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Adidas ‘in close contact’ with IAAF amid reports of ending sponsorship

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FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Adidas, a major sponsor of global athletics, is in “close contact” with track and field’s governing body, the IAAF, about the sport’s doping and corruption scandals, the sportswear company said Monday, amid reports it is considering ending its sponsorship.

The Germany-based company said that “Adidas has a clear anti-doping policy in place” and added that “we are in close contact with the IAAF to learn more about their reform process.”

The IAAF too said is in contact with “all its sponsors and partners as we embark on our reform process.”

A BBC report said Adidas had told the IAAF it was terminating its sponsorship deal four years early because of the doping affair involving Russian athletics and accusations of deeply rooted corruption under the IAAF’s previous leadership.

Earlier this month, a World Anti-Doping Agency probe said the IAAF was corrupted from the inside by a “powerful rogue group” led by its president, and they conspired to extort athletes and allow doping Russians to continue competing.

Other IAAF leaders were at fault, too, the WADA panel’s damning report said. They must have known of the nepotism that allowed Lamine Diack to turn the International Association of Athletics Federations into a personal fiefdom during his 16-year reign as president, it said.

“It is increasingly clear that far more IAAF staff knew about the problems than has currently been acknowledged,” said the report, written by former WADA president Dick Pound and presented at a news conference in Munich.

A key question raised by the report is whether alleged corruption under Diack went beyond extorting doped athletes and infected other areas of IAAF business.

WADA’s investigators called for a detailed follow-up probe of all world championships awarded by the ruling body for 2009-19, due to evidence they found of possible wrongdoing. That included an indication that Diack, a former IOC member, was prepared to sell his vote in the 2020 Olympic hosting contest won by Tokyo in exchange for sponsorship of IAAF events.

“The corruption was embedded in the organization. It cannot be ignored or dismissed as attributable to the odd renegade acting on its own,” the report said.

Diack was taken into custody by French authorities in November on corruption and money-laundering charges. He is suspected of taking more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to blackmail athletes and cover up positive tests.

Sebastian Coe, the British middle-distance running great who took over from Diack in August, is not accused of corrupt wrongdoing. But he was a member of the IAAF’s Council, its oversight body, that “could not have been unaware of the extent of doping.”

The WADA report came two days after the Associated Press released details from six years of IAAF internal emails, reports and notes showing a high level of communication between the athletics federation and Russian officials about suspicious test results from the nation’s athletes, including plans to cover up some doping evidence.

MORE: Olympic track and field schedule changed

Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal rekindle record bids at French Open

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Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal will play on the same day at the French Open through the quarterfinals, assuming each advances that far and the weather doesn’t wreak havoc. Each time they walk on the crushed red clay, the legends move closer to tying all-time records.

Williams, in her 10th bid since returning from childbirth to tie Margaret Court‘s 24 Grand Slam singles titles, battled and then rolled past 102nd-ranked countrywoman Kristie Ahn 7-6 (2), 6-0.

“I just need to play with more confidence, like I’m Serena,” she said of the difference between a 74-minute first set and a 27-minute second set. “I love the clay, and I started playing like it, opening the court and moving and sliding.”

Nadal, in his second major since moving within one of Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Slam titles, swept 83rd-ranked Belarusian Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 6-4, 6-2.

“Six months without playing a single tennis match is not easy,” said Nadal, who skipped the U.S. Open and then lost his third match at his comeback tournament in Rome. “I had to stop playing tennis for more than two months, so situation is difficult.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Their pursuits are very different.

Williams is already the greatest player in history by many measures, especially considering most of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and some at the Australian Open without the world’s best players.

Williams has lost all four of her major finals since her life-threatening childbirth. But she is not the favorite in Paris, despite the absence of 2019 champion Ash Barty of Australia and recent U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka. Williams hasn’t made the quarterfinals at Roland Garros in four years and just went 16 months between competitive matches on clay.

She’s also battling an Achilles injury that affected her during a U.S. Open semifinal run three weeks ago. She’s spent most of her preparation time in France rehabbing.

“A ton of prayer,” she said, noting coming early to a post-match press conference to maximize her subsequent time handling the Achilles. “I’m doing so much for it.”

None of Williams’ potential first three opponents have ever beaten her. Next up: Bulgarian and fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova, a rematch of their three-set U.S. Open quarterfinal three weeks ago.

Like Williams, Nadal next plays on Wednesday. He gets Mackenzie McDonald, one of six American men to so far reach round two, the most since 1998.

For more than a decade, followers have debated the greatest male player in history between Nadal and Federer (and now Novak Djokovic). But not until winning the 2019 U.S. Open did Nadal move within one Slam of Federer’s total.

Now, Nadal can tie Federer and pass the Swiss if he wins the next two French Opens (and Federer doesn’t win the next Australian Open).

Nadal is going for his 13th crown in Paris, as usual downplaying his favorite status. This time, he’s noting the cool, slow, autumnal conditions and a new brand of tennis ball that is disadvantageous.

“Conditions here probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros,” Nadal said last week. “The conditions are a little bit extreme to play an outdoor tournament.”

Federer is not playing after two knee operations. Nadal, who at 34 is five years younger than Federer, has the opportunity in the coming matches and months to tip the scales in his favor. And help deny Djokovic, who is 33 with 17 Slams.

Nadal is not one to engage in that GOAT debate. Turns out, neither is Williams.

“You can’t compare two people that are equally great,” she said of Nadal and Federer. “I don’t understand why people want to pit who’s this, who’s that? They both have spectacular careers that 99 percent of people can only dream of and they both deserve.”

Earlier Monday, newly crowned U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem rolled 2014 U.S. Open winner Marin Cilic 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

Thiem, the 2018 and 2019 French Open runner-up, next gets American Jack Sock, a former top-10 player now ranked No. 310.

Sock took out countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 for his first main draw win at the French Open in four years.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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World silver medalist opts out of figure skating Grand Prix

Elizabet Tursynbaeva
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Elizabet Tursynbayeva, the 2019 World silver medalist, said she will not compete in figure skating’s upcoming Grand Prix Series, according to Kazakhstan’s Olympic Committee.

Tursynbayeva noted in stating her decision that world ranking points will not be awarded in the series, which starts with Skate America from Oct. 23-25.

Fields for the six Grand Prix events, held on consecutive weekends through November, have not been released.

Skaters will be restricted to one Grand Prix start — halved from the usual two — and to the event in their home nations or closest to their training locations.

Tursynbayeva trains in Russia, one of six nations to host Grand Prix events.

Previously, Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu announced he would not compete on the Grand Prix due to coronavirus pandemic-related travel risks.

Russian Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova, who announced an indefinite break from competition last December, is also not expected to compete. She is hosting a Russian skating-themed TV show but has not announced her future competition plans.

Tursynbayeva took silver behind Zagitova at the most recent world championships in 2019, a surprise given her 12th-place finish at the PyeongChang Olympics. Tursynbayeva withdrew before her 2019 Grand Prix events, reportedly after suffering an injury.

Last season’s top skaters were all first-year seniors — Russians Alena Kostornaya, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. The world championships were not held due to the pandemic.

Two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough for the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

MORE: Orser reacts to Medvedeva’s coaching switch

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