Evan Bates calls Kamila Valiyeva doping case secrecy ‘an injustice’

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U.S. ice dancer Evan Bates blasted a decision by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency to treat the Kamila Valiyeva doping case from the Beijing Olympics as confidential, calling the secrecy of the investigation “an injustice” to those that performed clean.

Valiyeva helped the Russian team win gold at the Winter Games in February before finding out that she tested positive for a banned substance the previous December. The then-15-year-old Valiyeva appealed a provisional suspension and was allowed to skate in the women’s individual event, where she crashed several times and finished fourth.

The investigation stretched through the summer, and only this past Friday did Russia’s anti-doping body say it would not publish the results of its investigation because of Valiyeva’s status as a protected person due to her age.

“It’s been so frustrating,” said Bates, who helped the U.S. win the silver medal, which would be elevated to gold if Valiyeva was found to have doped ahead of the Winter Games. “Extremely disappointing to be at this point, eight months later, and to still have it so shrouded in secrecy. And I feel like, you know, as a base line we should hope for transparency, and not only for the public but especially for the athletes involved. It seems only right.”

Along with the Americans, the Japanese team could be elevated from bronze to silver and the Canadians into bronze.

The International Olympic Committee refused to hold a medal ceremony for the team event in Beijing, which left Bates and partner Madison Chock along with their teammates and the Japanese team to head home without their awards.

“It was hugely disappointing,” Bates said, “but it seems to be growing and becoming exponentially more disappointing as the days and months go by and there’s no resolution, and the most recent release by RUSADA about not making anything public compounds the frustration quite a bit. We’re just waiting like the rest of us to hear.”

World Anti-Doping Agency rules say public disclosure in cases involving a protected person is optional — publishing a verdict is mandatory for most cases — and it “shall be proportionate to the facts and circumstances of the case.”

“If she is exonerated, there is nothing to hide and it should be made public,” Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, told The Associated Press. “Certainly, keeping the decision and facts secret make a mockery of the whole process, and there is no wonder athletes and the public do not trust the global WADA anti-doping system.”

Tygart called on WADA, the IOC and the International Skate Union to immediately announce an appeal of any decision and hold an open process, as the rules provide, so there is confidence in the final outcome.

“Short of this,” Tygart said, “it’s impossible for athletes or the public to believe what happened at the 2022 Beijing Games was real and not just another fraudulent win by the Russians like so many before, as the evidence has clearly shown.”

Since the Valiyeva case became public, the ISU raised the minimum age for skaters comping at the next Winter Games in 2026 in Italy to 17 years old. But that does nothing for those who were impacted by the Valiyeva case in Beijing.

“Again, like, 19 athletes or however many are waiting for their medals all competed clean,” said Bates, who along with Chock won Skate America on Sunday, “and I think we’ve been pretty respectfully quiet through these months.”

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Jessie Diggins ties U.S. record for World Cup cross-country skiing wins

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Jessie Diggins tied Kikkan Randall‘s U.S. record with her 13th career individual cross-country skiing World Cup victory, taking a 10km freestyle in Lillehammer, Norway, on Friday.

Diggins, the most decorated U.S. Olympic cross-country skier with a medal of every color, prevailed by 3.8 seconds over German Katharina Hennig in the interval start event. Diggins trailed Hennig by one second at the 8.2-kilometer split, then made up 4.8 seconds over the final four minutes of the course.

“My fitness and brain were in a really good place,” Diggins said, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “When I asked my body to go deep into the pain cave, it responded.”

Diggins tied the record of Randall, who in 2007 became the first U.S. woman to win a World Cup cross-country skiing race and ended her career by teaming with Diggins to win the first U.S. Olympic cross-country skiing title at the 2018 PyeongChang Games. (Another skier, Alison Owen-Spencer, won a race in 1978 that U.S. Ski and Snowboard counts as a World Cup, but the International Ski Federation does not.)

Diggins opened this World Cup season last weekend in Ruka, Finland, with a best finish of 10th among three races. She trended up each day, finishing that stop with the second-fastest time in last Sunday’s individual pursuit (where she started 19th).

Diggins, 31, has spread out her goals this season. One of the biggest is helping the U.S. win a relay medal for the first time at the world championships in three months. Diggins has been a part of relays that finished fourth at four different worlds.

She also eyes the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in the sport that goes to the best all-around skier for the season. In 2020-21, Diggins became the second American — and first American woman — to win the overall in a season where Norway’s top skiers, including superstar Therese Johaug, skipped early season races and chances to gain points for the overall title.

Johaug retired after winning three individual golds at last February’s Olympics. Diggins is the top returning skier given the absence of reigning overall champ Natalya Nepryayeva, who cannot compete due to the ban on Russian athletes for the war in Ukraine.

The World Cup season continues with a freestyle sprint on Saturday and a classic 20km mass start on Sunday in Lillehammer.

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Katie Ledecky out-touches new rival at swimming’s U.S. Open, extends streak

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It was a rare sight: Katie Ledecky being matched stroke for stroke in a distance race in an American pool. She was up for the challenge.

Ledecky out-touched emerging 16-year-old Canadian Summer McIntosh by eight hundredths of a second in the 400m freestyle at the U.S. Open in Greensboro, N.C., on Thursday night.

Ledecky and McIntosh were tied at the 300-meter mark. Ledecky ended up clocking 3:59.71 to McIntosh’s 3:59.79 to extend a decade-long win streak in freestyle races of 400 meters or longer in U.S. pools.

“I know we’ll have a lot more races ahead of us,” Ledecky said on Peacock. “We bring the best out of each other.”

The U.S. Open continues Friday with live finals coverage on Peacock at 6 p.m. ET.

U.S. OPEN SWIMMING: Full Results

At the Tokyo Olympics, McIntosh placed fourth in the 400m free at age 14.

She accelerated this year, taking silver behind Ledecky at the world championships and silver behind Tokyo gold medalist Ariarne Titmus of Australia at the Commonwealth Games.

Then in October, McIntosh outdueled Ledecky in a 400m free — also by eight hundredths — in a short-course, 25-meter pool at a FINA World Cup meet in Toronto. Long-course meets like the Olympics and the U.S. Open are held in 50-meter pools.

McIntosh also won world titles in the 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley, becoming the youngest individual world champion since 2011.

A potential showdown among Ledecky, Titmus and McIntosh at the 2024 Paris Games is already being compared to the “Race of the Century,” the 2004 Olympic men’s 200m free where Australian Ian Thorpe edged Dutchman Pieter van den Hoogenband and Michael Phelps.

In other events Thursday, Regan Smith, an Olympic and world medalist in the backstroke and butterfly, won a 200m individual medley in a personal best 2:10.40, a time that would have placed fifth at June’s world championships. She beat 16-year-old Leah Hayes, who took bronze in the event at worlds.

Olympic 400m IM champ Chase Kalisz won the men’s 200m IM in 1:56.52, his best time ever outside of major summer meets. Frenchman Léon Marchand won the world title in 1:55.22 in June, when Kalisz was fourth.

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