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  • Russian Athletics Eager to Clean Up Reputation -- Media Watch


    (ATR) Max Cobb, CEO of U.S. Biathlon Association, says Russian athletics leaders are not in denial anymore.

    Russian Olympian Mariya Savinova (front left) is facing an international competition ban. (Getty Images)
    In a guest column for Alan Abrahamson's 3 Wire Sports, Cobb writes, "Leaders of sport in Russia recognize there is a problem and are eager to fix it so they can participate in the Olympic Games just nine months away.

    "But history and the very roots of this, arguably the largest-scale doping scandal ever uncovered, should give pause to those responsible for protecting the rights of clean athletes: the IOC and the World Anti-Doping Agency."

    Last week, four IAAF Council members including IOC member Frank Fredericks were appointed to an inspection team in charge of evaluating Russia's anti-doping reforms before its suspension is lifted.

    Russia is one of six countries declared non-compliant by the WADA Foundation Board at its meeting in Colorado Springs on Nov. 18. Other countries include Andorra, Israel, Argentina, Bolivia and Ukraine.

    Following the WADA Independent Commission's disparaging report on widespread doping cover-ups in Russian athletics, the All-Russia Athletics Federation plunged into crisis-mode.

    Two Russian athletes, suspended from international competition in the wake of the report, are saying they want to sue the whistleblower. Guardian reporter Alec Luhn says, "Kristina Ugarova and Tatyana Myazina have announced they will sue their former team-mate Yulia Stepanova, whose testimony and hidden recordings featured prominently in the report, for defamation in a Russian court."

    Russia is one of six countries declared non-compliant by the WADA Foundation Board. (WADA)
    The pair spoke at a press conference in Moscow on Friday. "Our team-mates are accusing us, saying it's because of us they can't compete, which is not right because any athlete could end up in our situation," Ugarova said.

    "For the countries that are accusing us, it doesn't matter whom they accuse. They just wanted to find as many people as possible who were indirectly connected to this, without giving us a chance to explain ourselves."

    Adam Chandler, senior associate editor for The Atlantic, explores whether Russia can clean up in time for the Rio Olympics. In his column for the U.S.-based magazine, Chandler writes, "There is skepticism about Russia's ability to clean up its program either by itself or in time for 2016.

    "There have been calls for the investigation into the country's track and field program to expand."

    The AP's Eddie Pell spotlights athletes who are calling for the doping probe to go beyond the Russian track team.

    "They want assurances that the Russian track team won't compete at the Rio Olympics next year, and they want to see WADA expand its probe in Russia beyond track and into other sports that they're sure have been tainted by doping," Pell writes. 

    Biathlete and cross-country skier Sarah Konrad tells the AP that she knows problems with doping in Russian athletics stretch beyond the athletes.

    A view of Fisht Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Games (Getty Images)
    "We're worried the Russians will scapegoat the athletes, and that the coach who told them to dope and the person who helped them dope will not be punished," Konrad says.

    Russia thwarted Sochi bomb plot

    A senior official with the Russian government revealed this week the thwarting of a possible attack before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov told the AP female suicide bombers had planned to smuggle explosives onto an aircraft. The suspected attackers, Syromolotov added, were detained in Austria and France.

    "The female suicide bombers who were in France had plans showing where they were supposed to put the explosives," Russian news agencies quoted Syromolotov during an appearance before the upper house of Russia’s parliament.

    "Their explosives were in hand cream."

    In other news

    Olympic alpine skier Lindsey Vonn (Getty Images)
    The AP also highlights a conflict between the Mexican government and national sports federations that is jeopardizing Mexico's participation in the Rio Olympics.

    "It would be a tragedy if Mexico does not participate in the Olympics, although I hope it doesn't come to that," Carlos Padilla Becerra, president of Mexico's national Olympic committee, told the AP.

    "I'm sure this will not happen. Higher-ranking national officials will not prohibit our athletes from competing."

    New York Times writer Bill Pennington speaks with Olympian Lindsey Vonn following the alpine ski racer's "rollicking past decade in the public eye."

    "I'm the last one standing of my generation of racers," Vonn tells Pennington. "After my second knee surgery, pretty much everyone in my family said, 'Lindsey, don't you want to walk when you're older?' And I said, Don't worry, there's going to be some new medical procedure and I'll have new knees and it'll be no problem.

    "It never crossed my mind to retire."

    Compiled by Nicole Bennett

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