IAAF bans 3 officials in ethics investigation

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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

2023 French Open women’s singles draw, scores

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At the French Open, Iga Swiatek of Poland eyes a third title at Roland Garros and a fourth Grand Slam singles crown overall.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed from Poland, can join Serena Williams and Justine Henin as the lone women to win three or more French Opens since 2000.

Having turned 22 on Wednesday, she can become the youngest woman to win three French Opens since Monica Seles in 1992 and the youngest woman to win four Slams overall since Williams in 2002.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Men’s Draw

But Swiatek is not as dominant as in 2022, when she went 16-0 in the spring clay season during an overall 37-match win streak.

She retired from her last pre-French Open match with a right thigh injury and said it wasn’t serious. Before that, she lost the final of another clay-court tournament to Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

Sabalenka, the No. 2 seed, and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, the No. 4 seed and Wimbledon champion, are the top challengers in Paris.

No. 3 Jessica Pegula, the highest-seeded American man or woman, was eliminated in the third round.

No. 6 Coco Gauff, runner-up to Swiatek last year, is the best hope to become the first American to win a Grand Slam singles title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought is the longest for U.S. women since Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Women’s Singles Draw

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Jessica Pegula upset in French Open third round

Jessica Pegula French Open
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Jessica Pegula, the highest-ranked American man or woman, was upset in the third round of the French Open.

Elise Mertens, the 28th seed from Belgium, bounced the third seed Pegula 6-1, 6-3 to reach the round of 16. Pegula, a 29-year-old at a career-high ranking, had lost in the quarterfinals of four of the previous five majors.

Down 4-3 in the second set, Pegula squandered three break points in a 14-minute game. Mertens then broke Pegula to close it out.

“I feel like I was still playing good points. Elise was just being really tough, not making a lot of errors and making me play every single ball. And with the windy conditions, I felt like it definitely played into her game,” Pegula said.

Pegula’s exit leaves No. 6 seed Coco Gauff, last year’s runner-up, as the last seeded hope to become the first U.S. woman to win a major title since Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major span without an American champ is the longest for U.S. women since Monica Seles won the 1996 Australian Open.

Mertens, who lost in the third or fourth round of the last six French Opens, gets 96th-ranked Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 2021 French Open runner-up, for a spot in the quarterfinals.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Also Friday, No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus won a third consecutive match in straight sets, then took questions from a selected group of reporters rather than conducting an open press conference. She cited mental health, two days after a tense back and forth with a journalist asking questions about the war, which she declined to answer.

“For many months now I have answered these questions at tournaments and been very clear in my feelings and my thoughts,” she said Friday. “These questions do not bother me after my matches. I know that I have to provide answers to the media on things not related to my tennis or my matches, but on Wednesday I did not feel safe in press conference.”

Sabalenka next plays American Sloane Stephens, the 2017 U.S. Open champion now ranked 30th, who reached the fourth round with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win over Kazakh Yulia Putintseva.

Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, the former world No. 3, is into the fourth round of her first major since October childbirth. She’ll play ninth-seeded Russian Daria Kasatkina.

Novak Djokovic continued his bid for a men’s record-breaking 23rd major title by dispatching No. 29 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-2. Djokovic’s fourth-round opponent will be No. 13 Hubert Hurkacz of Poland or 94th-ranked Peruvian Juan Pablo Varillas.

Later Friday, top seed Carlos Alcaraz faces 26th seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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