplish these goals, I am still going to be so damn happy.”

MORE: Simone Biles’ closest rival chases comeback

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April Ross, Alix Klineman complete perfect, abbreviated AVP season

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April Ross and Alix Klineman consolidated their position as the U.S.’ top beach volleyball team, completing a sweep of the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup on Sunday.

Ross, a two-time Olympic medalist, and Klineman won the finale, the Porsche Cup. They won all 12 matches over the last three weekends, including the last 14 sets in a row, capped with a 21-18, 21-17 win over Kelly Claes and Sarah Sponcil in Sunday’s final.

“It feels like we’re midseason in a normal year,” Ross said on Amazon Prime. “I can’t believe it’s over.”

The AVP Champions Cup marked the first three top-level beach volleyball tournaments since March, and a replacement for a typical AVP season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The setting: on the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center parking lot without fans and with many health and safety measures.

AVP is not part of Olympic qualifying. It’s unknown when those top-level international tournaments will resume, but Ross and Klineman, ranked No. 2 in the world, are just about assured of one of the two U.S. Olympic spots.

According to BVBinfo.com, they’re 10-0 combined against the other top U.S. teams — Claes and Sponcil and triple Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings and Brooke Sweat, who are likely battling for the last U.S. Olympic spot.

Walsh Jennings and Sweat, who do not play on the AVP tour, have a lead for the last spot more than halfway through qualifying, which runs into June.

Earlier in the men’s final, Tri Bourne and Trevor Crabb kept 2008 Olympic champion Phil Dalhausser and Nick Lucena from sweeping the Champions Cup. Bourne and Crabb prevailed 21-17, 15-21, 15-12 for their first AVP title since teaming in 2018.

Bourne, who went nearly two years between tournaments from 2016-18 due to an autoimmune disease, and Crabb redeemed after straight-set losses to Dalhausser and Lucena the previous two weekends. Crabb guaranteed a title on Instagram days before the tournament.

“Those guys are the best in the world, and they make you look bad at times, but we’re relentless,” Bourne said on Amazon Prime. “You’re going to have to play the best volleyball in the world to beat us every time.”

Bourne and Crabb, Dalhausser and Lucena and Jake Gibb and Taylor Crabb (Trevor’s younger brother) are battling for two available U.S. Olympic spots in Tokyo.

MORE: Team Slaes looks to end Kerri Walsh Jennings’ Olympic career

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