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Written by Amanda Turner    Sunday, 24 July 2016 06:34    PDF Print
IOC Declines to Ban Russia from Rio; Gymnasts En Route
(11 votes, average 2.55 out of 5)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has declined to issue a blanket ban for all Russian athletes from the 2016 Olympic Games on Sunday following allegations of government-sponsored doping in Moscow and at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has declined to issue a blanket ban for all Russian athletes from the 2016 Olympic Games on Sunday following allegations of government-sponsored doping in Moscow and at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

While Russia will not be barred as a nation, the IOC issued additional criteria for Russian athletes, all of which indicate a positive outcome for Russian gymnasts. No Russian athlete who has ever been sanctioned for a positive drug test will be allowed to compete. Athletes personally implicated in the McClaren report's accusations of sample tampering will not be admitted. Gymnastics was not among the sports named in in the report's 600+ cases of sample tampering at the Moscow lab, and no member of Russia's gymnastics teams has been sanctioned.

Additionally, all Russian athletes who participate will be subject to "rigorous" out-of-competition tests to ensure they are clean from doping. Typically, testing at the Olympic Games is required of all medalists and randomly for other athletes, but all Russians will be tested in Rio de Janeiro, likely repeatedly.

The IOC Executive Committee met Sunday morning to discuss punitive measures for Russia. IOC President Thomas Bach made the official announcement via media teleconference on Sunday afternoon. Bach repeatedly stressed the importance of due process for those accused of wrongdoing. He stated that the IOC has established a disciplinary commission to fully investigate the allegations and to allow those accused a chance to defend themselves prior to sanctions. Further sanctions may follow "once the other side has had the opportunity to present its case and had the right to be heard."

Meanwhile, members of Russia's gymnastics squads departed Moscow at 6 a.m. Sunday morning and are on their way to Rio de Janeiro. The gymnastics team, the first of Russia's athletes to depart, is scheduled to arrive at 6 p.m. local time in Rio.

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games begin August 5 in Rio de Janeiro.

External link: IOC Decision

Written by Amanda Turner    Sunday, 24 July 2016 02:19    PDF Print
Russians Remain Hopeful, Depart for Rio de Janeiro
(5 votes, average 3.20 out of 5)

Members of the Russian gymnastics team departed for Rio de Janeiro on Sunday morning, hours before a ruling is expected by the IOC on whether it will bar the entire country from the 2016 Olympic Games.

Members of the Russian gymnastics team departed for Rio de Janeiro on Sunday morning, hours before a ruling is expected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on whether it will bar the entire country from the 2016 Olympic Games.

"We are not panicking, everyone is preparing, everyone is in the mood, everyone believes and will believe till the very end," Russian coach Valentina Rodionenko said

The delegation left Moscow at 6 a.m. and will connect via Amsterdam on their way to Rio de Janeiro, where they are scheduled for a 6 p.m. arrival. The gymnastics team is the first group of Russian athletes to leave for Rio, where gymnastics competition begins the day after the Opening Ceremonies.

The IOC is scheduled to issue its verdict on Sunday on Russia's fate following Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren's report, an independent investigation done on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency, which was released last Sunday. The report alleged that Russia was engaged in state-sponsored doping at a lab in Moscow and at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

Russia's track & field athletes were previously barred from competing in Rio by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), which suspended the country from all international events earlier this year. This suspension was upheld on Thursday by Switzerland's Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which did not weigh in on any doping issue but confirmed that a nation may not compete in a sport at the Olympic Games without approval from that sport's governing body.

Following the CAS decision, the IOC said it would review its legal options for a collective ban of all Russian athletes. The IOC has also said it is seeking to balance "collective responsibility and individual justice."

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) came out in support this week of Russia's gymnasts participating at the 2016 Olympic Games, as did Jani Tanskannen, president of the FIG's Athlete Commission. Gymnastics has only had a few isolated cases of doping, most involving diuretics. Romania's Andreea Raducan is the only gymnast to ever be stripped of an Olympic medal for a positive doping test, after she tested positive in 2000 for a substance found in cold medicine that is no longer considered a performance-enhancing drugs. Of the 600+ athletes whose samples were alleged in the McClaren report to have been tampered with at a Moscow lab, none belonged to any gymnasts.

Meanwhile, Russia's gymnasts have continued to train at full force for the Olympic Games in Rio, where they are expected to be a major force. The men's and women's teams both won the team gold medal at this spring's European championships in Bern, where Aliya Mustafina (balance beam), Nikita Nagornyy (floor exercise) and David Belyavsky (parallel bars) won individual gold medals.

Russia is also a medal contender in trampoline, and its rhythmic gymnasts dominate the sport, having won the individual all-around at every Olympics since 2000. At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Russia finished second to China in the medal count in gymnastics events.

The Russian gymnasts and coaches have reported they are distressed by the situation, but remain hopeful.

"Of course I'm sorry for the guys in athletics, who were preparing for the Olympics and don't get to go," said 2012 Olympian Denis Ablyazin. "But it is not our sport – it has nothing to do with us. What is happening with them should not affect us. We are focused on our business. We work in the gym and don't see what is happening in other sports. I do not believe that the whole Russian Olympic team will be removed from the Games. I believe in the best."

Two Russian track & field athletes who train outside of Russia have been given permission by the IAAF and the IOC to compete as independent Olympians in Rio, and not under the Russian flag. Several Russian gymnasts and coaches stated that if they were given permission to compete under the generic Olympic flag in Rio, they would refuse.

"We are optimistic and believe that good sense will prevail in the IOC," said head coach Andrei Rodionenko. "But in the case of a bad outcome, it will be hard for us to compete under another flag, so we will not act under the IOC flag."

Valentina Rodionenko said that if the Russians are banned from the 2016 Olympics, it would likely mean the end of the careers for many on the team.

"I don't know [if I would retire]," said Mustafina, captain for Russia's women's team and the defending Olympic champion on uneven bars. "First of all I would be very upset and most likely withdraw from everything. When I calmed down, I would have to make decisions about future plans. But I very much hope that all will be well, and we will get to the Olympics."

There are several rulings the IOC could issue on Sunday. Possible outcomes – and what that would mean for gymnastics – include:

No action. The IOC could decline to take any punitive action against the Russian athletes, citing the fact that while the allegations are extremely serious, they have not been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to be true. Athletes and officials have not been subject to due process in any case against them, the accused have not been questioned and nobody has testified under oath. The IOC could defer any punishment until a complete investigation has been carried out and tribunals convened. This outcome is not expected, as the IOC is under major pressure to take a tough stance against doping prior to the Olympic Games.

Allow clean athletes to compete as independent Olympians. The IOC could ban Russia, but somehow agree to let athletes not under suspicion of doping compete under the IOC flag and not under the Russian flag. Russian gymnasts and coaches have said they would not agree to this option.

Leave it up to individual international sports federations. The IOC could rule that Russia's participation would be up to each individual Olympic sports federation. Several sports are not plagued by doping. The Association of Summer Olympic International Federations announced this week that it supported this outcome. The Russians would get the green light to compete in gymnastics, as the FIG has already come out in strong support of their participation.

Blanket ban of all Russian athletes. This would be the most severe outcome from the IOC that would allow it to look tough on doping, but which ultimately would prevent untold numbers of innocent athletes from competing in the Olympic Games. This outcome would result in complete chaos across the board as hundreds of athletes, coaches and officials from around the world would be in limbo. Russia certainly would immediately appeal this ruling, keeping the outcome for all unknown up until the last minute. It is unknown if the Russian athletes would be allowed to stay in the Olympic village and participate in official training while the appeal goes on. Meanwhile, alternate athletes who have not been training for the Olympic Games, along with coaches and officials, would suddenly be told to show up in Rio, where the Olympics begin on August 5. Brazil requires travel visas for nearly all countries that would have to be approved at the last minute.

In artistic gymnastics, the two alternate teams, the Australian women and Romanian men, would be told to pack their bags. With 12 days to go before the Olympic Games and with the other teams already arriving, Australia and Romania would have to immediately select five-member teams and travel to Rio. This would be an absolute fiasco. Some of the gymnasts who did not qualify to the Olympics have taken well-deserved breaks or even retired since their last competitions. There would not be time to organize an Olympic selection event, and the Australian and Romanian gymnastics federations would have to somehow fairly select a team based on prior results or one workout session in a manner that meets the selection criteria of their respective Olympic Committees. The replacement gymnasts, despite any gratitude and excitement that they were allowed to compete, would feel cheated that they were not able to perform 100 percent at the Olympic Games. The Russian gymnasts, barred from competition without a single allegation of wrongdoing on their part, would feel not only cheated but a lifetime of pain and bitterness. The saga would overwhelm the gymnastics competition in Rio de Janeiro and the Olympians would face constant media questions about the Russian competitors who weren't there. Much like the Cold War boycotts of 1980 and 1984, a ban of Russia in 2016 would leave an asterisk over the results and cloud the competition at the Games, wholly unfair to all participants.

External Link: Russian Gymnastics Federation

Written by Amanda Turner    Saturday, 23 July 2016 16:07    PDF Print
Germany, Steingruber Win in Chemnitz
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

Germany and Switzerland's Giulia Steingruber claimed victories at an international competition held Saturday in Chemnitz, Germany.

Germany and Switzerland's Giulia Steingruber claimed victories at an international competition held Saturday in Chemnitz, Germany.

The final pre-Olympic international competition featured full teams from Germany, France and Switzerland, plus a mixed team of Austria's Lisa Ecker, Venezuela's Jessica López and Romania's Larisa Iordache and Catalina Ponor.

Giulia Steingruber (Switzerland)

Germany handily defeated France, 174.25-167.95. The mixed team, which also included Germany's Leah Griesser, claimed third (166.80) over a four-gymnast squad from Switzerland (165.50).

The Germans had the top score on all events but floor exercise, where the mixed team had the best total. Germany put up its strongest score on uneven bars, led by Elisabeth Seitz with 15.30, Sophie Scheder with 15.25 and Kim Bui with 14.80.

Tabea Alt led the scoring on balance beam with 14.80, followed by teammate Pauline Schäfer with 14.70.

"We have shown a very good performance and are well on our way – I am very satisfied," said German head coach Ulla Koch "We had to fight this week with colds, and Tabea has some knee problems. I think we can do even better gymnastics."

The French women also had their strongest result on uneven bars, with Louise Vanhille scoring 14.90 and Loan His 14.65.

Steingruber, who will compete at the Olympic Games as an individual for Switzerland, won the all-around (58.05) over Schäfer (57.30) and Seitz (57.15). Steingruber had the highest scores of the day on vault (15.35) and floor exercise (14.75).

Ponor competed three events, scoring 14.70 on vault and floor exercise and 14.50 on balance beam. Teammate Iordache finished ninth all-around with her best score of 14.20 coming on balance beam. Ponor is set to compete in her third Olympic Games next month in Rio de Janeiro, where she has been selected to carry Romania's flag at the Opening Ceremonies. Iordache, who missed several months of training with a serious hand injury, will travel to Brazil as the alternate for Romania, which did not qualify a full team this year.

2016 Germany vs. France and Switzerland
July 23, Chemnitz, Germany

1.  Germany43.3045.3543.4042.20174.25
Pauline Schäfer14.4513.8014.7014.35
Elisabeth Seitz14.2015.3013.9013.75
Tabea Alt14.6514.5014.8012.80
Kim Bui13.8514.8013.1014.10
Sophie Scheder14.0015.2513.1013.00
2.  France42.3543.4541.1041.05167.95
Marine Brevet14.1513.9014.0013.95
Louise Vanhille14.1014.9013.3013.65
Anne Kuhm14.1013.8013.4513.45
Oréane Lechenault14.0013.8513.6513.15
Loan His14.6512.70
3.Mixed Team42.9539.4542.0542.35166.80
Larisa Iordache14.0013.0014.2013.95
Leah Griesser13.1014.2513.3513.20
Jessica López14.2512.2012.7513.70
Lisa Ecker13.8510.9013.3513.60
Catalina Ponor14.7014.5014.70
4.  Switzerland43.1040.3541.1040.95165.50
Giulia Steingruber15.3514.0013.9514.75
Ilaria Käslin13.8012.1013.7513.55
Thea Brogli13.9512.8012.9511.80
Caterina Barloggio13.5513.4012.65

1.Giulia Steingruber6.215.355.914.005.613.956.114.7558.05
2.Pauline Schäfer5.414.455.313.806.114.705.814.3557.30
3.Elisabeth Seitz5.014.206.615.305.513.905.413.7557.15
4.Tabea Alt5.814.655.914.506.214.805.312.8056.75
5.Marine Brevet5.014.155.813.905.814.005.413.9556.00
6.Louise Vanhille5.014.106.514.905.413.305.213.6555.95
7.Kim Bui5.013.856.314.805.313.105.614.1055.85
8.Sophie Scheder5.014.006.615.255.513.105.213.0055.35
9.Larisa Iordache5.014.005.813.
10.Anne Kuhm5.014.105.313.805.513.455.113.4554.80
11.Oréane Lechenault5.014.006.313.855.813.655.213.1554.65
12.Leah Griesser4.613.105.814.255.813.355.013.2053.90
13.Michelle Timm5.414.105.313.804.912.755.113.1053.75
14.Ilaria Käslin5.013.805.112.105.613.755.213.5553.20
15.Jessica López5.814.
16.Pauline Tratz5.
17.Lisa Ecker5.013.855.210.905.713.355.613.6051.70
18.Thea Brogli5.013.954.612.805.012.954.711.8051.50
19.Catalina Ponor5.814.706.114.506.014.7043.90
20.Caterina Barloggio5.213.555.213.404.912.6539.60
21.Loan His6.314.654.912.7027.35
Written by Amanda Turner    Saturday, 23 July 2016 12:36    PDF Print
Córdoba Heads to Rio After Simões Injured
(1 vote, average 5.00 out of 5)

Portuguese gymnast Gustavo Simões has withdrawn from the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and will be replaced by first alternate Nicolás Córdoba of Argentina.

Nicolás Córdoba (Argentina)

Simões suffered a fractured left foot and was forced to withdraw. Córdoba, the first alternate following the second qualification in April, now heads to the Olympic Games.

"Unfortunately, the fall suffered by Gustavo on (July) 9th caused a fracture in his left foot," the Portuguese Gymnastics Federation announced Friday. "It is a type of injury that will require surgical resolution at some point, but there's good potential for full functional recovery. However, given the proximity of the Olympic Games, we cannot in any way treat him and get him back in time for him to participate in the competition."

Córdoba, who was married in May, said he nearly retired after failing to qualify in April. He said he woke up Friday to messages of congratulations before being notified by the Argentinean Gymnastics Federation.

"I had been a bitter taste after the Olympic qualification, and I had thought about quitting training," he said. "Then I thought better of it and started training for the World Cup. Now I cannot stop smiling."

Córdoba, who turns 27 in November, has competed at every world championships since 2009. He has won six World Cup medals on his best event, high bar, and was the FIG World Cup overall high bar champion in 2015.

Córdoba brings Argentina's 2016 Olympic delegation to a record 213 athletes, tying the number who competed at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. Brazil's southern neighbor also will be represented in women's artistic gymnastics by Ailén Valente.

Australian gymnast Michael Mercieca is now the first alternate to the men's competition, and Luis Rivera (Puerto Rico) is the second alternate. The alternates for women are Marina Nekrasova (Azerbaijan) and Farah Ann Abdul Hadi (Malaysia).

Written by Amanda Turner    Thursday, 21 July 2016 05:57    PDF Print
Afanasyeva Forced into Retirement by Illness
(8 votes, average 3.38 out of 5)

Two-time Olympian Ksenia Afanasyeva is retiring from competition because of a kidney disease, Russian media reported Thursday.

Two-time Olympian Ksenia Afanasyeva is retiring from competition after suffering from a kidney disease, Russian media reported Thursday.

The world and European champion is hospitalized with kidney stones and is facing weeks of recovery, said team coach Valentina Rodionenko, ruining any chances of Afanasyeva competing in a third Olympic Games. As late as Wednesday, the 24 year old had been listed as an alternate for this summer's Olympic Games, with a chronic ankle injury still a question.

Known for her exceptional grace and power, Afanasyeva was a member of Russia's fourth-place team at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, where she qualified to the final on balance beam. She helped lead Russia to its first world team title two years later in Rotterdam, and in 2011 became world champion on floor exercise. She was the captain of Russia's team that won the silver at the 2012 Olympics in London. She won floor exercise at both the 2013 and 2015 European championships, and won vault and floor at the 2013 University Games.

Afanasyeva was plagued the past several years by an ankle injury, missing the 2013 and 2014 world championships, and underwent multiple surgeries. She returned to the world championships in 2015 and won a silver medal on floor exercise.

She competed on vault only at this spring's European championships in Bern, where she helped Russia win the team title and captured the individual bronze medal on vault.

Afanasyeva, who turns 25 in September, traveled to Germany in June to have scar tissue removed. She and Russia's coaches had hoped she would be able to return in time to compete at the Olympic Games, which begin August 5.

The Russian delegation plans to depart on Sunday for Brazil. Yevgenia Shelgunova has moved into the alternate position for Russia in place of Afanasyeva, with Natalia Kapitanova the second alternate.

External Link: Russian Gymnastics Federation

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