Russians banned after fake doctor story in world champion’s doping case cover-up

Danil Lysenko
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MONACO — An elaborate deception involving a fake medical clinic in a demolished building and made-up claims about a world champion athlete’s car crash led to five senior Russian track and field officials being banned from the sport Wednesday.

Disciplinary rulings found former Russian track and field president Dmitry Shlyakhtin and his colleagues obstructed an anti-doping investigation into high jumper Danil Lysenko with forged documents and fake claims.

Shlyakhtin, who left the federation soon after charges were filed in 2019, was banned for four years.

“It appears that most if not all of the senior management of RusAF were involved in this major fraud. That is quite shocking,” the verdict in Shlyakhtin and board member Artur Karamyan’s case reads, using an abbreviation for the federation.

The panel added that it viewed the maximum four-year sanction allowed by the rules as “grossly inadequate”.

In 2018, Lysenko was one of Russia’s brightest young talents, granted coveted “neutral” status to compete at major international events despite RusAF being suspended for earlier doping offenses. However, he faced a ban after being charged with missing a drug test and twice failing to provide details of his whereabouts so he could be reached for no-notice testing.

Shlyakhtin and other officials helped Lysenko cook up an explanation that a bout of appendicitis had landed him in the nonexistent “SD Clinic” in Moscow and left him unable to upload the required information about his whereabouts, the Athletics Integrity Unit’s later investigation found.

Shlyakhtin urged Lysenko to undergo a battery of medical tests later, used to create realistic-looking fake records presented to investigators at the AIU. Lysenko and Karamyan drove together to view the address given for the “SD Clinic”, where a real clinic had once operated, but the building had been demolished, the investigation found.

Another RusAF official, Elena Orlova, compiled documents stating Lysenko had been involved in a June 2018 car crash to support a claim he was too distracted to let anti-doping authorities know of his whereabouts by the deadline of June 30, the AIU found. Investigators concluded the accident actually happened more than two weeks after the deadline had passed.

In a 15-month investigation, the AIU spotted contradictions in the evidence from Russia, including a change in the location where Lysenko was supposedly treated, and then uncovered the deception, following a trail of e-mails and WhatsApp messages implicating the five officials.

Executive director Alexander Parkin, who the AIU said admitted to knowing of the forgery plans, was banned for four years. Four-year sanctions were also handed to Orlova and the federation’s anti-doping coordinator Elena Ikonnikova.

Orlova and Ikonnikova will serve those bans alongside longer sanctions imposed earlier of six and eight years respectively. That’s because they didn’t comply with a tribunal’s orders to disclose evidence, opening up the possibility of longer sanctions than the standard four years in doping-related cases.

None of the five officials still works at RusAF.

Lysenko, a world indoor champion and silver medalist at the 2017 World Championships, and his coach Evgeny Zagorulko were also charged in 2019 and the case against them is ongoing. The federation, under new leadership, admitted wrongdoing in the case last year.

The case brought Russia, already suspended from international track and field over doping, to the brink of expulsion from governing body World Athletics when the charges were filed shortly after the 2019 World Championships. It led to a lengthy freeze in talks aimed at reforming the sport in Russia to allow the federation to be reinstated before the Olympics in Tokyo.

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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch

Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

Kyle Smaine

Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”