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Russian bobsledder Alexander Zubkov won a Moscow court ruling on Friday that could make it harder for the International Olympic Committee to recover his gold medals.

The Russian flagbearer at the 2014 Sochi Olympics was stripped of his two gold medals from those games in 2017 by the IOC for doping. He failed to overturn that disqualification at the Court of Arbitration for Sport last year.

But Moscow’s highest civil court in November upheld Zubkov’s claim that the CAS procedure was unfair and shouldn’t be recognized in Russia. That means Zubkov is legally recognized as an Olympic champion — but only in Russia.

On Friday, the court rejected an IOC-backed appeal from the Russian Olympic Committee, which earlier said letting Zubkov keep his medals could “give rise to doubt that Russia truly observes the main principles of the fight against doping.”

Zubkov strongly denies cheating. “I am a clean athlete. If you don’t know my story you can open Wikipedia and see how much I’ve done for sport and what I did in Sochi,” he said. “I brought gold medals here and gave sport 30 years (of my life).”

Friday’s ruling will also make it harder for Zubkov to be removed as president of the Russian Bobsled Federation, and may entitle him to a Russian state pension for retired star athletes.



A Missouri death row inmate who lost substantial brain tissue during a surgery plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case, saying his planned execution by lethal injection could subject him to severe pain.

The Columbia Daily Tribune reported Thursday that Ernest Lee Johnson plans to argue that the loss of brain tissue could mean he has seizures and severe pain in reaction to Missouri’s execution drug.

Johnson was sentenced to death for killing three convenience store workers during a Columbia robbery in 1994.

Johnson’s appeal is moving through lower courts. But Johnson’s attorneys plan to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene because the high court is currently considering a similar case of another Missouri death row inmate with a rare medical condition that causes blood-filled tumors.

Both argue complications with their conditions and the execution drug could lead to cruel and unusual punishment.



A Minnesota man accused of faking his own death seven years ago to collect a $2 million life insurance policy arranged for a stand-in corpse to be dressed in his clothes in Moldova, according to a judge’s detention order.

Igor Vorotinov, 54, also planted his identification on the body before placing the corpse along a road in the Eastern European country, a U.S. judge said in rejecting Vorotinov’s request to be freed pending trial.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Katherine M. Menendez ruled Wednesday that Vorotinov posed too great a flight risk. In her ruling, Menendez said Vorotinov showed “substantial resourcefulness and cunning.”

Vorotinov was indicted in 2015 on one count of mail fraud. He was arrested this month and returned to the U.S.

Prosecutors allege in court documents that Vorotinov took out the life insurance policy in spring 2010 and designated then-wife Irina Vorotinov as the primary beneficiary. The couple divorced later that year.

In 2011, Irina Vorotinov, 51, identified a corpse in Moldova as her husband’s, prosecutors allege. She then returned to the U.S. with a death certificate and cremated remains and received the life insurance payment. Money was then transferred to her son, and to accounts in Switzerland and Moldova.

She has pleaded guilty to her role and is serving a three-year sentence. Alkon Vorotinov, 28, pleaded guilty to one count and was sentenced to probation.

After the insurance payout was made, prosecutors spoke by phone in May 2016 with Igor Vorotinov in hopes of persuading him to return to the U.S. But he told investigators he would rather live with his new love interest on an apple farm, according to the judge’s filing.

The identity of the corpse is still unclear, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported . The scheme also included a 2011 funeral service at a Minneapolis cemetery, where an urn was placed in a niche. Tests later determined the remains were not Vorotinov’s.

Vorotinov pleaded not guilty Tuesday. He was returned to jail and awaits trial, tentatively planned for January.



The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court on Friday to issue an unusually quick ruling on the Pentagon's policy of restricting military service by transgender people. It's the fourth time in recent months the administration has sought to bypass lower courts that have blocked some of its more controversial proposals and push the high court, with a conservative majority, to weigh in quickly on a divisive issue.

Earlier this month, the administration asked the high court to fast-track cases on the president's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which shields young immigrants from deportation. Administration officials also recently asked the high court to intervene to stop a trial in a climate change lawsuit and in a lawsuit over the administration's decision to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a frequent target of criticism by President Donald Trump, is involved in three of the cases. Trump's recent salvo against the "Obama judge" who ruled against his asylum policy — not one of the issues currently before the Supreme Court — prompted Chief Justice John Roberts to fire back at the president for the first time for feeding perceptions of a biased judiciary.

Joshua Matz, publisher of the liberal Take Care blog, said the timing of the administration's effort to get the Supreme Court involved in the issues at an early stage could hardly be worse for Roberts and other justices who have sought to dispel perceptions that the court is merely a political institution, especially since the confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. At an especially sensitive moment for the Supreme Court, the Trump administration is "forcing it into a minefield that many justices would almost surely prefer to avoid," Matz said.

The Supreme Court almost always waits to get involved in a case until both a trial and appeals court have ruled in it. Often, the justices wait until courts in different areas of the country have weighed in and come to different conclusions about the same legal question.

So it's rare for the justices to intervene early as the Trump administration has been pressing them to do. One famous past example is when the Nixon administration went to court to try to prohibit the publication of the Pentagon Papers, the secret history of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.



A South Dakota inmate facing execution has received a last meal that included pancakes, waffles, breakfast sausage, scrambled eggs and French fries.

South Dakota's attorney general says the state Supreme Court has rejected two motions to stop the execution of a man who killed a prison guard in a failed 2011 escape attempt.

Attorney General Marty Jackley says there are currently no court orders to stop or delay Rodney Berget's execution, which is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday. One motion was filed by a woman whose son is serving a life sentence, the other by an attorney without Berget's support.

Berget is to be put to death for the slaying of Ronald "R.J." Johnson. Berget and fellow inmate Eric Robert beat Johnson with a pipe and covered his head in plastic wrap.

He's to be put to death for the slaying of prison guard Ronald "R.J." Johnson in a failed 2011 escape attempt. Berget and fellow inmate Eric Robert beat Johnson with a pipe and covered his head in plastic wrap.

Robert was executed in October 2012. Berget in 2016 appealed his death sentence, but later asked to withdraw it.



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