IAAF flag
Getty Images

IAAF bans 3 officials in ethics investigation

Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) — Three officials of track and field’s world governing body — including one of Sebastian Coe‘s top aides — were provisionally suspended Friday for allegedly receiving money to conceal Russian doping cases.

The IAAF ethics board imposed six-month suspensions on former communications director Nick Davies, his wife and project manager Jane Boulter-Davies, and medical manager Pierre-Yves Garnier, pending a full investigation.

Panel chairman Michael Beloff said the suspensions were leveled “in the interests of the integrity of the sport but do not prejudge the outcome of the investigations.”

The board said the sanctions were in connection with an email reportedly sent on July 29, 2013, to then IAAF President Lamine Diack from his son, Papa Massata Diack, an IAAF marketing consultant.

The email, as reported in December by the French newspaper Le Monde, allegedly outlined plans to delay announcement of Russian doping cases to avoid bad publicity before the 2013 World Championships in Moscow.

Davies served as communications chief and deputy secretary general under Lamine Diack, who stepped down as IAAF president last year and is under investigation by French prosecutors for corruption related to cover-ups of Russian doping.

Coe, who was elected as Diack’s successor in August, appointed Davies as his chief of staff. After the allegations against Davies surfaced in December, Davies said he was temporarily stepping aside from his IAAF role pending a probe by the ethics board.

Davies was reported to have sent an email to Papa Massata Diack in 2013 asking what “Russian `skeleton’ we have still in the cupboard regarding doping,” and suggesting using the marketing company chaired by Coe — then an IAAF vice president — to lead an “unofficial PR campaign” to “avoid international media scandals” related to the Moscow championships.

If Russian athletes guilty of doping were not competing in Moscow, “then we might as well wait until the event is over to announce them,” Davies wrote in the email, which was published by Le Monde.

The IAAF ethics board said it found enough evidence to warrant investigation that Davies received an “undisclosed cash payment” from Papa Massata Diack in 2013 which may have resulted in “manipulative” action, and that he misled an IAAF investigator about the payment.

The panel alleged Boulter-Davies “received or had knowledge of receipt” by Nick Davies of a payment from the younger Diack, and also misled investigators. It said Garnier allegedly received cash “at the direction” of Lamine Diack.

The announcement came exactly one week before the IAAF’s ruling council meets in Vienna to decide whether or not to lift its suspension of Russia’s track and field federation before the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The suspension was imposed in November following a report by a World Anti-Doping Agency panel alleging state-supported doping and corruption in Russian athletics.

Lamine Diack is under suspicion of taking around 1 million euros ($1.1 million) to cover up positive drug tests by Russian athletes through blackmail and extortion. His son, who is based in Senegal, is the target of an Interpol wanted notice, and French prosecutors also suspect he played an active role in cover-ups.

The IAAF welcomed the provisional suspensions announced by the ethics panel.

“There is no greater priority for the IAAF right now than to get to the truth of the allegations that have been made against the sport,” the Monaco-based federation said.

VIDEO: Race walker holds his own medal ceremony after Russia doping

Novak Djokovic rolls at French Open; top women escape

Novak Djokovic
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Novak Djokovic began what could be a march to his 18th Grand Slam title, sweeping Swede Mikael Ymer 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 in the French Open first round on Tuesday.

The top seed Djokovic lost just seven points in the first set. He gets Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis in the second round in a half of the draw that includes no other man with French Open semifinal experience.

Djokovic had plenty going for him into Roland Garros, seeking to repeat his 2016 run to the title. The chilly weather is similar to four years ago.

“I don’t like usually comparing the years,” he said. “But I think [the conditions are] quite suitable to my style of the game.”

As is Djokovic’s form. His only loss in 2020 was when he was defaulted at the U.S. Open for hitting a ball in anger that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Djokovic got a break with the draw when No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem was put in No. 2 Rafael Nadal‘s half. The Serbian also won his clay-court tune-up event in Rome, where he received warnings in back-to-back matches for breaking a racket and uttering an obscenity.

“I don’t think that [the linesperson incident] will have any significant negative impact on how I feel on the tennis court,” Djokovic said before Roland Garros. “I mean, I won the tournament in Rome just a week later after what happened in New York.

“I really want to be my best version as a player, as a human being on the court, and win a tennis match. Because of the care that I have for that, I sometimes express my emotions in good way or maybe less good way.”

If Djokovic can lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires two Sundays from now, he will move within two of Roger Federer‘s career Slams record. Also notable: He would keep Nadal from tying Federer’s record and head into the Australian Open in January, his signature Slam, with a chance to match Nadal at 19.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Earlier Tuesday, No. 2 Karolina Pliskova and No. 4 Sofia Kenin each needed three sets to reach the second round.

The Czech Pliskova rallied past Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif 6-7 (9), 6-2, 6-4. Pliskova, the highest-ranked player without a major title, next gets 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

“Let’s not talk about my level [of play],” Pliskova said. “I think there is big room for improvement.”

Kenin, the American who won the Australian Open in February, outlasted Russian Liudmila Samsonova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

“It doesn’t matter how you win — ugly, pretty, doesn’t matter,” Kenin said on Tennis Channel.

She gets Romanian Ana Bogdan in the second round. Only one other seed — No. 14 Elena Rybakina — is left in Kenin’s section en route to a possible quarterfinal.

American Jen Brady, who made a breakthrough run to the U.S. Open semifinals, was beaten by Danish qualifier Clara Tauson  6-4, 3-6, 9-7.

Sam Querrey nearly made it eight American men into the second round, serving for the match in the third set. But he succumbed to 13th-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, 6-3. It’s still the best first-round showing for U.S. men since nine advanced in 1996.

The second round begins Wednesday, highlighted by Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.

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

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

U.S. men off to best French Open start in 24 years

Sebastian Korda
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The last time U.S. men started this well at the French Open, Sebastian Korda wasn’t alive and his dad had yet to win a Grand Slam singles title.

Eight American men are into the second round at Roland Garros, the largest contingent in the last 64 since 1996. It could have been nine, had Sam Querrey served out the match in the third set against 13th seed Andrey Rublev of Russia.

Still, the U.S. has more men in the second round than any other nation. Astonishing, given U.S. men went a collective 1-9 at the 2019 French Open.

Back in 1996, nine American men won first-round matches. That group included Pete SamprasAndre AgassiJim Courier and Michael Chang (in Sampras’ deepest run in Paris, to the semifinals).

Clay has long been kryptonite for this generation of Americans — the last U.S. man to make a Roland Garros quarterfinal was Agassi in 2003.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

This group includes veterans like Jack Sock, who swept countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 on Monday. Sock, 28, was once ranked eighth in the world.

He then dropped out of the rankings entirely, missing time due to injury and going 10 months between tour-level match wins. He’s now at No. 310 and preparing to play No. 3 Dominic Thiem in the second round.

“A pretty horrific two years in a row,” Sock said. “I’m not opposed to silencing some haters after the last couple years I’ve gone through. I’ve read and seen enough of it, heard enough of it. I’m kind of ready to reestablish myself out there, let people know that I’m back.”

Then there’s 35-year-old John Isner, the big server who swept a French wild card in round one. Isner, the highest seeded U.S. man at No. 21, has posted some decent Roland Garros results, reaching the fourth round three times.

There are new faces, too. Taylor Fritz is seeded 27, aged 22 and in an open section of the draw to make his first Grand Slam fourth round.

On Sunday, 20-year-old Korda became the youngest U.S. man to win a French Open main-draw match since an 18-year-old Andy Roddick beat Chang in 2001.

He is the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda and brother of the world’s second- and 22nd-ranked female golfers (Nelly and Jessica).

So far, Sebastian’s biggest feats: winning the 2018 Australian Open junior title and, in his only golf tournament, beating both of his sisters when he was 11. It was around that age that he gave up ice hockey and focused solely on tennis.

Korda was hooked after watching a Czech whom his dad coached, Radek Stepanek, at the U.S. Open in 2009.

“He played Djokovic on [Arthur] Ashe [Stadium] like at 10:30 at night,” Korda, nicknamed Sebi, said on Tennis Channel. “Completely packed. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I went home, and I was like, this is exactly what I want to do.”

An American man is already guaranteed to make the third round in Paris. Korda faces Isner on Thursday.

“I grew up on the clay,” Korda said, “so I know how to play on it a little bit.”

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

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!