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IOC member apologizes for linking Russian ban to Nazis

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — IOC board member Gian-Franco Kasper apologized Thursday for comparing a ban on Russia from the 2018 Olympics to persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany.

“It was an inappropriate and insensitive comment,” Kasper, the long-time International Ski Federation president, said in a statement.

The 73-year-old Swiss official had been speaking on the sidelines of an IOC board meeting in 2018 host city Pyeongchang.

Kasper compared a potential Olympic ban for Russia — as punishment for state-backed doping and cheating at the 2014 Sochi Games — with indiscriminate persecution by the Nazis.

“I apologize unreservedly for any offence I have caused. I am truly sorry,” Kasper said in the statement released by the IOC.

The IOC has set up two commissions to verify evidence — detailed in investigations appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency — of Russia’s doping program before deciding on the country’s Olympic participation.

Last July, the IOC board declined to impose a blanket ban on Russian teams and athletes competing at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Instead, the decision was left with the sports federations in a chaotic two weeks of legal debate and hearings before the games.

Kasper was not a board member at the time. He has since been promoted to represent winter sports on the IOC’s policy-making committee.

The two IOC commissions, investigating claims of a Russian doping conspiracy and prosecuting disciplinary cases against individual athletes, are expected to work for several more months.

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MORE: Russians face exclusion for not returning Olympic medals

USA Hockey to start reaching out to potential replacement players

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USA Hockey will begin reaching out to “alternate players” to determine their interest in playing for the U.S. at the women’s world championship next week amid a potential boycott by its national team.

The contact is taking place in the event a resolution cannot be reached between USA Hockey and the women’s national team in a wage dispute.

“It’s important for everyone to understand clearly that our objective is to have the players we named as the U.S. women’s national team be the ones that compete in the world championship,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey, in a statement. “Productive conversations have taken place this week and are ongoing in our collective efforts to reach a resolution.”

The alternate players are in the professional NWHL and college, according to USA Today, a report that USA Hockey would not confirm.

U.S. captain Meghan Duggan has said every player in the U.S. national team player pool, plus under-18 national team players, committed to not playing at worlds unless the wage dispute is resolved.

The world championship tournament starts March 31 in Plymouth, Mich.

As of Thursday evening, no resolution has come between USA Hockey and its women’s national team. They met formally on Monday for more than 10 hours, with both sides calling it productive.

Neither side has said when its next scheduled meeting will take place.

On Tuesday, USA Hockey said it postponed a pre-worlds camp that was to run through next Tuesday in Traverse City, Mich., and canceled a scheduled Friday exhibition against Finland.

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MORE: NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

NHL asked for decision on Olympics by end of April

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International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel tells The Associated Press he needs to know by the end of April whether NHL players will be cleared to play in the South Korea Olympics next year.

NHL team owners have made it clear they don’t want to stop their season again for the Winter Games and put their stars at risk of injury. The reluctance has come up before and yet the NHL has participated in the Olympics since 1998. This time, however, there seems to be an impasse.

The head of the NHL Players Association, Donald Fehr, says the players want to participate and hopes the league will take advantage of the chance to market the game in Asia.

However, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says without “material change to the current status quo, NHL players will not be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics.”

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MORE: 2018 Olympic hockey groups set