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Calm, strong, happy: Jessica Hardy

Some winter mornings in Los Angeles break warm and soft. This was not one of them.

It had rained overnight, and there were fast clouds scudding overhead, and the thermometer said it was 49 degrees at 7:30 Thursday morning. The water in the USC pool was warm, as always, 80 degrees. But on the deck it was chilly and it was way early and now there were two solid hours of swimming to be done.

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Justice: ‘Six-month’ rule booted, appropriately

Doping in sport is corrosive. The international Olympic Committee has every right to want to be tough on doping. But you can’t occupy the moral high ground when you’re mired in legal quicksand.

From the get-go, that was always the problem with what is formally known as Rule 45, informally as “the six-month rule,” which took effect in 2008 and sought to ban any athlete hit with a doping-related suspension of more than six months from competing in the next Summer or Winter Games.

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LaShawn Merritt’s fascinating legal drama

Beijing Games 400-meter track and field gold medalist LaShawn Merritt got 21 months for doping, a three-member arbitration panel ruled in a decision made public Monday. That’s not, though, the news from one of the most fascinating Olympic-themed sports law cases in recent memory.

As part of the case, a 7-Eleven clerk testified that she sold Merritt the male enhancement product ExtenZe on a number of occasions. The stuff that’s in ExtenZe is what he tested positive for. Again, though, that’s not the news. Merritt is, by all accounts, a first-rate young man. He didn’t intend to cheat. He made a really bad choice. Enough said.