Mexico’s Rio Olympics participation under threat

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s participation in next year’s Olympics could be in jeopardy because of a conflict between the government and national sports federations.

The sports bodies are facing financial inspections by a national government agency, which is questioning how funds are being spent.

The International Olympic Committee opposes political interference in national sports bodies. Last month, it suspended Kuwait’s national Olympic committee over government interference, leaving the country’s athletes in limbo for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

“It would be a tragedy if Mexico does not participate in the Olympics, although I hope it doesn’t come to that,” said Carlos Padilla Becerra, president of Mexico’s national Olympic committee. “I’m sure this will not happen. Higher-ranking national officials will not prohibit our athletes from competing.”

The Rio Olympics open on Aug. 5, 2016, and close on Aug. 21.

Alfredo Castillo, head of the National Commission of Physical Culture and Sports, has been critical of the Olympic Charter, which among many other things spells out the non-interference rules.

“The Olympic Charter is the best invention that has been created to avoid monitoring of how public money is spent and what it yields,” Castillo said.

Castillo has focused on the national federations that run archery, boxing and basketball, and has looked into others.

Padilla said he met with Castillo but failed to find an agreement. He said he subsequently traveled to Switzerland and met recently with IOC President Thomas Bach. He said he showed Bach documents that he said showed government interference.

“For me the unconditional respect of the Olympic Charter is important,” Padilla said. “All I did was make the facts known to the IOC.”

The IOC did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press.

In a statement, Castillo said he would not permit outside forces to meddle in Mexican affairs.

“What’s at stake is not the Olympics but rather the future of sports in the country,” said Castillo, who was appointed earlier this year by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

If Mexico is suspended, its athletes would be barred from representing their country at the Olympics. The IOC could consider giving them special permission to compete as individuals under the Olympic flag, which it has done before for athletes from other countries under suspension.

Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here with redactions.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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