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Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva banned for doping

(Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva has been banned for four years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport as a result of a positive doping test prior to the Beijing Olympics.

It will date back to the date of the positive test, on Dec. 25, 2021, meaning that the majority of the suspension has already been served. Valieva has been stripped of any medals won during that period, including at the 2022 Olympic Games.

“Having carefully considered all the evidence put before it,” CAS said in a statement announcing the decision Monday, “the CAS panel concluded that Ms. Valieva was not able to establish, on the balance of probabilities and on the basis of the evidence before the Panel, that she had not committed the (violation) intentionally.”

The CAS also emphasized that Valieva’s age, which put her under the class of “Protected Person” didn’t exempt her from being disqualified.

As a result, Team USA has been awarded gold won in the team figure skating event. Valieva was a member of the Russian team that won gold, while the United States won silver.

At the time, the IOC did not present the athletes with their medals due to questions about Valieva. The then-15-year-old was found to have tested positive for trimetazidine, a banned heart medication. The results of her December test were not returned until Feb. 8, one day after the team figure skating event.

While Russian officials initially suspended Valieva, she appealed the decision and was allowed to continue competing at the 2022 Games.

The ruling brings to the conclusion a two-year ordeal in which none of the athletes were awarded their medals until the case was resolved. Last summer, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic museum marked the 500-day milestone since the Olympics by displaying empty medal boxes.

“I think two years is too long for this decision to be made, and we may never know why it has taken this long,” Evan Bates said when asked about the pending decision at the U.S. figure skating championships. “We’re just looking forward to getting some closure after a long waiting period.”

The entirety of the case may not be resolved, however, as the Russian team was still awarded the bronze medal with Valieva having been removed from the team. Canada, who sits one point behind Russia, was not awarded additional points upon Valieva’s disqualification. Additionally, under the International Skating Union’s current anti-doping rules, if one member of a team is found to have violated anti-doping rules, the entire team may be disqualified, per section 11.2.

On Tuesday, Skate Canada issued a statement saying that they are “extremely disappointed” with the ISU’s position on the ruling. In the statement, they argue that the ISU is “not applying Rule 353, which states that ‘competitors having finished the competition and who initially placed lower than the disqualified competitor will move up accordingly in their placement.’”

Skate Canada also said that it is considering “all options” to appeal the decision. Valieva’s legal team is also reviewing the decision before deciding whether to appeal to the Swiss supreme court.

If the suspension is upheld, Valieva will be ineligible to compete until December 2025, approximately two months before the 2026 Olympics are scheduled to begin.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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