Two Russian cyclists test positive for banned meldonium

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MOSCOW — Russia’s troubles with the banned substance meldonium resurfaced Wednesday when officials confirmed that two track cyclists and an Olympic hopeful water polo player had failed doping tests.

Anastasia Chulkova, who won the points race at the 2012 world track championship, and former European bronze medalist Pavel Yakushevsky tested positive for the drug that was banned from Jan. 1.

The Russian cycling federation said in an e-mailed statement that both Chulkova and Yakushevsky stopped taking meldonium after the World Anti-Doping Agency said in September that the substance would be banned.

 The federation said evidence points to “leftover traces,” but didn’t specify when the samples were taken.

“According to the data which we have, the amount of the substance in the doping sample is low,” the federation said.

Another Russian cyclist, road racer Eduard Vorganov, was suspended last month after testing positive for meldonium, the same drug that Maria Sharapova tested positive for at the Australian Open.

Separately, Russian Water Polo Federation spokeswoman Viktoria Kirina told The Associated Press on Wednesday that national team player Alexei Bugaichuk had failed a doping test at the European championships in January, when Russia reached the quarterfinals.

“He’s now suspended from all competitions until the circumstances are cleared up and until a decision from WADA and FINA,” she said.

Kirina said the amount of meldonium found in Bugaichuk’s sample was “very small,” likely leftover from consumption in October, while the substance was still legal. No other players tested positive, she added.

Russia’s performance at the European championship gave it a place at April’s final Olympic qualifying tournament. Kirina said she does not expect the team to be excluded from the tournament.

Also Wednesday, the International Biathlon Union said it had suspended an unnamed athlete who tested positive for a “substance defined under hormones and metabolic modulators,” a category which includes meldonium.

So far this year, all three doping cases in biathlon have involved meldonium, with provisional suspensions for Ukrainian athletes Olga Abramova and Artyom Tyshchenko and Russian biathlete Eduard Latypov, who won gold at last year’s world junior championships.

Giro d’Italia to start on former railway line in Abruzzo

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L’AQUILA, Italy — The 2023 edition of the Giro d’Italia will start with an individual time trial on a coastal cycle path that has been recreated from a former railway line in the region of Abruzzo.

At a ceremony in the Abruzzo capital of L’Aquila, race organizers announced that the Grand Tour will run from May 6-28 and begin with an 18.4-kilometer (11.4-mile) time trial on the Adriatic coast.

Almost the entire time trial will be on the spectacular Costa dei Trabocchi cycle path that hugs the coast line before a short climb to the finish in Ortona.

“I am excited at the idea of the Grande Partenza (Big Start) of the Giro in Abruzzo . It is a dream come true, especially with regard to the prologue on the Costa dei Trabocchi,” said Trek-Segafredo cyclist Dario Cataldo, who is from the region.

“I well remember that when the cycle path project was born and I saw the first tracks, I imagined the beauty of a Giro d’Italia passing along the route. It looked perfect.”

Stage 2 is a 204-kilometer (127-mile) leg from Teramo to San Salvo that is hilly in the first part but expected to end in a bunch sprint.

Stage 3 will also start in the Abruzzo region, in Vasto, but it will then head south and will be detailed when the full route is revealed on Oct. 17 in Milan.

The Giro will also return to the region for Stage 7, a daunting climb on the Gran Sasso d’Italia to Campo Imperatore. The high mountain stage, on May 12, will be the edition’s first finish above 2,000 meters.

Australian Jai Hindley won this year’s Giro.

Norway takes gold-medal lead at world road cycling titles

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WOLLONGONG, Australia – Soren Waerenskjold repeated Norway’s gold medal success at the world road cycling championships a day after Tobias Foss finished first in the elite men’s time trial.

Waerenskjold won the men’s under-23 time trial on the second day of the championships with a dominant performance. He clocked 34 minutes, 13.40 seconds over the 28.8-kilometer course to beat Belgian Alec Segaert by 16.34 seconds.

British rider Leo Hayter, the younger brother of elite rider Ethan Hayter, was 24.16 seconds off the pace for the bronze medal.

Foss beat a strong field to win the elite time trial, the biggest win of his career.

Norway has two gold medals, while Dutch ace Ellen van Dijk beat Australian Grace Brown to take out the women’ elite time trial.

The mixed relay time trial is set for Wednesday. The championships conclude on the weekend with the women’s road race on Saturday and the men’s on Sunday.