Cher

Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee says it hasn’t had negotiations with Cher

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There’s still some confusion over what Cher told a Canadian magazine earlier this month, but the Sochi Olympic Organizing Committee tried to clear it up Wednesday.

The singer, whose father was from the former Soviet republic of Armenia, was asked what she thought about “what’s going on in Russia right now.”

Her answer:

“I can’t name names, but my friend called who is a big oligarch over there, and asked me if I’d like to be an ambassador for the Olympics and open the show,” Cher told Maclean’s in a q-and-a published Sept. 8. “I immediately said no. I want to know why all of this gay hate just exploded over there. He said the Russian people don’t feel the way the government does.”

Cher never said Sochi organizers reached out to her, and she never said anything about performing at the Olympics. “Open the show” is vague.

On Tuesday, Reuters published a video interview with Cher with an accompanying article.

The article’s lede said, “Cher said it was a ‘no-brainer’ to turn down a chance to perform at next year’s Winter Olympics,” though Cher did not say in the video or in the article specifically she was offered anything by Sochi organizers.

“Probably no one will ever ask me to come to the Olympics and either be a, you know, goodwill ambassador,” she said in the video. “There were a couple of different things offered.”

What she was offered, and by whom, is still unknown. On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Sochi Organizing Committee has not talked to Cher about a role in “the ceremonies,” which could mean the opening and/or closing ceremony or one of the nightly medal ceremonies where musical acts perform.

“There have never been any negotiations with Cher about her possible participation in the ceremonies,” the committee said in a statement.

Russian weatherman predicts problems in Sochi next year

Review: USA Gymnastics needs ‘culture change’ to stop abuse

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A former federal prosecutor says USA Gymnastics needs a “complete cultural change” to better protect athletes from sexual abuse.

USA Gymnastics needs a “complete cultural change” to better protect athletes from sexual abuse, according to an independent review of the embattled organization’s practices.

The 44-page report released Tuesday by former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels recommends that all USA Gymnastics members be required to immediately report suspected sexual misconduct to legal authorities and the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

Daniels also suggested that USA Gymnastics prohibit adults from being alone with minor gymnasts “at all times” and bar unrelated adults from sharing or being alone in a sleeping room with gymnasts. She also recommended preventing adult members from having “out of program” contact with gymnasts through email, text or social media.

USA Gymnastics ordered the review last fall following a series of civil lawsuits filed against the organization and a former team doctor by a pair of gymnasts who claim the physician sexually abused them during their time on the U.S. national team. USA Gymnastics has denied wrongdoing.

The organization stated it went to authorities quickly in the summer of 2015 after hearing claims of abuse against Dr. Larry Nassar but later amended the timeline following a Wall Street Journal report, saying it conducted a five-week internal review before going to the FBI.

“A delay is impermissible,” Daniels said.

A Michigan judge on Friday ordered Nassar to stand trial on charges of sexually assaulting six young gymnasts who said he molested them while they were seeking treatment for various injuries. It is one of four criminal cases against Nassar in the state.

Daniels said USA Gymnastics “inadvertently suppressed” reporting of abuse because of several factors, including that athletes are taught to follow instructions and obey coaches and trainers.

“Athletes sometimes aren’t aware of where the boundaries are, so they’re not trained in that regard,” Daniels said. “Parents aren’t real sure (either).”

Daniels said the organization needs to more closely monitor member clubs to make sure its bylaws are followed. She suggested stripping membership from clubs that fail to report claims of child abuse, plus periodic random audits to see if updated policies are being obeyed.

“USA Gymnastics has never felt it had the ability to exert influence over the club,” Daniels said. “You can use membership to enforce the policies.”

The USA Gymnastics Board of Directors unanimously voted to develop a plan to implement many of Daniels’ 70 recommendations.

“We’re confident it will make us a better organization to develop a culture that had safe sport as a top priority,” said chief operating officer Ron Galimore.

Daniels said the process USA Gymnastics had for investigating claims of abuse was “cumbersome” and “somewhat mysterious.” She suggested a more proactive approach.

“There needs to be a very clear protocol for how these reviews are conducted, there needs to be a clear timeline,” she said. “Frankly they need to be kept in a database. We’ve recommended that the board have oversight of that entire process.”

While also taking the role of the USA Gymnastics president out of the equation. Former president Steve Penny resigned in March under intensifying pressure for the way the organization handled charges of sexual abuse. Daniels wants USA Gymnastics to remove the president from determining the disposition of allegations. USA Gymnastics is in the process of finding Penny’s replacement and hopes to have a successor in place by September.

Whoever is hired will have plenty of work to do.

Many of the recommendations fall in line with policies put forward by the U.S. Center for Safesport. The organization operates independently from the U.S. Olympic Committee and organizations governing Olympic sports. The USOC and the 47 national governing bodies (including USA Gymnastics) help fund the center — about $13.3 million over five years — but do not have any say over how it operates or the cases it investigates.

Paul Parilla, chairman of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors, said the organization needs to “clearly articulate” that the safety of the athletes is “paramount.”

Galimore said it is a priority to make sure “everyone is aware and educated on everything from bullying to anything that would take away from having a safe environment.”

Daniels spoke to more than 160 people at all levels of USA Gymnastics over six months, attended five competitions and visited the national team’s training center at the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas, to produce the 144 page report. She said the number of gymnasts abused nationwide over the years is “far higher” than what has been reported based on her experience as a federal prosecutor but stressed “my recommendations are forward looking and not in relation to anything that may have happened in the past.”

She also believes third parties should be allowed to report suspected abuse. The previous method of looking into alleged wrongdoing — a “grievance process” which required a written complaint from the aggrieved party or the parents of the aggrieved party if the athlete was a minor — was not well suited for reporting abuse, the report said.

“Young athletes (in their teens or younger) and their parents are highly unlikely to report ongoing abuse to the authority that has so much power over the athlete’s success in the sport,” Daniels wrote.

MORE: Ex-USA Gym doctor to stand trial on sex assault charges

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Katie Ledecky an underdog in first final at USA Swimming Nationals

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Katie Ledecky qualified sixth-fastest into the 100m freestyle final on Tuesday to open the USA Swimming National Championships, part of the TeamUSA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast.

The top two in Tuesday night’s final will make the world championships team in the event.

Ledecky, who swam 54.70 seconds Tuesday morning, is an underdog in that sense behind top qualifiers Mallory Comerford (53.26) and co-Olympic 100m free champion Simone Manuel (53.50).

MORE: Broadcast Schedule | Event Schedule/Results

But Ledecky, Olympic champion in the 200m, 400m and 800m frees, has never voiced intentions of making the U.S. team in the 100m free. She ranked No. 5 in the nation in the event last year. Ledecky swims the 100m free to earn a place on the 4x100m freestyle relay.

Just making the eight-woman final, combined with Ledecky having the second-fastest U.S. split time in the Rio 4x100m free relay, puts her in contention for the quartet at worlds in July.

Ledecky is scheduled to race both the 100m and 800m free finals Tuesday, her only double of the five-day meet in Indianapolis. Her races are separated by 27 minutes.

Tuesday finals are at 6 p.m. ET, with coverage from 7-8 p.m. on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Comerford, who tied Ledecky for the NCAA 200-yard freestyle title, had the breakout female swim of the first session in Indianapolis. Her 53.26 was a personal best by .65. The rising Louisville junior moved from No. 15 on the U.S. all-time list to No. 3 behind Manuel and Amanda Weir.

In other events, 2012 Olympic champion Nathan Adrian and Caeleb Dressel were among the qualifiers into the men’s 100m freestyle final. The fastest qualifier was surprisingly Zach Apple, who clocked 48.14 seconds, a personal best by 1.29 seconds.

Chase Kalisz, the Olympic 400m IM silver medalist, qualified fastest into the 200m butterfly final. Kalisz could make the U.S. team in three events this week. He ranks No. 1 in the 200m butterfly and both IMs.

Olympian Tom Shields missed making the eight-man final by .11, placing ninth overall.

Olympian Hali Flickinger was the top qualifier into the women’s 200m butterfly final. Cammile Adams, who finished fourth in Rio, is not competing at nationals.

Kelsi Worrell, who was second-fastest in the U.S. this year behind Flickinger entering this week, is not swimming the 200m fly at nationals.

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