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Ohno OK for Olympics

Evidence can’t support ‘fixed’ trial race claim

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Apolo Ohno is headed for the Olympics, where he could win as many as four gold medals.

Tommy O'Hare will be sleeping in for a while.

O'Hare withdrew his demand for arbitration Thursday over a disputed race at the short-track speedskating Olympic trials, clearing the way for Ohno and two others to compete at the Salt Lake Games.

A three-day hearing concluded in Colorado Springs, Colo., with an arbitrator finding there wasn't enough evidence to support O'Hare's claim that Ohno helped fix a 1,000-meter qualifying race.

"This unfortunate situation and the questioning of my character by a few specific people has been trying," Ohno said. "But now I am completely focused on winning gold for the U.S. in Salt Lake next month."

Ohno was back at practice after missing three days of training. From the hearing, he and teammates Rusty Smith and Shani Davis returned to the ice at the Olympic Training Center for an evening workout.

O'Hare accused Ohno and Smith of conspiring to fix the race at last month's Olympic trials in Utah so Davis, one of Ohno's close friends, could qualify for the U.S. team.

"As I've said since the moment I first learned of these accusations, they were untrue, and I did nothing wrong," said Ohno, a 19-year-old Seattle native who won last year's World Cup title.

The order by arbitrator James Holbook means Ohno, Smith and Davis will keep their Olympic team spots. Another skater affected by the disputed race, Ron Biondo, will compete in the Games, but only in the relay.

"The team is the same now as it was before we came into the arbitration," said Steve Smith, an attorney for U.S. Speedskating.

Holbrook determined the race was fairly run and officiated. He declared the results valid and said Ohno, Rusty Smith and Davis didn't violate any rules or codes of conduct of the U.S. Olympic Committee, U.S. Speedskating Federation or the International Skating Union.

"I would like to thank everyone who has stood by me," Rusty Smith said. "I can now go back to focusing 100 percent on doing my best in hopes of winning a medal for my country."

Although he won't compete in the Olympics, as he did at the 1998 Nagano Games, O'Hare said he can move on.

"I'm at peace with the decision because I can put closure on this situation and move forward with rest of my life," he said. "I'll spend some time sleeping in, not going to ice rinks early in morning, and I'm planning on going to law school."

Davis' lawyer didn't return messages seeking comment.

Rusty Smith plans to withdraw a defamation lawsuit he filed last week against O'Hare, according to his attorney, Edward G. Williams.

Rusty Smith finished second and Ohno third behind Davis, whose victory enabled him to qualify for the Olympic team. If Davis hadn't won, O'Hare would have been on the team instead.

Ohno already had locked up his spot on the team. He said at the time he didn't want to risk an injury with a daring move.