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Olympic sprinter Knighton allowed to run at US trials after contamination case

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Olympic sprinter Knighton allowed to run at US trials after contamination case
Sport

Sport

Olympic sprinter Knighton allowed to run at US trials after contamination case

2024-06-20 11:50 Last Updated At:12:00

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Sprinter Erriyon Knighton tested positive for a banned substance that an arbitration panel determined came from contaminated meat, a decision that keeps the 200-meter specialist eligible to run at the upcoming U.S. Olympic trials.

The 20-year-old from Florida, who holds the under-18 and under-20 records in the 200 meters, tested positive for the performance enhancer trenbolone during an out-of-competition test in March, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which revealed details of the case Wednesday.

Though the arbitration panel cleared Knighton to run in the 200, starting June 27, the decision can be appealed by either the Athletics Integrity Unit, which oversees doping in track and field, or the World Anti-Doping Agency.

WADA spokesman James Fitzgerald said “as it always does, WADA will review this case and reserves the right to take an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, as appropriate.”

The AIU did not return an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.

“We did what the rules require us to do in all positive cases,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said. “We can take comfort that justice was served and transparency as required by the rules was achieved."

Tygart said the contaminated meat came from oxtail at a bakery in central Florida. A USADA investigation, including obtaining the meat and testing it, along with interviews with the manager of the bakery, Knighton, his girlfriend and his mother, backed up the sprinter’s contamination claim.

When Knighton qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, he became the youngest male since Jim Ryun in 1964 to make the U.S. Olympic team. He finished fourth in the 200 behind Andre De Grasse, Kenny Bednarek and Noah Lyles. Knighton finished second behind Lyles at last year's world championships.

Contamination cases such as Knighton's aren't unheard of, though they have come under closer scrutiny of late in the wake of a case involving 23 Chinese swimmers whose positive tests for a banned heart medication were deemed to have come because of contamination.

WADA accepted the explanation from Chinese authorities and did not pursue that case, which became public after reporting by The New York Times and the German broadcaster ARD. That decision has been roundly criticized by USADA and others because the initial positives were not made public.

Part of WADA's argument has been to point out contamination cases that originated in the United States — which have involved everything from meat to dog medicine — have not always resulted in sanctions. USADA has insisted it has followed the rulebook in all those cases, including making public any violation, even if it did not result in a penalty.

Perhaps the most controversial contamination case in the U.S. involved distance runner Shelby Houlihan, who got banned before the 2021 Olympic trials, even though she claimed her positive test was the result of a burrito she bought that contained meat laced with nandrolone.

Houlihan is currently serving a four-year ban that ends next year.

AP Summer Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games

FILE - Erriyon Knighton, of the United States, left, wins a heat in the men's 200-meter run at the World Athletics Championships on Monday, July 18, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. Sprinter Erriyon Knighton tested positive for a banned substance that an arbitration panel determined came from contaminated meat, a decision that keeps the 200-meter specialist eligible to run at the upcoming Olympic trials, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)

FILE - Erriyon Knighton, of the United States, left, wins a heat in the men's 200-meter run at the World Athletics Championships on Monday, July 18, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. Sprinter Erriyon Knighton tested positive for a banned substance that an arbitration panel determined came from contaminated meat, a decision that keeps the 200-meter specialist eligible to run at the upcoming Olympic trials, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)

FILE -Erriyon Knighton, of the United States, competes in a Men's 200-meter heat during the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. Sprinter Erriyon Knighton tested positive for a banned substance that an arbitration panel determined came from contaminated meat, a decision that keeps the 200-meter specialist eligible to run at the upcoming Olympic trials, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue, File)

FILE -Erriyon Knighton, of the United States, competes in a Men's 200-meter heat during the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. Sprinter Erriyon Knighton tested positive for a banned substance that an arbitration panel determined came from contaminated meat, a decision that keeps the 200-meter specialist eligible to run at the upcoming Olympic trials, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue, File)

FILE - Erriyon Knighton, of the United States, wins a heat during the men's 200-meter semifinal run at the World Athletics Championships on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. Sprinter Erriyon Knighton tested positive for a banned substance that an arbitration panel determined came from contaminated meat, a decision that keeps the 200-meter specialist eligible to run at the upcoming Olympic trials, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)

FILE - Erriyon Knighton, of the United States, wins a heat during the men's 200-meter semifinal run at the World Athletics Championships on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. Sprinter Erriyon Knighton tested positive for a banned substance that an arbitration panel determined came from contaminated meat, a decision that keeps the 200-meter specialist eligible to run at the upcoming Olympic trials, Wednesday, June 19, 2024. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)

A court has convicted Alsu Kurmasheva, a Russian-American journalist for the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, of spreading false information about the Russian army and sentenced her to 6½ years in prison after a secret trial, court records and officials said Monday.

The conviction in Kazan, the capital of Russia's central region of Tatarstan, came on Friday, the same day a court in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg convicted Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich of espionage and sentenced him to 16 years in prison in a case that the U.S. called politically motivated.

Kurmasheva, a 47-year-old editor for RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir language service, was convicted of “spreading false information” about the military, according to the website of the Supreme Court of Tatarstan. Court spokesperson Natalya Loseva confirmed Kurmasheva's conviction and revealed the sentence to The Associated Press by phone in the case classified as secret.

Kurmasheva was ordered to serve the sentence in a medium-security penal colony, Loseva said.

“My daughters and I know Alsu has done nothing wrong. And the world knows it too. We need her home,” Kurmasheva's husband, Pavel Butorin, said in a post Monday on X.

He had said last year the charges stemmed from a book the Tatar-Bashkir service released in 2022 called “No to War” — “a collection of short stories of Russians who don’t want their country to be at war with Ukraine.” Butorin had said the book doesn’t contain any “false information.”

Asked about the case, RFE/RL President and CEO Stephen Capus denounced the trial and conviction of Kurmasheva as “a mockery of justice.”

“The only just outcome is for Alsu to be immediately released from prison by her Russian captors,” he said in a statement to the AP.

“It’s beyond time for this American citizen, our dear colleague, to be reunited with her loving family,” Capus said.

Kurmasheva, who holds U.S. and Russian citizenship and lives in Prague with her husband and two daughters, was taken into custody in October 2023 and charged with failing to register as a foreign agent while collecting information about the Russian military.

Later, she was also charged with spreading “false information” about the Russian military under legislation that effectively criminalized any public expression about the war in Ukraine that deviates from the Kremlin line. The legislation was adopted in March 2022, just days after the Kremlin sent troops into Ukraine, and has since been used to target Kremlin critics at home and abroad, implicating scores of people in criminal cases and sending dozens to prison.

Kurmasheva was initially stopped in June 2023 at Kazan International Airport after traveling to Russia the previous month to visit her ailing elderly mother. Officials confiscated her U.S. and Russian passports and fined her for failing to register her U.S. passport. She was waiting for her passports to be returned when she was arrested on new charges in October that year. RFE/RL has repeatedly called for her release.

RFE/RL was told by Russian authorities in 2017 to register as a foreign agent, but it has challenged Moscow’s use of foreign agent laws in the European Court of Human Rights. The organization has been fined millions of dollars by Russia.

In February, RFE/RL was outlawed in Russia as an undesirable organization. Its Tatar-Bashkir service is the only major international news provider reporting in those languages, in addition to Russian, to audiences in the multiethnic, Muslim-majority Volga-Urals region.

The swift and secretive trials of Kurmasheva and Gershkovich in Russia’s highly politicized legal system raised hopes for a possible prisoner swap between Moscow and Washington. Russia has previously signaled a possible exchange involving Gershkovich, but said a verdict in his case must come first.

Arrests of Americans are increasingly common in Russia, with nine U.S. citizens known to be detained there as tensions between the two countries have escalated over fighting in Ukraine.

Gershkovich, 32, was arrested March 29, 2023, while on a reporting trip to the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg. Authorities claimed, without offering any evidence, that he was gathering secret information for the U.S.

He has been behind bars since his arrest, time that will be counted as part of his sentence. Most of that was in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo Prison — a czarist-era lockup used during Josef Stalin’s purges, when executions were carried out in its basement. He was transferred to Yekaterinburg for the trial.

Gershkovich was the first U.S. journalist arrested on espionage charges since Nicholas Daniloff in 1986, at the height of the Cold War. Foreign journalists in Russia were shocked by Gershkovich’s arrest, even though the country has enacted increasingly repressive laws on freedom of speech after sending troops into Ukraine.

U.S. President Joe Biden said after his conviction that Gershkovich “was targeted by the Russian government because he is a journalist and an American.”

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield accused Moscow last week of treating “human beings as bargaining chips.” She singled out Gershkovich and ex-Marine Paul Whelan, 53, a corporate security director from Michigan, who is serving a 16-year sentence after being convicted on spying charges that he and the U.S. denied.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that when it comes to Gershkovich, Whelan and other Americans wrongfully detained in Russia and elsewhere, the U.S. is working on the cases “quite literally every day.”

Sam Greene of the Center for European Policy Analysis said the conviction and sentencing of Kurmasheva and Gershkovich on the same day “suggests — but does not prove — that the Kremlin is preparing a deal. More likely, they are preparing to offer up a negotiating table that Washington will find it difficult to ignore.”

In a series of posts on X, Greene stressed that “the availability of a negotiating table shouldn’t be confused with the availability of a deal,” and that Moscow has no interest in releasing its prisoners — but it is likely to "seek the highest possible price for its bargaining chips, and to seek additional concessions along the way just to keep the talks going.”

Washington “should obviously do what it can” to get Gershkovich, Kurmasheva, imprisoned opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza and other political prisoners out, he said, adding: “But if Moscow demands what it really wants — the abandonment of Ukraine — what then?”

FILE - Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor for the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Tatar-Bashkir service, attends a court hearing in Kazan, Russia on April 1, 2024. A Russian court has convicted Kurmasheva of spreading false information about the Russian army and sentenced her to 6½ years in prison after a secret trial, court records and officials said Monday July 22, 2024. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor for the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Tatar-Bashkir service, attends a court hearing in Kazan, Russia on April 1, 2024. A Russian court has convicted Kurmasheva of spreading false information about the Russian army and sentenced her to 6½ years in prison after a secret trial, court records and officials said Monday July 22, 2024. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor for the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Tatar-Bashkir service, attends a court hearing in Kazan, Russia on May 31, 2024. A Russian court has convicted Kurmasheva of spreading false information about the Russian army and sentenced her to 6½ years in prison after a secret trial, court records and officials said Monday July 22, 2024. (AP Photo, File)

FILE - Alsu Kurmasheva, an editor for the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Tatar-Bashkir service, attends a court hearing in Kazan, Russia on May 31, 2024. A Russian court has convicted Kurmasheva of spreading false information about the Russian army and sentenced her to 6½ years in prison after a secret trial, court records and officials said Monday July 22, 2024. (AP Photo, File)

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