Meldonium
AP

Russia pulls players from national sports teams due to meldonium

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MOSCOW (AP) — No one will face criminal charges over the worst doping scandal in Russia’s history, the country’s sports minister said Friday.

A report in November by a World Anti-Doping Agency commission alleged systematic, state-sponsored drug use in Russian track and field and a widespread cover-up of doping.

The former head of the Russian track federation was also accused of a role in extorting 450,000 euros ($500,000) from a marathon runner and was later banned for life.

“The General Prosecutor’s office carefully examined the report in question and did not find a single legally supported fact to open any kind of case,” Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told sports portal Sportfakt.

The WADA report led to Russia being suspended from international track and field, including the Olympics.

Mutko also admitted that Russia had been forced to withdraw players from its national teams at major competitions because of the risk they could test positive for meldonium, a drug for patients with heart disease which was widely used as a supplement in Russian sports but was banned for 2016. The ban prompted a spate of positive tests among top Russian athletes, including Maria Sharapova.

Mutko’s comments came a day after almost the entire Russian national under-18 hockey team was cut from next week’s World Championships and replaced with an apparently weaker under-17 squad. The change was announced the day before the under-18 team had been expected to fly to the United States.

Mutko said some players had taken meldonium while it was still legal but that Russian officials feared it could have remained in their bodies.

“If an athlete or a group of athletes took it in October or November, we don’t know if it’ll be found or not (in testing),” Mutko said in comments reported by the state news agency Tass. “We’re minimizing risks.”

He did not explicitly link his comments to the hockey situation. Russian Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak previously said the roster change was “tactical.”

It was the latest in a string of surprise team changes in Russian sports in recent weeks.

The entire national men’s curling team was changed a day before its World Championships, with the Russian Curling Federation denying a link to meldonium. The replacement team went on to lose nine of 11 games.

In volleyball, Russian club Gazprom Yugra dropped its top players ahead of the final of the European CEV Cup, which it lost. No explanation was given.

MORE: Russia’s best gymnast tests positive for meldonium

2020 French Open women’s singles draw, bracket

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If Serena Williams is to win a record-tying 24th Grand Slam singles title at the French Open, she may have to go through her older sister in the fourth round.

Williams, the sixth seed, could play Venus Williams in the round of 16 at Roland Garros, which begins Sunday.

Serena opens against countrywoman Kristie Ahn, whom she beat in the first round at the U.S. Open. Serena could then get her U.S. Open quarterfinal opponent, fellow mom Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, in the second round.

If Venus is to reach the fourth round, she must potentially get past U.S. Open runner-up Victoria Azarenka in the second round. Azarenka beat Serena in the U.S. Open semifinals, ending the American’s latest bid to tie Margaret Court‘s major titles record.

Venus lost in the French Open first round the last two years.

The French Open top seed is 2018 champion Simona Halep, who could play 2019 semifinalist Amanda Anisimova in the third round.

Coco Gauff, the rising 16-year-old American, gets 2019 semifinalist Jo Konta of Great Britain in the first round in the same quarter of the draw as Halep.

The field lacks defending champion Ash Barty of Australia, not traveling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Also out: U.S. Open winner Naomi Osaka, citing a sore hamstring and tight turnaround from prevailing in New York two weeks ago.

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2020 French Open men’s singles draw, bracket

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Rafael Nadal was put into the same half of the French Open draw as fellow 2018 and 2019 finalist Dominic Thiem of Austria, with top-ranked Novak Djokovic catching a break.

Nadal, trying to tie Roger Federer‘s male record 20 Grand Slam singles titles, could play sixth-seeded German Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals before a potential clash with Thiem, who just won the U.S. Open.

Djokovic, who is undefeated in 2020 save being defaulted out of the U.S. Open, could play No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal with Russian Daniil Medvedev.

Medvedev is the fourth seed but is 0-3 at the French Open. Another possible Djokovic semifinal opponent is fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who reached the fourth round last year.

The most anticipated first-round matchup is between three-time major champion Andy Murray and 2015 French Open champion Stan Wawrinka. In Murray’s most recent French Open match, he lost in five sets to Wawrinka in the 2017 semifinals.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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