'There's no point': Russian curler Krushelnitsky opts against CAS hearing for doping case

By ethan / February 21, 2018

Russian Olympic bronze medal curler Alexander Krushelnitsky has decided against the holding of a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing regarding his doping case for meldonium.

Krushelnitsky announced in a statement, presented to TASS by the Olympic Athletes of Russia (OAR) delegation head Stanislav Pozdnyakov, that he believes a hearing would “not make sense”.

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Olympic Athletes from Russia Anastasia Bryzgalova and Alexander Krushelnitsky. © Alexey Filippov

“I have never broken any sporting laws and have never taken doping,” the 25-year-old said. “We got to the Olympic bronze medal through hard work and constant training. From my point of view, I admit the fact of a formal violation of the current anti-doping legislation.

“It is silly to deny it, when the presence [of a] banned substance is confirmed by two doping tests. The probes were taken during the Olympic Games, and I am prepared for the corresponding verdict, which is predictable in such situations.

“Because of this, having weighed up the pros and cons, I have decided against a hearing in the Court of Arbitrations of Sport CAS regarding my situation. I believe it to be pointless and [to] not make sense within the confines of the current rules,” the athlete said.

Krushelnitsky won bronze at the PyeongChang 2018 mixed doubles curling event alongside wife Anastasia Bryzgalova. The athlete’s A sample tested positive for meldonium on Sunday.

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) confirmed on its website on Tuesday that his B sample had also revealed the presence of the banned substance.

READ MORE: ‘Only someone with no common sense would use meldonium’ – Russian curler Krushelnitsky

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Met police cover up: Officer’s secret role in mink farm operation exposed

By ethan / February 21, 2018

The Metropolitan police in the UK has apologized to the Hampshire Constabulary for failing to reveal that an undercover officer was involved in the release of 6,000 mink from a fur farm 20 years ago.

The raid in Crow Hill Farm near Ringwood in 1998 was carried out by an animal rights group which had been infiltrated by the Metropolitan Police, the force said. No charges were ever brought over the raid which saw the release of thousands of mink – many of which were killed to protect livestock and pets.

The cover up ‘impacted’ the Hampshire police investigation, Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball admitted in a Met statement apologizing for the force’s actions.

An undercover officer, using the name Christine Green, took part in the raid which was carried out by members of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), police said.

Green, who had infiltrated the AlLF and London Animal Action between 1994 and 1999, was authorized by her superiors to take part in the criminal act. The decision was made by Scotland Yard’s former undercover unit, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS)  not to share this information with the Hampshire police who were investigating the crime.

“The precise circumstances of the decision to authorise an undercover officer to participate in this criminal act will be fully explored as part of the Public Inquiry process. I would like to be clear that the decision making surrounding this incident would simply not happen in today’s Metropolitan Police Service,” Ball said.

It appears that police decided to allow the incident to go ahead in the interests of preventing more serious crime and the “scale of the release was unforeseen,” according to Ball. However, she noted that “once the impact became clear they still did not inform Hampshire Constabulary of the officer’s involvement.” Hampshire police was not informed of the undercover involvement until 2014.

“It is not possible to say what direct impact the role of Christine Green’s involvement had or if different policing decisions could have averted the damage.”

Green’s cover name was published Tuesday by the ongoing public inquiry into undercover infiltration of political groups, which was launched by the government in 2015. The real name of the officer, who resigned from the police force in 2000, cannot be revealed for legal reasons.

Green also had a romantic relationship lasting more than a decade with one of the political activists she had been sent to spy on. Various legal actions have been taken by those deceived into long-term romantic relationships with undercover officers.

READ MORE: Man sues over trauma of discovering absent dad was undercover cop

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‘Nabeel Rajab’s sentence is a slap in the face of the rule of law & human rights’

By ethan / February 21, 2018

Nabeel Rajab’s sentence makes a mockery of justice, proving that Bahrain follows a reprisal policy against human rights defenders, senior advisor at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman said.

Rajab is a prominent human rights activist and the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. He has been sentenced to five years in prison for criticizing on Twitter the Gulf Kingdom’s role in the war in Yemen.

He is already serving a two-year sentence for previously “publishing and disseminating rumors and false news,” apparently in connection with a number of TV interviews he gave in 2015 and 2016.

READ MORE: Bahrain sentences top rights activist Rajab to 5 years in prison – lawyer

RT spoke to Nabeel Rajab’s cousin – Sheikh Maytham Al-Salman, a senior advisor at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights – to discuss the issue of human rights in Bahrain.

RT:What are your thoughts on the sentence?

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FILE PHOTO Riot policemen arrest an anti-government protester during clashes in Manama © Ahmed Jadallah

Sheikh Maytham Al Salman: The sentence is a clear mockery to justice, a slap to the rule of law and to human rights values, standards and principles. After having more than 20 court hearings, the authorities failed to present substantial evidence to charge Nabeel. All Nabeel did was, he focused on warning all sides on the destructive result of war in Yemen. He called upon all sides to resort to dialogue and to peace rather than war and destruction. Nabeel has been charged today for expressing his views openly in a matter which is well agreed upon today in the human rights community and at international level. He forecasted that if the war in Yemen continues, Yemen will face a humanitarian catastrophe. And he should be honored and given credit for that. Because today the international community agrees that Yemen is facing a humanitarian catastrophe due to the persistence of war rather than dialogue and peace in Yemen. Plus, today we’ve seen, the court has confirmed the death sentences of four Bahrainis which is a clear indicator that the government of Bahrain is closing down all space for freedom of expression, for freedom of assembly and we are truly witnessing a human rights catastrophe in Bahrain.

RT: How typical is this of the Bahraini authorities’ treatment of dissidents? Are they coming down particularly hard on Nabeel Rajab or is it like this across the board?

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ARCHIVE: Benghazi, Libya, February 28, 2016. © Esam Omran Al-Fetori

MS: In Bahrain the government is following a reprisal policy against human rights defenders.  Human rights defenders in Bahrain are either behind bars, banned from travelling or living in exile. And the government of Bahrain refuses to partner with UN human rights mechanisms and allow UN special rapporteurs to visit Bahrain: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations are not allowed to visit the country. It is clear that the government in Bahrain is unfortunately targeting human rights defenders at all levels today.

RT: What sort of treatment is Nabeel currently receiving? What are conditions like in the country’s prisons?

MS: Nabeel Rajab today is unfortunately placed in a cell with four or five members of the Bahrain ISIS branch. The government has deliberately placed Nabeel in that prison cell. He had health concerns. And FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights have expressed their concerns on his health conditions and his right to choose a reliable and trusted party to provide him with medical care. His situation is quite serious on a personal level. However, his position is basically persisting with his right to express his views to defend the rights of all Bahrainis regardless of their religious background, regardless of their identities. And that is why he was smiling at court and he had a sign of victory… to indicate that he will remain persistent and loyal to his human rights values and principles.

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‘Apparently the Russians didn’t like my column’: US critic of Zagitova on RT article

By ethan / February 21, 2018

USA Today columnist Christine Brennan has responded to an article that took her undue criticism of teenage Russian skating sensation Alina Zagitova to task. Brennan tweeted “Apparently the Russians didn’t like my column.”

On Tuesday, the columnist penned a scathing attack on Zagitova, who she accused of strategically stacking seven jumps in the last two minutes of her routine to potentially gain a 10-percent points bonus.

Brennan went on to question why judges did not penalize her composition and bemoaned the “imbalance” of Zagitova’s long program, suggesting that the teenager was not being punished because the judges were in love with her.

The piece is signed off with Brennan complaining: “It wouldn’t be a top international women’s figure-skating competition without its share of controversy, however. This one involves one of the Russians. (Of course it does.) It’s the way Zagitova has laid out her long program, specifically her jumps.”

READ MORE: ‘Why is she not penalized?’: US columnist attacks ‘strategic’ Russian skater Zagitova

After Brennan’s criticism was ridiculed by RT Sport, the columnist responded by linking the article in a tweet, along with the caption: “Apparently the Russians didn’t like my column” accompanied by a satisfactory smile. She was joined by other USA Today staff in tweeting the article.

But Brennan’s caustic catcalls did not stop there. On Wednesday, Zagitova produced a highest-ever score of 82.92 in the ladies’ short program to break the world record set by teammate Evgenia Medvedeva just five minutes earlier.

Brennan swiftly tweeted: “Texting with US Olympic judge Joe Inman. He would have had it Med, Osmond and Zag in that order because of balance of Osmond’s program, her speed and her interpretation of music’s details.”

Brennan added an extra sign of disrespect by referring to the Russian skaters as ‘Med’ and ‘Zag’ and not even bothering to tweet their names in full.

Inexplicably rating Zagitova’s lauded performance as a lowly third place is preposterous. To tweet it moments after her record-breaking run seems spiteful, perhaps even a little obsessive.

The winner of the ladies’ figure-skating event will be crowned on Friday, after the skaters perform their free programs. As it stands, the first two places are occupied by the two Russians, who are competing under the name of Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR). Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond is in third, more than four points behind Zagitova.

READ MORE: Russian record-breaker Zagitova’s ice performance is thawing antidote to frosty media reaction

We shall wait with baited breath to see the plaudits that await Zagitova from her biggest fan – that’s if it isn’t drowned out by the pictures of the Olympic champion-elect with her gold medal.

By Danny Armstrong for RT Sport 

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Too many ‘happy white people’? Hungarian city outraged at exclusion from EU culture contest

By ethan / February 21, 2018

A Hungarian city’s bid to become the European Union’s next “Capital of Culture” was allegedly rejected by EU officials because its video entry showed too many smiling, dancing, white Christians, the city’s mayor says.

Székesfehérvár, Hungary’s ninth-largest city, submitted a short video as part of its entry for the 2023 European Capitals of Culture contest, a competition designed to “celebrate the cultural features Europeans share.” Featuring folk dancers, young couples, mothers, babies and even two elderly gentlemen playing chess in a park, the video was rejected. The EU panel of “independent experts in the field of culture” felt it had too many happy white people and not enough migrants, the city’s mayor Dr András Cser-Palkovics has claimed.

Speaking at press conference after the panel’s ruling, Cser-Palkovics said that his city’s entry never received a fair hearing, and that the panel’s decision was purely political.

According to Cser-Palkovics, one member of the jury of “experts,” whom he identified as a Belgian politician, strongly disapproved of the promotional video, calling it a “propaganda film for white Christian Europe” in which “everyone is white, happy and dancing in the streets.”

He said that the panel criticized the film for leaving out “the poor and migrants” while having too many “crosses and churches.”

READ MORE: Refugees are ‘Muslim invaders’ seeking better lives – Hungarian PM

Unapologetic for the video’s content, Cser-Palkovics told Hungarian media that “we love our city with our temples and our crosses. We love being safe, calm, and that people can democratically confess their own values,” adding that he would push for a government inquiry into how the contest is managed.

“I would like to bring the matter before the general assembly and inform all members of the board about the style and content of the hearing as well as about practically denying our own culture.”

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Pain, tears & friendship: Behind-the-scenes look as Medvedeva & Zagitova bid for gold (VIDEO)

By ethan / February 21, 2018

As Russian figure skating stars Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva face off for Olympic gold, RT follows the trials and tribulations the pair have experienced together, as well as their enduring friendship.

Tensions often run high on the rink, but once off the ice and out of the spotlight, the pair are close friends, giving each other a helping hand and support through days of harsh training, criticism and setbacks.

The hard work paid off at the Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, as both Zagitova and Medvedeva performed brilliantly in the women’s short program, producing world record scores.

READ MORE: Russian figure skating star Zagitova breaks Medvedeva’s newly-set world record in short program

Medvedeva was awarded 81.61 points, the highest score ever recorded, but was beaten by her younger teammate in a matter of minutes. Zagitova’s outstanding performance earned her a new world-record 82.92 points.

Watch “Of Ice and Fame” on RTD website

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Boris’s secret-spilling jog the latest event in an inglorious sporting history (VIDEOS)

By ethan / February 21, 2018

Showing apparent disregard for state secrets, Boris Johnson and Australia’s foreign minister were reportedly caught on microphone publicly discussing terrorism and trade among other subjects during a jog in London.

The two were training for a foreign ministers’ relay race at the upcoming Commonwealth Games, which will be held Down Under in April. The bedraggled British foreign secretary struggled to keep up with the ultra-fit Julie Bishop, who runs around 10km every day.  

In the spirit of politics, they were wearing matching ‘Save the Pangolin’ tops to raise awareness about the world’s most trafficked mammal.  

It’s fair to say that Boris’s political career has been marked by a succession of inglorious sporting moments.

Rugby

During his tenure as Mayor of London, BoJo made headlines for tackling 10-year-old Japanese boy, Toki Sekiguchi, while playing rugby. The whole disaster was caught on camera, but there seemed to be no harm done. A smiling Sekiguchi was photographed later with then-Mayor BoJo.

Football

In 2014, Boris was forced to apologize after he sent a young boy flying during a football match outside City Hall.

The group of children had been recruited to play football with the mayor on a plot of grass next to City Hall in order to promote a new report called Better Health for London.

Basketball

In 2013, BoJo became king of the hoops when he pulled off an amazing basketball trick shot while promoting the Euroleague Final Four tournament on the South Bank in London. Never forget.

Table Tennis

BoJo has a long, loving history with ping pong. In 2008, he declared at the closure of the Beijing Olympics that “ping pong is coming home” to Britain for the next Games.

In 2010, ITV joined the then-mayor when he took on pupils at a school in Bermondsey and lost (despite his best efforts). In 2013, he also accepted a challenge to a game from Pippa Middleton.

Ziplining

In 2012, Johnson was left hanging halfway down a zipline in Victoria Park.

Luckily, the whole thing was caught on video in which Big B can be seen gliding along the wire majestically, waving a UK flag in each hand. Though the fun was short lived – soon he became stuck.

“Get me a rope, get me a ladder,” Boris-on-a-wire could be heard yelling. “I think the brakes got stuck.”

Football (again) 

Saving the best for last, Johnson didn’t hold back when he rugby-tackled former Germany international Maurizio Gaudino during a Legend’s match back in 2006. The spear-tackle (head first into the crotch of the football great) sent Gaudino flying as the crowd watched on in disbelief.

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US stance on East Ghouta shows ‘egregious double standards’ – senior Russian diplomat

By ethan / February 21, 2018

The US position on the humanitarian situation in Eastern Ghouta, a militant-controlled suburb of the Syrian capital Damascus, is a clear example of “double standards,” the Russian deputy foreign minister has said.

Sergey Ryabkov said that Russia is working within the UN Security Council to prepare a resolution on humanitarian issues in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta. His statement comes amid concerns about escalating violence between Syrian government forces and rebel, as well as Islamist, factions operating in the area.

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FILE PHOTO. © AFP

“The work on the draft of the relevant resolution is now being carried out in New York. Humanitarian questions, including humanitarian aid, humanitarian access, have become perhaps the most egregious example of the ‘double standards’ of the United States and their adherents in the approach to the entire Syrian dossier,” Sergey Ryabkov told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday. “Every day we see how not just selectively but how cynically Washington separates the issues that are beneficial to it, from the point of view of political promotion and pressure on Damascus, from similar situations that create discomfort for Americans for various reasons,” the diplomat noted.    

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday that Washington was seriously alarmed by the rising violence in Ghouta. “The United States is deeply concerned by the escalating violence in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta,” Nauert told reporters.“The escalation is exacerbating the already grave human suffering of nearly 400,000 people. The cessation of violence must begin now, and those needing emergency assistance should be allowed to evacuate immediately.” “The Assad regime’s siege and starve tactics are… adding to the humanitarian disaster there,” she alleged, urging Russia to stop supporting the Syrian government.

Eastern Ghouta is among the de-escalation zones established on May 4, 2017, by three state guarantors of the Syrian ceasefire (Russia, Iran and Turkey.) On Tuesday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on Russia, Iran and Turkey to ensure the ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

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FILE PHOTO: U.S soldiers ride a military vehicle in al-Kherbeh village, northern Aleppo province, Syria October 24, 2016. © Khalil Ashawi

“Eastern Ghouta is part of a de-escalation agreement reached in Astana. The Secretary-General reminds all parties, particularly the guarantors of the Astana agreements, of their commitments in this regard,” Dujarric said. “The Secretary-General urges all stakeholders to ensure that basic principles of international humanitarian law are adhered to, including unhindered humanitarian access, unconditional medical evacuations, and the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure,” the statement added. According to it, “nearly 400,000 people in Eastern Ghouta have been subjected to airstrikes, shelling and bombardment” and “over 700 individuals require immediate medical evacuation.”

At least nine civilians were injured after residential districts of Damascus came under “massive shelling” conducted by illegal armed groups from Eastern Ghouta, the Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria said in a statement on Tuesday. The center itself was also shelled by the militants, the statement added.

Armed groups violated the agreement on the de-escalation zone in Eastern Ghouta, shelling several residential areas of the capital on Tuesday, Syrian news agency Sana reported, adding that at least five civilians died and 20 others were injured in the latest wave of violence. The Syrian military said it carried out “precision strikes” on areas from which the shells were launched. Rebel groups and Islamist factions, including the Jaysh al-Islam militant group fighting government forces in Syria, are known to be operating in the area.

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Will Russians be allowed to fly the flag at PyeongChang closing ceremony?

By ethan / February 21, 2018

Russian hopes of marching under the national flag at the PyeongChang Games closing ceremony have been revived after International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach met with a senior representative from the country.

The vice-president of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), Igor Levitin, paid a courtesy visit to Bach, with whom he discussed the possibility of reinstating the country’s Olympic body which had been suspended by the IOC for alleged systematic manipulations with doping, Inside The Games reports.

READ MORE: World records & medals: Russian athletes shine on day 15 in PyeongChang

Following the IOC’s ruling to disqualify Russia as a team from the 2018 Games, national athletes with clean doping records were allowed to participate as neutrals under the name Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR).

The decision regarding the Russian ban will be made on Saturday during an IOC Executive Board meeting. A specially appointed OAR implementation group, which was tasked with monitoring the situation surrounding the Russian athletes in PyeongChang, will give their recommendations on whether to lift the provisional suspension of the ROC.

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Olympic Athletes from Russia Anastasia Bryzgalova and Alexander Krushelnitsky. © Alexey Filippov

Russia’s chances of bearing the national tricolor at the closing ceremony appeared to diminish after Olympic curling bronze medalist Alexander Krushelnitsky tested positive for the banned substance meldonium. Krushelnitsky denied deliberate doping, insisting he had never taken prohibited substances during his career.

The official verdict regarding the Russian curler hasn’t yet been announced, but the scandal has already fueled heated debates led by the Western media that Russia should have been banned from the Games for alleged doping violations which were mentioned in the notorious McLaren report.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said that if Krushelnitsky’s violation was confirmed, it would be viewed by the OAR implementation group.

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$20 trillion in free bitcoin: Exchange glitch allows traders to claim cryptocurrency for $0

By ethan / February 21, 2018

A computing error at a Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Zaif has allowed some customers to claim digital tokens for $ 0. This raises further questions about security at crypto exchanges.

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© Lucy Nicholson

The glitch happened with Zaif’s price calculation system and allowed seven customers to obtain digital money for free. Six of the transactions have been voided, and the exchange has been trying to resolve the problem with the seventh customer, who tried to cash out.

As Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reports, this seventh client “purchased” 2,200 trillion yen ($ 20 trillion) worth of bitcoin and tried to withdraw it from the exchange. Bitcoin’s overall market capitalization is just a fraction of what the user wanted to order. All bitcoins in circulation are worth just $ 187 billion.

The Tech Bureau Corp behind Zaif is now facing an investigation into the safety of the system and other business practices from Japanese authorities, the newspaper added. The company has apologized to its customers.

Zaif is among the 16 official cryptocurrency exchanges in Japan. It has already faced checks after last month’s theft of $ 530 million in digital money from another official exchange, Coincheck.

According to Reuters, the registered cryptocurrency exchanges will form a self-regulatory body from April. The body will set out rules for security and advertising, and will set penalties for members who don’t follow the policies, the Nikkei business daily reported.

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