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Kenya track and field won’t be banned from Olympics

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Kenya’s track and field athletes won’t be banned from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro despite serious concerns over the African country’s anti-doping program, the IAAF said Friday.

The IAAF said in a statement to The Associated Press that Kenya remains on a “monitoring list” of countries with doping problems until the end of the year. But, despite Thursday’s decision by the World Anti-Doping Agency to declare Kenya’s drug-testing agency non-compliant, the nation’s athletes can still compete through to the end of 2016.

“During the monitoring process … Kenyan athletes remain eligible to compete nationally and internationally,” the IAAF said.

That means Kenyans will be able to take part in track and field at the Rio Games in August, unless the International Olympic Committee steps in. That is considered unlikely.

The IAAF did say that WADA’s decision to suspend Kenya’s anti-doping program “is a further reflection of the IAAF’s concerns about the level of commitment to anti-doping at the national level in Kenya.”

It also said Kenya’s elite athletes were now the most tested of any country by the IAAF. Kenya could face more serious sanctions from the track body at the end of the year if its drug-testing program is still a mess.

Kenya’s anti-doping program needed to be “significantly strengthened by the end of the current year,” the IAAF said.

Fearing the possibility of an Olympic ban, Kenyan authorities were scrambling earlier Friday to sort out their problems. Parts of a new anti-doping law that was ruled inadequate by WADA — and led to the non-compliant declaration — would be hurriedly rewritten and pushed through parliament, the sports minister said.

Kenyan Sports Minister Hassan Wario said that WADA had pointed out which parts of the law needed changing. He said the problem areas can be “rewritten or rectified.”

“Meaning that as soon as parliament reviews those highlighted bits of the legislation we are fully compliant,” Wario said in a statement sent by text message to reporters. “No ban was mentioned in the body of the letter.”

That’s because WADA doesn’t have the power to enforce a ban on Kenya’s athletes, but the IAAF does, and it did with Russia after its anti-doping program was declared non-compliant following allegations of corruption and doping cover-ups last year.

WADA’s surprise decision to suspend Kenya’s anti-doping body came after the East African nation finally passed the legislation last month following two missed deadlines. Kenya celebrated the passing of the law then and hailed it a success, but WADA on Thursday described it as “a complete mess.” Late changes had been made, causing it to be rejected, WADA said.

That briefly raised the possibility that the IAAF body might use WADA’s decision to go a step further and suspend the distance-running powerhouse from international competition.

Since the 2012 London Olympics, 40 Kenyan track and field athletes have been banned for doping — a rate of about one per month — and four senior track officials are under investigation by the IAAF for potential subversion of the anti-doping process. One of those officials is a current member of the IAAF’s governing council, and another a former member.

The IAAF noted Friday that there was a possibility, albeit remote, that the IOC could take action against Kenya ahead of Rio.

“As far as Kenya’s participation is concerned across all sports at the Olympic Games in Rio, the IAAF notes that WADA has referred its decision on non-compliance to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and UNESCO for their consideration and action,” the IAAF said.

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John Isner leaning towards skipping Olympics again

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John Isner, the highest-ranked U.S. male singles tennis player, is considering skipping the Olympics for a second straight time.

“I haven’t put a ton of thought into it, but as of right now, I think I’m leaning towards not playing,” the 19th-ranked player said at the Australian Open on Tuesday. “It’s about scheduling. I know the Olympics, it’s a fantastic honor. There’s no doubt about that. … Right now, at this stage in my career, it’s not a huge priority for me. So that’s probably the main reason I won’t be going. I certainly love playing in the summer in America, and I’m going to focus on that.”

The Tokyo Games take place the same week as a lower-level ATP Tour event in Atlanta that Isner, a former University of Georgia star, has won five times.

Other notable male players already said they will pass on Tokyo, including Sam Querrey, the top American in Olympic qualifying standings.

Austrian Dominic Thiem, a two-time French Open finalist, is prioritizing an ATP event in Kitzbühel the week of the Olympics. The U.S. doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan are not planning to play the Olympics in their final season before retirement, their manager said in November.

“The Olympics is very tough on the schedule … especially with Davis Cup,” Isner said in 2016, according to USA Today. “I think the fact that they have no [ATP ranking] points [at the Olympics], to be honest, was a pretty big factor as well. Obviously the Olympics is not about the money, but no points I think hindered me a bit.”

Isner, who turns 35 on April 26, is likely giving up his last chance to play Olympic singles. In his only Olympic participation, he reached the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Games, plus lost an opening-round doubles match there with Andy Roddick.

The top four U.S. men qualify for Tokyo, assuming they are among the top 60 overall qualifiers (maximum four per country) after this spring’s French Open.

Taylor FritzReilly Opelka, Steve Johnson and Tommy Paul are the U.S. men currently in Olympic qualifying position if excluding Querrey and Isner.

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Dominik Paris, world champion skier, suffers season-ending injury

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Italian Dominik Paris, the reigning world champion in the super-G, suffered a season-ending ACL tear in a training crash Tuesday ahead of this weekend’s speed races in Kitzbuehel, Austria.

Paris crashed in super-G training not far from the hallowed World Cup venue, slipping into a curve and damaging his right knee. He also suffered a fibula microfracture, according to the Italian federation.

“My season ends here,” he said, according to the International Ski Federation (FIS). “Unfortunately while I was sliding, the inside ski caught too much and the ligament broke. There is not much to add. In the next few days we will evaluate, together with the medical staff, how to proceed.”

Paris won his third Hahnenkamm downhill title last year and was one of the favorites for Saturday’s downhill, the most prestigious annual race in the sport. NBC Sports Gold streams live coverage for “Snow Pass” subscribers at 5:30 a.m. ET.

Paris, 30, won a pair of downhills in Bormio in December among five total podiums this season.

In his absence, Swiss Beat Feuz and German Thomas Dressen lead the podium contenders.

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