Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong to be invited to testify in UCI, WADA doping probe into cycling

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The International Cycling Union and World Anti-Doping Agency investigation into cycling’s doping history, likely to begin in early 2014, will hope to involve Lance Armstrong.

“I would like to see Lance Armstrong come and give evidence, if he has any evidence in particular on the kind of allegations being made about him buying support or collusion from UCI officials,” UCI president Brian Cookson told the Associated Press. “If those things are true, I’d like to hear about it and I’m sure the commission would like to hear about it as well.”

Armstrong has said he could be open to testifying with “100 percent transparency and honesty,” if he’s treated fairly with others from cycling’s doping era.

“If everyone gets the death penalty, then I’ll take the death penalty,” he told the BBC. “If everyone gets a free pass, I’m happy to take a free pass. If everyone gets six months, then I’ll take my six months.”

UCI and WADA released a statement announcing their joint investigation from the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

“They agreed the broad terms under which the UCI will conduct a Commission of Inquiry into the historical doping problems in cycling,” the statement read. “They further agreed that their respective colleagues would co-operate to finalize the detailed terms and conditions of the Inquiry to ensure that the procedures and ultimate outcomes would be in line with the fundamental rules and principles of the World Anti-Doping Code. Both Presidents pledged that their organization would work harmoniously to help the sport of cycling move forward in the vanguard of clean sports.”

The UCI and WADA have said that they don’t have the power to reduce Armstrong’s lifetime doping ban.

“He’s been sanctioned by the United States Anti-Doping Agency and the penalties he got from that have been accepted by the UCI and by the wider sporting world,” Cookson said, according to the AP. “And really it’s in the hands of the United States Anti-Doping Agency whether they would look at any reduction in that for any further information that he might volunteer.”

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach does not believe Armstrong’s ban should be reduced.

“I would not feel comfortable with this because it is too little, too late,” Bach told the AP. “It was not even a real admission.”

Armstrong has remained in the news since being stripped of his record seven straight Tour de France titles and being banned for life from all competition last year. He admitted to prevalent doping during his career in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in January.

He was stripped of his only Olympic medal, a 2000 bronze, in January but did not return it until September.

A documentary film, “The Armstrong Lie,” was shown at the Toronto Film Festival in September and has been released in the U.S. The film was originally supposed to be about Armstrong’s comeback out of retirement for the 2009 Tour de France.

IOC president’s thoughts on doubling doping bans

Curling siblings secure mixed doubles Olympic quota spot for U.S.

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The United States will be represented when mixed doubles curling makes its Olympic debut in PyeongChang, thanks, in part, to the performance of siblings Becca and Matt Hamilton at the 2017 World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship.

Although the Hamiltons finished well off the podium in 10th, their work, coupled with a third place finish at the 2016 World Championships by Joe Polo and Tabitha Peterson, is all the U.S. needed to lock in an Olympic spot for 2018. The bronze won by Polo and Peterson in 2016 was the first time the United States had won a world championship medal in mixed doubles curling, according to TeamUSA.org.

The Hamiltons opened the 2017 World Championships with a perfect 7-0 record through pool play, but a 6-5 loss to Finland in a match that needed extra ends took them out of contention for a medal. Wins against Hungary and Italy moved them into position to get the necessary points to land the Olympic quota spot. In their final match at the 2017 Worlds the Hamiltons fell to Russia, 5-7.

At the top of the 2017 World Championship final standings, Switzerland won the gold, Canada took silver and China left with bronze.

The eight mixed doubles team field set to compete in PyeongChang includes China, Canada, Russia, Switzerland, United States, Norway, Finland and hosts Korea. Curling begins in PyeongChang on February 8, 2018, one day ahead of the Opening Ceremony, with competition lasting throughout the entire span of the Olympic Games.

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President of National Olympic Committees association leaves FIFA post amid bribery claims

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GENEVA (AP) — FIFA Council member Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah of Kuwait is resigning from his soccer roles under pressure from allegations in an American federal court that he bribed Asian officials.

Sheikh Ahmad said Sunday in a statement he will withdraw from a May 8 election in Bahrain for the FIFA seat representing Asia, which he currently holds.

“I do not want these allegations to create divisions or distract attention from the upcoming AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and FIFA Congresses,” said the Kuwaiti royal, who denies any wrongdoing.

“Therefore, after careful consideration, I have decided it is in the best interests of FIFA and the AFC, for me to withdraw my candidacy for the FIFA Council and resign from my current football positions,” he said.

The long-time Olympic Council of Asia president contacted the ethics panels of FIFA and the IOC after the allegations were made in Brooklyn federal courthouse on Thursday.

FIFA audit committee member Richard Lai, an American citizen from Guam, pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges related to taking around $1 million in bribes, including from Kuwaiti officials. The cash was to buy influence and help recruit other Asian soccer officials prepared to take bribes, Lai said in court.

Sheikh Ahmad resigned his candidacy ahead of a FIFA panel deciding whether to remove him on ethical grounds.

The FIFA Review Committee, which rules on the integrity of people seeking senior FIFA positions, has been studying the sheikh’s candidacy since the allegations emerged, The Associated Press reported on Saturday.

The FIFA ethics committee is making a separate assessment of whether to provisionally suspend the sheikh, a long-time leader of Kuwait’s soccer federation who was elected to FIFA’s ruling committee in 2015.

Resigning from his soccer positions does not necessarily put Sheikh Ahmad out of reach of FIFA ethics prosecutors and judges if any action was taken.

In 2012, former FIFA presidential candidate Mohamed bin Hammam of Qatar was banned for life by the ethics committee days after he resigned.

Bin Hammam was also clearly identified in Lai’s court hearing for having paid Lai a total of $100,000 in bribes to support the Qatari’s failed challenge to FIFA’s then-president Sepp Blatter in 2011. Bin Hammam was removed from that election contest in a Caribbean bribery case.

Sheikh Ahmad has also contacted the IOC’s ethics commission about the allegations against him, the IOC said on Saturday.

As president since 2012 of the global group of national Olympic bodies, known as ANOC, Sheikh Ahmad’s support has often been cited as key to winning Olympic election and hosting awards. The sheikh was widely credited for helping Thomas Bach win the IOC presidency in 2013.

Although Sheikh Ahmad was not named in Department of Justice and court documents last week, he has become one of the most significant casualties of the sprawling U.S. federal investigation of bribery and corruption in international soccer revealed two years ago.

The sheikh could be identified in a transcript of Lai’s court hearing which said “co-conspirator #2 was also the president of Olympic Council of Asia.” Sheikh Ahmad has been OCA president since 1991.

Co-conspirator #3 was described as having a “high-ranking” role at OCA, and also linked to the Kuwait soccer federation.

According to the published transcript, Lai claimed he “received at least $770,000 in wire transfers from accounts associated with Co-Conspirator #3 and the OCA between November of 2009 and about the fall of 2014.”

“I understood that the source of this money was ultimately Co-Conspirator #2 and on some occasion Co-Conspirator #3 told me to send him an email saying that I need funds so he could show the email to Co-Conspirator #2,” Lai said in court.

Lai admitted that he agreed to help recruit other Asian officials that voted in FIFA elections who would help Kuwait’s interests.

The Guam soccer federation leader since 2001, Lai pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy charges and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. He agreed to pay more than $1.1 million in forfeiture and penalties, and will be sentenced at a later date.

The American federal investigation of corruption linked to FIFA has indicted or taken guilty pleas from more than 40 people and marketing agencies linked to soccer in the Americas since 2015.

Lai’s case marked the first major step into Asia, and suggests other soccer officials potentially recruited by the Kuwait faction could be targeted.

The Asian election for FIFA seats on May 8 in Manama, Bahrain, is the same day as a FIFA Council meeting which the sheik will not attend. The FIFA congress is held in the city three days later.

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