Lyu Xiaojun, Olympic champion weightlifter, banned for EPO

Lu Xiaojun
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Lyu Xiaojun, a two-time Olympic champion weightlifter from China, tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO and has been provisionally suspended until the resolution of his case.

Lyu, a 38-year-old who took gold at the London and Tokyo Games and silver in Rio, tested positive from an Oct. 30 sample, according to the International Testing Agency. Lyu can request a backup B sample be tested.

The lifter said in a statement that he was “greatly shocked” by the positive test, according to Xinhua News Agency.

“In my 24 years of weightlifting career, I have competed in numerous major events and have been tested hundreds of times, without any ADRV (Anti-Doping Rule Violations),” Lyu said, according to Xinhua. “I have neither any motive nor any reason to use any prohibited substance or prohibited method in the final phase of my beloved weightlifting career. I will cooperate with related organizations for investigation, to find out the real cause of this issue, and to prove my innocence.

“As a senior athlete, I have always strictly abided by the anti-doping policies and regulations of the International Weightlifting Federation, the World Anti-Doping Agency and the China Anti-Doping Agency. I believe that the value of sports lies in fair play and I resolutely oppose the use of any prohibited substance or prohibited method and any other kind of cheating, which is also the bottom line I have always set for myself. The use of a prohibited substance or prohibited method is completely against my values and goes against the anti-doping education I have received.”

Lyu took gold at seven of his 10 appearances between the Olympics and world championships from 2009 through 2021 competing at either 77kg or 81kg. He is the world’s most decorated weightlifter across all categories in that time span.

In the outlier years, he earned silver at the 2010 World Championships, was leading the 2015 Worlds after the snatch before failing on all three clean and jerk attempts and took silver at the 2016 Rio Games behind Kazakhstan’s Nijat Rahimov, who this past March had his gold medal stripped for urine swapping. The IOC has not reallocated medals from the 2016 Olympic event, but could still do so.

In Tokyo, he became the oldest Olympic weightlifting champion in history, according to Olympedia.org. American Harrison Maurus took fourth in the event that Lyu won, just missing becoming the first American man to win an Olympic weightlifting medal since 1984.

Lyu did not compete at worlds earlier this month, when countryman Li Dayin won the 81kg title.

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Isabeau Levito, Bradie Tennell, Amber Glenn named to U.S. team for World Championships

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SAN JOSE, Calif. – With a calm command belying her age, Isabeau Levito has taken control of U.S. women’s skating at age 15.

Levito came here as the solid favorite to take her first national title, and she did it with a seemingly effortless grace, her balletic style producing solid winning performances in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate.

She was the last of 18 skaters in the free skate, following rivals who made mistakes big and small. Levito did not need perfection, but her skating approached it, even if the execution of some jumps could have been better.

Levito left no doubt of her superiority and burst into a wide smile even before the scores were announced. After a narrow win over Bradie Tennell (.02 points) in the short program, Levito (223.33) wound up 10.21 points ahead of the runner-up Tennell (213.12) in the final standings.

Amber Glenn was third at 207.44. She, Levito and Tennell will fill the three women’s places on the U.S. team for the March World Championships in Japan.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Scores | Broadcast Schedule

Two of the three U.S. women’s skaters on the 2022 Olympic team have announced their retirements (Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell; Karen Chen is a student at Cornell and might not return). Given that and Tennell’s recurrent problems with injuries, Levito’s stature as the leading U.S. woman seemed assured. Whatever pressure she felt holding that position was not evident.

“My entire goal truly for both programs was to stay composed and to really try to suppress my nerves as much as possible and to really not let little minor silly mistakes happen,” Levito said. “I feel as though I did just that today and I’m very proud of myself for it.”

“I’ve gotten very good at suppressing nerves,” she had said after the short program. “I still feel the effects of the competition. But I find my own way mentally to handle it.”

For both Tennell and Glenn, there was a redemptive quality to their skating.

Neither had a result at last year’s nationals. Glenn had to withdraw after the short program when she tested positive for COVID. Tennell never made it to the event because of the foot injury that kept her out of competition for all last season.

“Honestly, it was terrifying being back here after the conclusion of my season last year,” Glenn said. “That was a big mental hurdle for me, but I was happy I was actually able to enjoy myself again and enjoy competing.”

Glenn made her 10th career attempt at a triple axel, stepping out of the landing after getting full rotational credit. Her persistence in trying that jump, which she never has landed cleanly, is one reason she was holding her hip after finishing the free skate. Glenn insisted it was just soreness.

“An unfortunate side effect of being 23 and doing these ultra (difficult) elements is my body can’t always keep up very well,” Glenn said.

Tennell, who turns 25 Tuesday, has been battling an injury in her right foot for more than a year, then an injury in her left foot since October. She fought past all that to make the podium for the fifth time in her last five nationals – twice first, twice second and once third.

“This one probably means the most, because I didn’t think I was going to be able to do this again,” Tennell said. “To be here and to have achieved it, especially after the (poor) start of my season and the bumps that I had to overcome, I’m very proud of what I accomplished.”

Levito, the reigning world junior champion, reeled off seven triple jumps, two in combination with other triple jumps. She glided from element to element seamlessly.

“I finally skated the free the way I’ve been training to do it,” she said.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 12 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com.

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Scotty James wins fifth X Games snowboard halfpipe title

Scotty James
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Scotty James doesn’t have Olympic gold, but he remains king of the X Games halfpipe.

James, the Australian snowboarder who took bronze and silver at the last two Olympics, earned his fifth Aspen gold, repeating as champ of the biggest annual contest under falling snow in the Colorado Rockies. Only the retired Shaun White has more X Games men’s snowboard halfpipe titles with eight.

Nobody on Friday night attempted a triple cork, which was first done in competition by Japan’s Ayumu Hirano last season en route to the Olympic title. Hirano placed sixth Friday.

“It was a tough night, pretty interesting conditions,” James said. “Had to adjust the game plan. The show goes on.”

In a format introduced three years ago, athletes were ranked on overall impression over the course of a three-run jam session for the entire field rather than scoring individual runs.

Earlier, Olympic gold medalist Zoi Sadowski-Synnott of New Zealand repeated as women’s snowboard slopestyle champion, passing Olympic bronze medalist Tess Coady of Australia on the final run of the competition. Sadowski-Synnott, the only snowboarder or skier to win Olympic, world and X Games slopestyle titles, capped her finale with back-to-back 900s.

The competition lacked 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion Jamie Anderson, who announced her pregnancy last month.

Canada’s Megan Oldham landed the first triple cork in women’s ski big air competition history to beat Olympic silver medalist Tess Ledeux of France, according to commentators. Oldham, a 21-year-old ex-gymnast, was fourth at the Olympics.

Eileen Gu, the Olympic champion from China, did not compete but is entered in halfpipe and slopestyle later this weekend.

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