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Viktor Ahn
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Viktor Ahn the latest Olympic star to coach Chinese athletes ahead of Beijing 2022

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Viktor Ahn, the most decorated Olympic short track speed skater in history, will coach Chinese skaters leading up to the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, according to South Korean media.

Ahn, who won three gold medals each for South Korea and for Russia, announced his second retirement in 20 months in April at age 34. He cited constant knee pain and other injuries.

Ahn joins a long list of retired Winter Olympic champions to coach Chinese athletes in this Winter Olympic cycle, before the nation hosts its first Winter Games. Others include U.S. speed skater Shani Davis, biathletes Ole Einar Bjoerndalen of Norway and wife Darya Domracheva of Belarus and bobsledders Andre Lange of Germany and Pierre Lueders of Canada. Plus Bud Keene, the longtime coach of snowboarder Shaun White.

Ahn was added to China’s short track program after the nation’s most decorated Winter Olympian, short tracker Wang Meng, reportedly stepped down as head coach in April after 11 months in the position.

Ahn, then 20, earned three golds among four medals as Ahn Hyun-Soo for South Korea at the 2006 Torino Winter Games.

He missed South Korea’s team for the 2010 Olympics after undergoing four knee surgeries in the 15 months leading up to the Olympic Trials. Ahn’s club team dissolved, and his father contacted Russia’s federation. He became a citizen in 2011, then earned three golds among four medals at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

The International Olympic Committee did not invite Ahn to the PyeongChang Olympics, the only way he could have competed in his birth nation due to sanctions placed on Russia for its poor anti-doping record.

South Korea and China have often clashed in Olympic short track speed skating, given they rank Nos. 1 and 2 on the all-time medal standings in the sport.

MORE: U.S. Olympic short track skater called up by Miami Marlins

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Grigory Rodchenkov, Russian doping whistleblower, still lives in fear

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His head covered in a black balaclava, adjusting dark goggles obscuring his eyes, Grigory Rodchenkov grows anxious if any part of his face can be seen.

Exposing Russia’s state-sponsorship doping scheme forced Rodchenkov into hiding in the United States five years ago. Revealing his current identity is still too risky for the chemist turned whistleblower, even in a video interview from an undisclosed location.

“It’s my security measures because I have physical threats to be assassinated,” Rodchenkov told The Associated Press. “And I want to live.”

Evidence from Rodchenkov that has already turned Vladimir Putin‘s Russia into international sporting outcasts continues to be used in cases against athletes along with data from his former laboratory in Moscow.

“Putin, he is quite logical. He separates opposition in two ways — enemies … betrayers,” Rodchenkov said. “I am falling in the betrayers’ category and all betrayers should be beheaded, cut, dead. So there is no doubt that he wants me to be dead.”

It has not deterred him from documenting his life story in “The Rodchenkov Affair: How I Brought Down Putin’s Secret Doping Empire,” revisiting how he conspired with his country to corrupt sports and then tries to show contrition by turning star witness.

Rodchenkov was the brains behind the Duchess cocktail of anabolic steroids and cover-up that turned Russia into a medal machine at the home Olympics in Sochi in 2014, topping the standings with 13 gold medals before disqualifications.

Russian spies ensured the Duchess would not be detected in doping tests as FSB agents used a hole in the wall of the Sochi laboratory to swap out the dirty samples with clean urine at night.

“For me, it was the end of doping control,” Rodchenkov said. “If we can do it, why others cannot?”

The doping cover-up extended beyond the Winter Olympics, into the Summer Games, Paralympics, world track and field championships and every major sport.

Some Russians were barred from competing at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Games and 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games as the International Olympic Committee remains opposed to blanket bans on countries.

So Russian athletes can still compete on the international stage if they can show they are clean, despite a four-year ban from major international sporting events being imposed on the nation last year for a fresh cover-up, including tampering with data gained from Rodchenkov’s former lab in Moscow.

“Sport is a part of Putin’s politics and showing to the West how good Russia is,” Rodchenkov said. “You cannot trust Russia. You cannot trust the certification authorities, and (anti-doping) laboratories cannot be allowed to be restored within the foreseeable future.”

Especially now, according to Rodchenkov, following constitutional changes allowing Putin to run for two more six-year terms, in 2024 and 2030,

“Until 2036,” Rodchenkov said, “no trust.”

But why now trust Rodchenkov as he presents a virtuous image at odds with his deep collusion with the state to cheat?

“When you are laboratory director and you have 50 employees and you are reporting to your high ups at the ministry, I could not even think about morals,” he said, dismissing concerns about any long-term damage to the health of athletes he allowed to be pumped with steroids.

“It’s extremely debatable and still ungrounded,” he said. “We see the generation who is now in the end of their lives of 70s and 80s, which are still … in a good physical condition after steroid programs.”

Go back four decades and Rodchenkov was starting out in a Soviet system learning how to manipulate doping controls.

“I had honestly, I’m sorry, but I had huge feelings of accomplishment,” he said. “Those athletes I helped to (win) were extremely talented and I could not understand, with the coach, how he or she may lose to others. The only explanation was doping. Then using some programs, we won gold medals. Honestly it was like leveling the field.

“Again, ‘morals’ is maybe vocabulary from American life but not from Soviet and Russian. In (the) Soviet (Union) it was the Soviet moral, in Russia there is no morals.”

It helps when the athletes are compliant.

“This is the huge problem of the militarization of Russia sport,” Rodchenkov said. “They follow orders, they are disciplined but they cannot tell the truth because they have given the oath to the Russian state and consider foreigners as potential enemies or even actual enemies. That’s why in Russia there are three ways – lying, cheating and denying.”

Rodchenkov has had to convince the world he has shed those ways and is coming clean. More of the cases he helped to cover-up could soon come to light after the World Anti-Doping Agency shared data – of samples tested up to 2015, and tampering that continued into 2019 – that was retrieved from the Moscow testing lab at the heart of the state-backed doping program.

“The problem is that the people from outside cannot understand what is going on inside sports,” he said. “Only whistleblowers could do that. But in corrupted countries you have to escape and we need to be preserved.”

For Rodchenkov that means living a life constantly in fear of being recognized as happened on a train in the US.

“It was a student,” he recalled. “I told him, `Forget you are meeting me, yes it’s me, don’t tell anyone.’ … I disappeared again.”

MORE: Russia track and field faces expulsion if it misses deadline

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Russia track and field faces expulsion if it misses deadline

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Russia is set to be expelled from membership in World Athletics if it does not make outstanding payments of more than $6 million before Aug. 15, which it has promised to do.

Russian Minister of Sport Oleg Matytsin promised to make the overdue payment by Aug. 15, according to a letter sent to World Athletics on Thursday.

An expulsion could continue to keep Russian athletes from being allowed to compete as neutrals, which they’ve been able to do until recently. The nation was first banned in 2015 for its anti-doping problems.

When Russia failed to pay its fine by a July 1 deadline, the program allowing Russians to compete internationally was frozen.

The fine was imposed after the Russia track federation president admitted wrongdoing on behalf of the federation under its previous leadership.

The federation had been accused of providing forged documents to give an athlete an alibi for being unavailable for doping testing. The president resigned two weeks ago.

Rune Andersen, who chairs a taskforce working on the Russia situation, said there has been “very little in terms of changing the culture of Russian athletics” in the past five years.

The taskforce spent “an enormous amount of time and effort trying to help RusAF [Russia’s track and field federation] reform itself and Russian athletics, for the benefit of all clean Russian athletes,” Andersen said in a press release, but the response was inadequate.

World Athletics president Seb Coe said that a final decision on expulsion would normally be scheduled for next year, but the taskforce recommended a special meeting as soon as possible to vote on it if the payment isn’t made.

If Russia is expelled, it would be a “lengthy process” and “very difficult” to regain membership, Coe said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

MORE: No U.S. Track and Field Championships for first time in 120-plus years

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