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More Olympic weightlifting medalists banned after doping retests

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Two more Olympic weightlifting medalists are in line to be stripped of their medals after retests of their London 2012 samples came back positive for banned substances.

Ukrainian Oleksiy Torokhtiy, 105kg gold medalist, and Azerbaijan’s Valentin Hristov, the 56kg bronze medalist, were among five 2012 Olympians banned, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) announced Saturday.

As was Uzbek Ruslan Nurudinov, who was fourth in London and went on to earn 105kg gold in Rio.

Those three tested positive for dehydrochloromethyltestosterone, which falls under the anabolic androgenic steroids section of the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited substances list.

The IWF said the International Olympic Committee is now responsible for retroactively stripping results from the 2012 Olympics.

There have been 56 doping positives in weightlifting between the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, counting retests done in recent years, according to Olympic historian Bill Mallon of the OlyMADMen.

In one event from 2012, six of the top seven finishers were disqualified.

After those cases emerged, the IOC reduced the size of the weightlifting competition for the 2020 Olympics. The new rules are a way of ensuring the countries most to blame for weightlifting’s predicament pay the heaviest price.

In April, the IWF published new rules which limit countries to one male and one female entry at the 2020 Olympics if they have had more than 20 doping cases in the sport since July 2008. That list of countries includes powers Russia and Iran.

The new rules also force athletes to compete in at least six major events in the 18-month Olympic qualifying period. In the past, some lifters have barely competed ahead of the Olympics, leading to suspicions they were avoiding doping tests.

Russia was banned entirely from weightlifting at the 2016 Olympics after the IWF ruled its team’s persistent steroid use had tarnished the sport’s image. Nine countries, including Russia and China, were barred from last year’s world championships because of doping.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Five-time Olympic kayak medalist banned four years

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Inna Osypenko-Radomska, a five-time Olympic kayak medalist, was suspended four years after refusing an out-of-competition drug test.

Osypenko-Radomska, 35, earned medals at the last four Olympics, including K-1 500m gold at Beijing 2008 for Ukraine. She earned K-1 200m bronze in Rio competing for Azerbaijan.

She refused the drug test in May and has not competed since and can still appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“A four-year ban sends a clear message to all our athletes that they are expected to play by the rules,” International Canoe Federation General Secretary Simon Toulson said in a press release. “If an athlete believes by refusing or evading a drug test they will escape a ban, they need to think again. We will ensure they face the full force of the law.”

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Oleg Verniaiev: I can beat Kohei Uchimura

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MONTREAL — Those 100 seconds in Rio had to be agonizing for Oleg Verniaiev.

The Ukrainian gymnast, after taking a critical step on his high bar dismount, waited and waited as judges tabulated his score for the final event of the Olympic all-around last year.

The crowd could have chewed nails wondering if Verniaiev would end Kohei Uchimura‘s seven-year reign atop the sport.

Turns out, Verniaiev wasn’t as optimistic.

“I knew that I will be the second [place], but still I had hope,” Verniaiev remembered in an interview Monday, via translator. “I was hoping.”

When Verniaiev’s score came up, Uchimura’s mom fainted in the stands.

Uchimura, who trailed Verniaiev by .901 going into the final rotation, outscored the leader by a full point. The Nagasaki native won by .099 to become the first gymnast to repeat as Olympic all-around champion in 44 years.

A year later, Verniaiev gets another shot at Uchimura at the world championships at the 1976 Olympic Stadium.

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Verniaiev was shaky in qualifying Monday. Out of bounds on floor exercise. A gigantic hop on his high bar landing.

Verniaiev didn’t even have the top qualifying score in his group. Cuban Manrique Larduet, the 2015 World silver medalist, was 1.268 points better.

“In principle, I thought that it could be worse,” said Verniaiev, who wished he had more competitions this season before worlds to work into peak shape. “But at the end of the day it’s not that bad.”

Verniaiev also said that he was better prepared for the Rio Olympics (and in better form) than any other competition in his life.

Still, he’s not ceding anything to Uchimura, who goes through qualifying Monday night ahead of Thursday’s final.

Uchimura, 28, is trying to become the oldest Olympic or world all-around champion in more than 50 years.

“If I accomplish my program so that my coach says everything is ideal, I know that I can beat him,” Verniaiev said. “If I will make mistakes, then it’s life.”

In Rio, Verniaiev could have joined some who cried foul over the scoring. Instead, he praised Uchimura in the post-event press conference, calling him the Michael Phelps of gymnastics.

The Ukrainian began doing gymnastics in kindergarten, sent to the sport by his parents as an outlet for overwhelming energy.

It wasn’t always easy in Ukraine. As recently as a month before 2015 Worlds, national team members didn’t have proper equipment to train floor exercise.

Verniaiev, who turned 23 on Friday, seemingly has plenty more opportunities for all-around gold. But few against the aging Uchimura, who may give up the all-around before the Tokyo Olympics to focus on one or two individual events.

Given that, how much would it mean for Verniaiev to end Uchimura’s reign in Montreal?

“To win this gold medal means, to me, to become a legend,” he said. “Kohei, of course, is a legend. There are not many such gymnasts in the world, but I’ll try to do something and be the first one.”

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