Vitaly Mutko
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Russia sports minister: Rio ban would ‘risk tearing Olympic unity apart’


In a newspaper column, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said officials are “ashamed” and “sorry” for breaking anti-doping rules and that a Rio Olympics without Russian track and field athletes would be “unjust” and “risk tearing this [Olympic] unity apart.”

Russia is expected to learn on June 17 whether its banned track and field program will be reinstated for the Rio Games that open Aug. 5.

“Serious mistakes have been made by the federation management, along with athletes and coaches who have broken anti-doping rules and neglected the principle of fair play, so fundamental to sport for immediate benefits,” Mutko wrote, according to the Times of London. “Let us be clear. We are ashamed of them.”

The column comes nine days after a state-sponsored Russian doping program leading into the Sochi Olympics, which included gold-medal winners, was first reported.

But Mutko’s column focused on Russia’s track and field program, which was suspended indefinitely six months ago for anti-doping issues and hasn’t been reinstated.

“We are very sorry that athletes who tried to deceive us, and the world, were not caught sooner,” Mutko wrote, according to the newspaper. “We are very sorry because Russia is committed to upholding the highest standards in sport and is opposed to anything that threatens the Olympic values.”

Mutko wrote that it would be “unfair and disproportionate” to ban Russian track and field from the Rio Olympics.

He cited the fact that a blanket ban could exclude clean athletes, other nations, specifically China and Kenya, also have doping problems and that Russia has “done everything that has been asked of us by the IAAF in order to be reinstated.”

“Doping is a global problem, not just a Russian one,” Mutko wrote, according to the newspaper. “It is hard to think of any sport or country around the world that has not been tainted with this issue.”

Mutko also cited “the Olympic spirit.”

“The Olympic Games should be a cause of unity,” he wrote. “Barring Russia’s athletes from competing in Rio would risk tearing this unity apart.”

Mutko said aspiring Russian Olympians will undergo at least three anti-doping controls by the IAAF before the Rio Games.

“Russia’s absence from Rio would be a permanent reminder of an Olympic Games that has been broken,” Mutko wrote, according to the newspaper. “It would also be poorer, not just for the lack of top athletes missing from its flagship events, but for missing the memories that our sportsmen and women could contribute.”

MORE: Steven Holcomb reacts to Russia bobsled doping report

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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