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U.S. women learn Olympic soccer group opponents

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The U.S. women’s soccer team will face France, New Zealand and Colombia in group play at the Rio Olympics as it attempts to win a fourth straight title.

The men’s and women’s draws were announced Thursday.

In the women’s tournament that starts Aug. 3, the top two nations from each of the three groups, plus the top two third-place teams, advance to the quarterfinals.

The U.S. women will be heavily favored to advance out of their group, with world No. 3 France the biggest challenge.

At London 2012, the U.S. overcame a 2-0 deficit to beat France 4-2 in the group stage.

If the U.S. and host Brazil win their groups and their quarterfinals, they will meet in the semifinals Aug. 16 in Rio de Janeiro.

In the men’s draw, defending Olympic champion Mexico was grouped with Germany, South Korea and Fiji. Host Brazil is with Denmark, Iraq and South Africa.

The top two nations from each of the four men’s groups advance to quarterfinals.

Olympic men’s soccer rosters can include no more than three players born before Jan. 1, 1993.

All of the Rio 2016 groups:

Group A — Brazil, Denmark, Iraq, South Africa
Group B — Colombia, Japan, Nigeria, Sweden
Group C — Fiji, Germany, Mexico, South Korea
Group D — Algeria, Argentina, Honduras, Portugal

Women (FIFA rank)
Group E — Brazil (8), Sweden (6), China (12), South Africa (54)
Group F — Germany (2), Australia (5), Canada (10), Zimbabwe (95)
Group G — U.S. (1), France (3), New Zealand (16), Colombia (24)

U.S. Schedule
Aug. 3 — New Zealand at Belo Horizonte
Aug. 6 — France at Belo Horizonte
Aug. 9 — Colombia at Manaus

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World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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