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Kazakhstan says 4-time Olympian arrested in doping raids

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ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) — Four-time Olympian Alexei Poltoranin was among five skiers arrested in Austrian police raids targeting an alleged doping network centered on a doctor who once worked with Tour de France cyclists.

Poltoranin, who has won two world championship medals, did not start the 15-kilometer race at the world championships after Wednesday’s raids.

The Kazakh Olympic Committee said Thursday that Poltoranin had been arrested. Samal Nauryzova, a spokeswoman for the Kazakh cross-country ski federation, said “we will defend our athlete,” adding the federation is waiting to see proof.

According to the Austria Press Agency, Austrian ski federation official Markus Gandler told ORF television that Max Hauke and Dominik Baldauf were also arrested. Hauke and Baldauf work for the Austrian police, according to a recent interior ministry news release congratulating them on finishing in sixth place in the team sprint at the worlds.

The other two athletes suspected of involvement in the doping ring are Estonian teammates Karel Tammjarv and Andreas Veerpalu, the Estonian ski federation said in a statement.

Veerpalu, who competed at last year’s Olympics, is the son of the two-time Olympic gold medalist Andrus Veerpalu, who was acquitted of a doping charge in 2013 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

In that case, the CAS panel ruled that “there are many factors in this case which tend to indicate” that Andrus Veerpalu had taken human growth hormone, but the testing procedure wasn’t reliable enough for a guilty verdict.

The doctor at the center of the case is Mark Schmidt, who worked for the Gerolsteiner cycling team around the time Austrian rider Bernhard Kohl was stripped of third place at the 2008 Tour de France for doping.

Schmidt was arrested on Wednesday in Erfurt, Germany, where he has a medical practice.

The remaining three people arrested Wednesday by Austrian and German authorities were described by Austrian officials as the doctor’s associates. The case could spread to other sports, Austrian officials said.

Giro d’Italia to start in Hungary next year

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BUDAPEST, Hungary — The Giro d’Italia will start in Hungary next year.

The prelude stage will take place in Budapest, followed by two further stages on Hungarian soil.

Giro d’Italia organizers made the announcement on Tuesday at the Italian Cultural Institute in Budapest.

It will be the Grand Tour’s 14th start outside of Italy, with the most recent being in Israel last year.

This year’s Giro d’Italia will begin in Bologna on May 11 and conclude in Verona on June 2.

Gilbert beats Politt to win Paris-Roubaix

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ROUBAIX, France — Veteran cyclist Philippe Gilbert beat German rider Nils Politt right at the end of Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix race to win it for the first time.

Gilbert strategically placed himself behind the 24-year-old Politt, and then attacked him down the left to win by about a length after nearly six hours of riding. Belgian rider Yves Lampaert finished in third.

The race is one of cycling’s five high-profile classics, along with the Tour of Flanders, Milan-San Remo, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardia. The 36-year-old Gilbert, a former world road race champion, has won all except Milan-San Remo.

“I still have this dream to win all them. Little by little I’m getting there,” an elated Gilbert said afterward. “Politt’s very courageous. In the end the best rider won, and thankfully it was me.”

Last year’s Paris-Roubaix winner Peter Sagan joined Gilbert and Politt near the front with about 20 kilometers left. But Sagan dropped off, leaving Gilbert and Politt to contest victory as they reached the Roubaix velodrome in northern France.

Paris-Roubaix is known as the Queen of the Classics because it is the most prestigious of the five, which are otherwise known as “monuments” of cycling.

But the grueling and dangerous 257-kilometer trek is also known as the “Hell of the North,” because of its treacherous profile including more than 50 kilometers (31 miles) of cobblestones spread out over 29 sectors.

“A lot of people said cobblestones aren’t for me. But I’ve won Tour of Flanders and now I’ve won here,” Gilbert said. “I rode a good race tactically.”

Belgian cyclist Tiesj Benoot crashed into the back of a Jumbo-Visma team car near the end of Sunday’s race, smashing the back window completely. He was taken to hospital but his injuries were not immediately known.

Last year’s Paris-Roubaix was overshadowed by the death of Belgian rider Michael Goolaerts, following a crash.