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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.

Ewan wins Stage 8; Conti keeps pink jersey in Giro

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PESARO, Italy (AP) Caleb Ewan of Australia sprinted to victory on the eighth and longest stage of the Giro d’Italia on Saturday, while Italian cyclist Valerio Conti remained the overall leader.

Ewan, who rides for Lotto-Soudal, edged Elia Viviani and Pascal Ackermann in a bunch sprint at the end of the 239-kilometer (149-mile) leg from Tortoreto Lido to Pesaro.

Conti, who has worn the pink jersey since finishing second on Thursday’s sixth stage, remained one minute, 32 seconds ahead of Jose Rojas and 1:41 ahead of Giovanni Carboni.

Sunday’s ninth stage is the only time the Giro crosses into another country as it visits the republic of San Marino briefly for the uphill finish of the 35-kilometer time trial.

That could mark the start of the real fight for overall victory, as every second lost will be tough to pull back when the race heads into the mountains.

The Giro finishes in Verona on June 2.

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Pogacar wins Stage 6 of Tour of California to take lead

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ONTARIO, Calif. — UAE Team Emirates began its week at the Tour of California by sending home one of its riders upon learning that his name had surfaced in a European investigation into doping in cycling.

The team appears set to end it with the overall race lead.

Tadej Pogacar reeled in several top contenders on Friday’s final climb to Mt. Baldy, then matched every attack thrown down by Sergio Higuita. That allowed him to reach the finish line first and take not only the sixth stage but also the lead in the general classification with just a day of racing to go.

In the women’s race, American climber Katie Hall surged in the final couple kilometers up Mt. Baldy before holding off teammate Anna van der Breggen for the stage win. Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio was third.

Van der Breggen retained the overall lead by 29 seconds over Hall, the defending race winner.

UAE Team Emirates has ridden this week without Kristijan Durasek, who was caught up in the Austrian doping probe. But it hardly mattered for Pogacar, who stayed out of trouble during the earlier stages and was in fourth place and 16 seconds adrift of Tejay van Garderen entering Friday’s stage.

Van Garderen’s team tried to pace him to the top, but the 2013 race winner cracked before some of his EF-Education First teammates. Gianni Mascon of Team Ineos, who had been third, also dropped off the brutal pace up the steep Mt. Baldy climb, throwing the race wide open.

George Bennett tried to join the fray in the closing kilometer, but he was unable to make up the ground on Pogacar and Higuita, making it a true duel to the finish line.

Higuita led the way heading to the final corner, but the diminutive Colombian swung low and took a better line, allowing him to pull ahead and sprint clear for the victory.

He now leads by 16 seconds ahead of Higuita with Kasper Asgreen in third.

Several riders in the women’s race tried to attack on the tough climb of Mt. Baldy, too, and Omer Shapira was the first to offer a truly dangerous move. Hall soon followed with about 2+ kilometers (1 + miles) to go, and van der Breggen soon bridged to make a trio of riders at the front.

Shapira was unable to keep up with Hall and van der Breggen, the reigning world champion. That left the two Boels-Dolmans riders to duel on the final kilometer to the summit, and Hall made the pass within sight of the finish line to snag the stage victory.

The final stage Saturday takes the men and women 126 kilometers (78 miles) from Santa Clarita to Pasadena, but both overall leaders will be expected to protect their jerseys before the finish at the Rose Bowl.