Viktor Ahn
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Viktor Ahn retires as greatest Olympic short track speed skater

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Viktor Ahn, the most decorated short track speed skater in Olympic history, has retired after eight medals with six golds competing for South Korea and then Russia, according to Russian media.

Ahn, 32, earned four medals and three golds each at the 2006 Olympics for South Korea (as Ahn Hyun-Soo, a top rival to Apolo Ohno) and the 2014 Olympics for Russia.

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.

The International Olympic Committee did not invite Ahn to compete in 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.

“Not being included on the invitation list does not necessarily mean that an athlete has been doped — it should not automatically cast doubt on their integrity,” Valerie Fourneyron, who chaired the IOC panel determining Russian invites, said after the list was released. “The IOC would like to make clear that there may still be further enquiries and further anti-doping procedures coming up against a number of those athletes who have not been included on the pool of athletes considered for invitation.”

That exclusion prompted Ahn, who had never been implicated publicly in any doping cases, to write an open letter to IOC president Thomas Bach.

“It is outrageous that there is no concrete reason which explains my exclusion from the Olympics, and furthermore people now view me as an athlete who used doping,” Ahn wrote.

Russian speed skating federation president Aleksey Kravtsov said missing PyeongChang didn’t influence Ahn’s retirement, according to Russian news agency TASS.

“However, it was undoubtedly a huge blow for him,” Kravtsov said, according to the report. “His participation in the [2018] Olympics was initially seen as the last one in his career, which he was eventually planning to wrap up with.”

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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Russia doping cases nearly double in 2018

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MOSCOW (AP) — Doping cases in Russia have almost doubled this year as athletes come under more scrutiny, the country’s national anti-doping agency said Tuesday.

Yuri Ganus, the director general of the agency, said it had detected 113 potential breaches of doping rules in the first eight months of 2018 — almost double the 59 it found in all of 2017. The rise comes as Russia tries to reform its anti-doping system after years of scandals across multiple sports.

“The number of breaches is alarming,” Ganus said.

It isn’t clear how many of the cases have resulted in athletes being banned, a process which can take months or even years. Athletes are typically cleared in about 10 percent of cases, Ganus said.

The rise may be partly because of extra testing. Ganus said the agency, known as RUSADA, collected 7,013 samples in the first eight months of 2018, about 800 more than all of last year.

If that pace continues until the end of 2018, RUSADA would roughly match the number of samples that major nations like the United States and China collected last year.

Russia was the leader by quantity of tests ahead of hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. However, RUSADA and the national laboratory were both suspended in 2015 when the World Anti-Doping Agency found evidence of corruption.

WADA later ruled Russian anti-doping authorities routinely covered up positive samples from leading athletes. The number of tests in Russia plummeted as RUSADA was reformed with new staff.

Ganus said Russia’s testing was now much more reliable, in part because of a greater focus on using intelligence to target specific athletes for testing.

There’s also an investigative unit which tracked one group of Russian track and field athletes to a remote part of Kyrgyzstan, where they allegedly worked with a coach who is supposed to be serving a life ban for numerous doping cases.

WADA’s executive committee is due to vote Sept. 20 on whether to formally lift RUSADA’s suspension, although the agency is already carrying out most of its official duties.

“I don’t have any optimism (that the suspension will be lifted),” Ganus said.

He added that the main obstacle was that Russian law enforcement was refusing to release samples from the closed Moscow lab, claiming they are needed for an investigation.

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Two Russian dopers to get Olympic medal upgrades

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MOSCOW (AP) — The International Olympic Committee says it will give medal upgrades to two Russian athletes who have served doping bans.

The IOC will award silver medals to Ekaterina Poistogova and Tatyana Tomashova after other athletes were banned. In the past, the IOC has blocked upgrades in similar cases.

Poistogova was banned for two years in 2017 after a World Anti-Doping Agency investigation found she admitted to using banned substances in undercover footage and discussed techniques to “thwart drug detection.”

Tomashova was barred from the 2008 Olympics and banned when a doping sample she submitted was found to contain someone else’s urine.

Both raced at the 2012 Olympics, with Poistogova originally finishing fourth in the 800m. Tomashova was fourth in the 1500m.

Two Turkish runners who finished ahead of Tomashova were later disqualified for doping, while Poistogova moved up because her Russian training partner Maria Savinova was banned.

The IOC said it decided to give the medals to the two Russians because their samples from the 2012 Olympics were retested and found to be clean.

“The redistribution of Olympic medals is solely the responsibility of the International Olympic Committee,” track and field’s world governing body, the IAAF, said in an e-mailed statement. “The IAAF does retain the right to decide if it will allow such medals to be presented at an IAAF event.”

Reallocating medals isn’t an automatic process, and the IOC board has previously vetoed some upgrades.

In 2007, when the U.S. sprinter Marion Jones was stripped of her gold medal in the 100 meters from the 2000 Olympics, it wasn’t handed to second-place finisher Ekaterini Thanou of Greece.

Thanou had been embroiled in a scandal at the 2004 Olympics after missing a drug test and allegedly staging a motorcycle crash to create an alibi. She was eventually banned for two years over three missed tests.

The IOC didn’t say why the Russians’ cases were different to that of Thanou. It also didn’t respond to a request for comment on whether more medal reallocations are planned, which could mean more tough decisions over who deserves an upgrade.

Numerous weightlifting results from the 2008 and 2012 Olympics were cast into doubt after retests found steroid use was rife in the sport.

In one event from the 2012 Olympics, the men’s 94kg class, all three medalists and six of the top seven finishers were banned for doping.

The original ninth-place finisher, Poland’s Tomasz Zielinski, is in line for an upgrade to bronze even though he was sent home from the next Olympics in 2016 for failing a drug test.

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