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Russia appeal of Olympic ban set for sport’s highest court

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GENEVA — The Russian doping scandal will return to sport’s highest court in November when the nation faces a four-year ban of its flag, anthem and colors from Olympic Games and world championships.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said on Tuesday its judging panel will hear evidence on Nov. 2-5 in the latest case examining allegations of state-backed doping and covering up evidence.

No timetable was given for an expected verdict in a case which should be heard at the court’s headquarters in the Olympic capital of Lausanne, Switzerland.

The sanctions will take effect when the CAS panel of three judges give its verdict.

The legal fight follows the World Anti-Doping Agency recommending a four-year slate of punishments for Russian sport and athletes last December and declaring the national anti-doping agency non-compliant.

WADA investigators found years of data from the Moscow testing laboratory relating to hundreds of athletes had been tampered with before being handed over last year.

Russian teams and athletes would be stripped of their identity by the WADA sanctions proposal and forced to compete as neutrals at major events such as the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

Russia would also be blocked from bidding to host major championships and risk being stripped of events it was already due to host.

The hearing was required after Russia’s anti-doping agency, known as RUSADA, disputed the ruling by WADA’s executive committee at the urging of state authorities including President Vladimir Putin.

WADA’s request for the CAS hearing to be held in publicly open court was denied because all parties involved needed to give consent.

The case involves the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee, plus the Russian bodies of both organizations, and ice hockey’s governing body, the court said in February. Some Russian athletes also asked to be part of the legal process.

Data from the lab shuttered by WADA in 2015 and long sealed by Russian security agencies was demanded by the anti-doping watchdog in exchange for recognizing RUSADA’s status again in September 2018.

Russia handing over the data archive in January 2019 was meant to help resolve the scandal that has tainted the Olympic Games since 2008, and in particular the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

However, WADA investigators found evidence Russia edited the data in the weeks before the handover to remove signs of failed drug tests, and detailed an apparent attempt to smear former lab director Grigory Rodchenkov.

MORE: Russia Olympic track and field champions face doping cases

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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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