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Track agent accepts 2-year ban for doping talk to reporters

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MONACO (AP) — An athletics agent who was filmed telling undercover reporters he could supply performance enhancing drugs has agreed to a two-year ban in a case that risked implicating Justin Gatlin in doping.

The Athletics Integrity Unit announced the sanction on Monday against Robert Wagner, while accepting he made “misleading and untruthful statements” to secure what he thought was a $250,000 contract for work.

In fallout of reports in 2017 by Britain’s Daily Telegraph, former Olympic and world champion sprinter Gatlin fired his then-coach, Dennis Mitchell, who was implicated in the allegations.

“Mr. Wagner confirmed that he had no further information or any evidence to corroborate his claims that Mr. Justin Gatlin (and ‘everybody else’) was doping at certain points in the season or that Mr. Dennis Mitchell was involved, aware and engaged in doping Mr. Gatlin,” the AIU said in a published judgment.

The newspaper alleged Wagner met reporters at a training camp in Florida, and that he offered to supply and administer testosterone and human growth hormone they said were for an actor training for a film, for a fee of $250,000.

Wagner’s conduct was “extraordinarily unprofessional,” the ruling said. “The statements made by Mr. Wagner to undercover reporters concerned extremely serious matters that presented some of the gravest threats to the integrity of the sport.”

Wagner was given credit for cooperating with an investigation done by the AIU and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

He had been provisionally suspended from the sport since April 2018, and his two-year ban covered time already served.

Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion, served two bans in his career for doping violations. He returned to win 100m medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and the 2017 World title in what was Usain Bolt’s farewell competition.

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Gregorio Paltrinieri swims second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history

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Olympic champion Gregorio Paltrinieri swam the second-fastest 1500m freestyle in history, clocking 14:33.10 in his native Italy on Thursday.

Paltrinieri, 25, missed Chinese Sun Yang‘s world record from the 2012 Olympics by 2.08 seconds.

The Italian now owns the second- and third-fastest times in history, including his 14:34.10 from the 2016 European Championships, also held at the 2012 Olympic pool in London.

Paltrinieri is a versatile distance swimmer. At last year’s world championships, he finished sixth in the open-water 10km to qualify for the Olympics, then won the 800m free in the pool in a European record time and finished with 1500m bronze, just missing a third straight world title in that event.

German Florian Wellbrock won the 1500m in 14:36.54 at worlds, with Paltrinieri finishing 2.21 seconds back.

Sun, 28, was in February banned eight years stemming from destroying a drug-test sample with a hammer in September 2018. Sun, who focused more on the 200m and 400m frees in recent years, did not race the 1500m at the 2017 or 2019 Worlds.

Top-level swim meets in the U.S. are scheduled to resume in November with the Tyr Pro Series.

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Bianca Andreescu to miss U.S. Open

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Bianca Andreescu withdrew from the U.S. Open, citing “unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic” compromising her ability to prepare to defend her Grand Slam title.

“I have taken this step in order to focus on my match fitness and ensure that I return ready to play at my highest level,” Andreescu, a 20-year-old Canadian, posted on social media. “The US Open victory last year has been the high point of my career thus far and I will miss not being there. However, I realize that the unforeseen challenges, including the Covid pandemic, have compromised my ability to prepare and compete to the degree necessary to play at my highest level.”

Andreescu’s absence means the U.S. Open, the first Grand Slam tournament since tennis resumed amid the coronavirus pandemic, will be without both 2019 male and female singles champions.

Rafael Nadal previously announced he would not defend his title, saying he would rather not travel given the global situation. Roger Federer is also out after knee surgery. Women’s No. 1 Ash Barty didn’t enter, either, citing travel concerns.

Last year, Andreescu made her U.S. Open title run as the 15th seed, sweeping Serena Williams in the final. Ranked 208th a year earlier, she became the first player born in the 2000s to win a Slam and the first teen Slam winner since Maria Sharapova at the 2006 U.S. Open.

Andreescu then missed the Australian Open in January due to rehab from a knee injury that forced her to retire during a match at the WTA Finals on Oct. 30. She also missed the French Open and Wimbledon in 2019 following a rotator cuff tear.

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