Review Category : National Sports

Decision Looming on Russia’s Potential Olympics Ban After Doping Scandal

Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) — Russia may learn Friday whether it will miss this summer’s Olympic Games in Brazil, potentially becoming the first country to be excluded from the Olympics over doping by some of its athletes.

The world athletics’ top body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), will meet in Vienna Friday to decide whether to reinstate Russia’s track and field federation, which has been suspended from international competitions after it was implicated in an elaborate alleged state-sponsored doping cover-up in November.

If the decision goes against Russia, most of the country’s athletes will be barred from the Olympics.

The decision hinges on Russia’s proving it has done enough to overhaul its anti-doping program and that its athletes can be trusted to compete fairly in Rio de Janeiro. Mixed in with the decision, though, is whether a blanket ban on Russian athletes would also unfairly punish innocent athletes.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) published a damning report in November, detailing an elaborate cover-up directed by Russian officials and managed by Russia’s F.S.B. security service, that permitted dozens of athletes to compete while doping, including at the 2012 London Olympics.

The over 300-page report not only found that a corrupt laboratory allowed athletes to make positive tests disappear, but accused Russia’s national athletics team of forcing athletes to dope even if they did not want to.

Russia has denied that the cover up was managed by the government, insisting it was the product of individual athletes and trainers, working with corrupt officials. It has, however, accepted to reform its anti-doping systems.

An IAAF commission since January has been evaluating whether Russia has complied with the criteria for reinstatement. This commission has passed its findings to IAAF for consideration ahead of the decision, which will be presented as based on its recommendations.

Before the vote, Russia’s sports minister said that the country had met all the requirements to be reinstated, suggesting it would be unfair for Russia’s federation to remain suspended. “In the end, we have met all the criteria, we have done everything they wanted us to do,” he said. “What more can we do?”

But other officials have admitted to be far more nervous, saying that while Russia has made considerable reforms, it is not possible to completely meet some of the criteria, such as producing a totally new attitude toward doping in just a few months.

“I hope my colleagues will understand it; of course, it’s impossible to change absolutely for all athletes and coaches this mentality during five to six months,” said Mikhail Butov, head of Russia’s athletics federation.

Even if the Russian athletics federation is be barred Friday, there is still a chance Russian athletes will be able to compete at the Olympics. The head of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, has suggested that athletes with an “independently proven test record” should potentially be allowed to compete, regardless of the status of their national federation.

The IOC has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday to discuss the question of Russian athletes’ eligibility after the IAAF decision; many believe the meeting is intended to provide a window for Russia to still compete if its federation remain banned.

The idea of allowing clean athletes to perform at Rio has been cautiously supported by a number of other international sports bodies and some national federations. The head of U.K. sports, Ed Warner, told The Daily Telegraph that, in principle, he thought the idea was right, but they would have to “police it very hard,” meaning such athletes would have to be thoroughly tested.

Since the scandal, Russia has accepted an unusually intensive testing regime for its potential Olympic athletes: They now have to pass three to six tests within six months, conducted by foreign anti-doping agencies. The country has created a pool of about 200 athletes to be subjected to the tests and many of Russia’s top athletes have already received the three clean tests. But others are still waiting, athletes have told ABC News.

A ban on the federation today, though, would still likely provoke a furious reaction from Moscow. Throughout the scandal, the Kremlin has attacked the potential ban as a U.S.-backed plot, meant to punish Russia and undermine its authorities.

It’s a sentiment shared by many Russian sports officials, athletes and coaches, who say they believe Russia has been unfairly portrayed and that its problem with doping is no worse than any other country.

Sports are a key part of President Vladimir Putin’s rule in Russia, who has made it a measure of the country’s national greatness. Analysts say that stripping Russia of the Olympics would force the Kremlin to again ratchet up anti-Western feeling and respond aggressively.

“I am literally scared of what they might do,” Maksim Trudolyubov, a columnist at respected Russian business paper Vedomosti, said. “Not tomorrow. But it’s building up. It’s building up this crazy feeling of being cornered.”

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Scoreboard Roundup — 6/16/16

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Here are the latest scores and winners:


Toronto 13, Philadelphia 2


N-Y Yankees 4, Minnesota 1
Detroit 10, Kansas City 4
Seattle 6, Tampa Bay 4
Texas 5, Oakland 1
Baltimore 5, Boston 1


Washington 8, San Diego 5
Milwaukee 8, L.A. Dodgers 6
Atlanta 7, Cincinnati 2
N-Y Mets 6, Pittsburgh 4


Cleveland 115, Golden State 101

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Mets’ Captain David Wright to Undergo Surgery

Rich Schultz/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — New York Mets third baseman David Wright has battled back injuries for the better part of two seasons now. Last year, the seven-time all-star was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a degenerative spinal condition that cost him all but 38 regular season games.

Now, after appearing in just 37 games this season, a herniated disc in Wright’s back will require surgery that could keep him out for the remainder of 2016.

Mets manager Terry Collins says it doesn’t seem like that long ago that Wright was healthy and dominant.

The Mets, already dealing with extended injuries to catcher Travis d’Arnaud and first baseman Lucas Duda, will now try to weather the dog days of summer without one-third of their Opening Day lineup.

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US Customs Agents Seize $680K in Counterfeit Championship Rings

US Customs and Border Protection(DETROIT) — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently made a big sports discovery when agents at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport seized $680,000 in counterfeit NHL, NFL and MLB championship rings. CBP discovered the fake jewelry in an April shipment that originated in China, according to an agency statement out Thursday.

The agency’s Cargo Enforcement Team found 136 counterfeit championship rings bearing the names and logos of several teams, including the Dallas Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, New Orleans Saints and New York Jets. Counterfeit rings for the Chicago Black Hawks and the Boston Red Sox were also discovered.

“CBP continues to devote its efforts and resources to target, intercept and seize shipments of commodities that violate trade laws,” said Gary Calhoun, Acting Port Director for Detroit Metropolitan Airport. “Through tireless efforts, CBP officers and import specialists conduct these operations to stop shipments containing counterfeit and pirated items.”

The shipment’s intended receiver used a false company name and had committed previous copyright and trademark violations, according to CBP.

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George Foreman Reveals How He and Muhammad Ali Became Friends

Ron Galella/WireImage(NEW YORK) — Earlier this week, HBO’s The Fight Game spoke with George Foreman for a tribute to the late, great Muhammad Ali.

The Champ died almost two weeks ago at the age of 74 after a 30-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.

During his rein as “The Greatest,” Ali famously knocked out Foreman in 1974 in Kinshasa, Zaire, in a match that seemed like the end for Ali.

Foreman was unstoppable, but Ali pulled the rope-a-dope and waited for the big man to tire himself out before knocking him out in the eighth round. Foreman said he and Ali respected each other despite how their relationship was portrayed in the media.

Surprisingly, Foreman and Ali became great friends years later, long before Foreman was a household name with his books, grills and other endorsement deals.

Foreman told The Fight Game’s Jim Lampley that his unlikely friendship with Ali started with a phone call years after their epic fight.

“I do not know how he got my number,” Foreman said of the call he believed happened in the late 1970s. “He called and complimented me for about 20 minutes then he said, ‘George, would you do me a favor?’ I said, ‘Certainly.’ He said, ‘Please come back and beat Ken Norton and fight him for me … I can’t beat him. George, you can. He’s afraid of you. I’ll let you use my training camp and everything but please come back and beat him for me.'”

Foreman said after that day the two were “best of friends.”

“We starting talking on the telephone,” he said. “He’d call me, I would try to run him down wherever he be. We had these religious conversations. His children also became good friends with my children. That is where the love affair began.”

Ali was laid to rest last Friday in Louisville, Kentucky, as thousands of fans came out to pay their respects in his hometown.

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Cavs Shooting Guard J.R. Smith to Test Free Agency

Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images(CLEVELAND) — Come July 1, Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard J.R. Smith will reportedly be a free agent.

Sources tell ESPN Smith will decline his player option and test the market. The deadline to pick up the $5.3 million option for the 2016-17 season is midnight Thursday.

Hours before the deadline, Smith and the Cavs will be fighting to stay alive in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, who lead the series 3-2.

Game 6 will be in Cleveland at 9 p.m. ET Thursday on ABC.

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Kyle Larson’s Team Penalized for Failed Inspection

Allen Kee / ESPN Images(DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.) — NASCAR has penalized Kyle Larson’s No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet team for violations stemming for a post-race inspection last weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

Interim crew chief Philip Surgen was fined 25 thousand dollars, reports. In addition, the team was penalized 15 championship driver points and 15 championship owner points.

It was previously reported that the No. 42 car failed at the laser station following last Sunday’s Sprint Cup event.

Larson finished third in Sunday’s race. He was working with an interim crew chief, with his usual crew chief, Chad Johnston, suspended for a previous team violation.

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Scoreboard Roundup — 6/15/16

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Here are the latest scores and winners:


Colorado 6, N-Y Yankees 3
Toronto 7, Philadelphia 2
Houston 4, St. Louis 1


Tampa Bay 3, Seattle 2, 13 Innings
Chi White Sox 5, Detroit 3
Kansas City 9, Cleveland 4
Texas 7, Oakland 5
L.A. Angels 10, Minnesota 2
Boston 6, Baltimore 4


Atlanta 9, Cincinnati 8, 13 Innings
L.A. Dodgers 3, Arizona 2
San Diego 6, Miami 3
San Francisco 10, Milwaukee 1
Washington 5, Chi Cubs 4, 12 Innings
N-Y Mets 11, Pittsburgh 2

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Efforts to Test Russian Athletes for Doping Ahead of Olympic Games Prove Difficult, Report Says

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new report from the World Anti-Doping Agency has revealed that efforts to test Russian athletes rigorously for doping ahead of the Rio Olympics have run into serious difficulties, meeting with administrative obstructions from Russian agencies and encountering sometimes bizarre obstructions by athletes.

The report, published on WADA’s website Wednesday, comes just two days before a crucial vote to decide whether Russia has reformed its anti-doping procedures enough to compete at this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Among the new allegations are claims that Russian athletes had deliberately registered in closed military cities off-limits to foreigners, preventing inspectors from reaching them; that officers had been “intimidated” by security services and that Russia’s anti-doping agency’s chaotic information databases are hindering testing.

Russian officials said Wednesday that many of the issues had already been resolved and much of the blame lay with administrative errors by the British anti-doping agency collecting the tests. But the report likely hurts Russia’s chances of proving it should be allowed to go to Rio.

The report details efforts by the British anti-doping agency, UKAD, to test Russian athletes in place of Russian agencies that were stripped of their licenses after they were found to have colluded in the doping cover up that led to Russia’s potential Olympic ban. UKAD is meant to be conducting intensive testing to restore confidence that Russian athletes are clean.

But of the 1,191 tests that UKAD has attempted to take since February, it has succeeded in only doing 455. Of these 73 were not collected because athletes could not be found.

Of the over 700 other tests that the agency failed to carry out the vast majority were caused by what is described as UKAD’s “lack of capacity.” Some of that appeared to be UKAD officers’ inability to reach some areas or a shortage of staff able to cover the athletes.

But the report also describes frequent efforts by Russian athletes to obstruct doping officers from testing them, as well as widespread administrative hindrances by Russia’s anti-doping bodies.

Russia has committed to cooperating in reforming its anti-doping procedures. But the report depicts a system of administrative unhelpfulness and sometimes chaos that meant it was often impossible for doping inspectors to find athletes.

The report said that Russia’s anti-doping agency, RUSADA had in “general poor quality” information on its athletes’ whereabouts, with many addresses for them wrong. The report also said that officers had found it difficult to find competitions where they were meant to be doing tests because they were not told where they were happening or only informed a day in advance.

The report also said WADA labs had found packages transporting samples had been opened by Russian customs officers; others were missing the correct documentation.

RUSADA’s administrative problems have previously been described by WADA as suspicious, though this report does not accuse the agency of deliberate wrongdoing. Besides the administrative problems though, the report records the elaborate and sometimes farcical lengths some Russian athletes are said to go to avoid testing. Some athletes are accused of deliberately registering in so-called closed cities — towns built around military or strategic sites closed to foreigners since the Soviet-era. Anti-doping officers were therefore sometimes unable to reach the athletes or to surprise them with tests.

The report said, anti-doping officers were “intimidated” when accessing the cities, and had been threatened by “armed FSB agents” with deportation. In another case, the report said, Olympic qualifying competitions had been held in areas with “ongoing civil conflicts,” seemingly to deter officers from being sent. Other efforts were less elaborate. In one case, the report notes, an athlete was “observed running away” to avoid test officers.

In perhaps the most bizarre case, a female athlete is said to have “inserted” a container into her body, apparently containing clean urine. The container though “leaked onto the floor” whilst the athlete was standing with a doping inspector, who noted it and forced her to give another sample. It tested positive.

Russian athletes were suspended from international competition last year, after a WADA report found systemic doping among them. On Friday, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) will vote on whether to reinstate them for the Olympics. The decision hinges on Russia proving it changing attitudes to doping among its athletes.

Russian officials acknowledged today that some athletes were still seeking to cover their doping, but said the other systemic problems were being fixed. Officials said the problem of closed cities was a small one and in any case they were giving access.

The new head of Russia’s anti-doping agency, Anna Antseliovich told ABC News, that the number of athletes registered in the cities was “no more than 10-15.”

Natalya Zhelanova, the top anti-doping adviser to Russia’s ministry of sport, said that they had informed WADA of the need to request permission to the cities in December but had only begun receiving these requests in May. Zhelanova said she was only aware of one case of an inspector being unable to enter a city. Zhelanova also said that any athletes registered in closed cities ought to be retested.

Antseliovich, who was appointed to oversee the reform of RUSADA after the scandal broke, said that many of the issues were already being resolved. She said RUSADA was gathering athlete information and those not cooperating were being punished. She blamed the agency’s poor database partly on so many old staff having to be removed in the wake of the doping scandal.

She also said she could not understand the claim that officers had been unaware when competitions were happening, since RUSADA always shared whatever information they had.

Antseliovich said she hoped that the report showed that “we are working. We are changing.”

Questions about UKAD’s execution of its testing mission have been raised in the past month. The agency’s chairman, David Kenworthy, appeared before a British parliamentary committee this week.

Michele Verroken, who formerly oversaw anti-doping in Britain and was present at the hearing, said that Kenworthy had said UKAD had only succeeded in doing 50 percent of the required tests, in large part because of logistical problems, including that Russia was so large it was difficult to cover.

“I find it very, very odd,” Verroken said. “Why wouldn’t you know that from the start? Russia is a big country.”

Russia has agreed to subject its athletes to unusually intensive testing, requiring that they pass 3 to 6 tests prior to the Olympics to be eligible for them. But the blockages have put this process in some doubt. To speed up the process, Russia has created a pool of around 200 athletes, considered it best medal hopes and hired another firm, the private company IDTM to test them.

Earlier this month, Russian athletes from the pool told ABC News that many had not yet had the full number of tests. Some said they believed this was because doping officers were struggling to get round the large number of athletes requiring tests in such a short time.

Mikhail Butov, head of Russia’s track and field federation, though said that he was unaware of the problems described in the report. He said that IDTM had told him everything was going according to schedule.

“Before the Olympic Games we will complete this process,” Butov said. “I’m sure.”

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Craig Sager to Help Cover Game 6 of NBA Finals

Christian Petersen/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — For the first time ever, sideline reporter Craig Sager will get to work an NBA Finals series thanks to a collaboration between Turner Sports and ESPN.

Sager, who’s known for his unique and colorful suits, will cover Game 6 from the sidelines alongside Doris Burke, ESPN reports. The Golden State Warriors lead the Cleveland Cavaliers in the series 3-2.

“I’d like to thank Turner and ESPN for approaching me with this tremendous opportunity to be part of The Finals broadcast team,” Sager said in a statement. “I’ve been watching the series very closely and, while I do not want to distract in any way from the event itself, I look forward to being in the building for what will be an incredibly exciting Game 6.”

He added, “The NBA community is a very special one and this is a great honor.”

Sager was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014 and is now battling a recurrence of the cancer. ESPN is set to honor him with the Jimmy V Perseverance Award at the ESPYS next month.

“Craig is an iconic member of the NBA family who indelibly makes his mark on each and every broadcast,” John Wildhack, ESPN executive vice president, production and programming, said in the statement. “I know our entire team is delighted to work with Craig for Game 6. We all agree his professional reputation is second-to-none, though it’s his personal reputation — that of class, selflessness and respect — which makes this even more special for our team.”

“We hope that this will be a special night for Craig and for NBA fans. We are grateful for his interest and for the continued collaboration with our friends at Turner,” Wildhack continued.

You can catch Sager and Game 6 of the NBA Finals Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

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