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Russian athletes, state accused of obstructing drug tests

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The World Anti-Doping Agency alleged Wednesday that Russian athletes and government agencies continued to obstruct and deceive drug testers, even as Russia tries to regain its place in Olympic track and field.

In a report published two days before a key vote on whether to readmit Russia’s track team for the Rio Olympics, WADA said testers have been intimidated by officials from Russia’s FSB security service and that packages containing samples have been tampered with by Russian customs services.

Athletes have repeatedly provided false information about their whereabouts and evaded drug testers at competitions, WADA said. In one case, an unnamed athlete in track and field attempted to give a fake urine sample using “a container inserted inside her body” but was discovered and tested positive when her real urine was examined.

WADA also says it received reports that athletes were “freely visiting” a “laboratory … with centrifuge and other analytical equipment” during a Russian national wrestling championship. WADA last year claimed secret laboratories could have been used in Russia to screen doped athletes who would fail independent tests, so they could then be kept away from drug testers and avoid bans.

Seven months on from a damning WADA commission report which alleged widespread state-sponsored doping in track and field, the Russian government has admitted failings by its athletes and sports officials, but continues to strenuously deny there has been any state backing for dopers.

The latest allegations relate to the period since the Russian anti-doping agency was suspended in November over accusations it covered up drug use. Since then testing in Russia has been led by foreign authorities, with Britain’s UK Anti-Doping taking the lead.

Wednesday’s WADA report says doping control officers were “intimidated” when trying to find athletes who said they were in so-called closed cities hosting military facilities, and alleges “armed FSB agents threatening DCOs with expulsion from the country.”

When samples were sent abroad for testing, laboratories said the packages had been tampered with by Russian customs officers, WADA said. In such cases, “sample bottles (are) often not with corresponding chain of custody form,” WADA said. That could potentially cause a case to collapse if an athlete convinces a tribunal that samples were mishandled.

Athletes also appear to be dodging tests by withdrawing from competitions at short notice when drug testers are present. In one case an athlete ran away from testers at a competition, and another “exited the stadium” during her own race, WADA said. At a competition in race walking, where top Russians have repeatedly failed drug tests, 15 athletes “did not start, withdrew or were disqualified,” including Olympic medalists.

While UK Anti-Doping has conducted 455 tests since it started work in Russia in February, samples could not be collected in 73 cases for reasons including “athlete not available,” WADA said.

WADA said in May that the number of tests conducted in Russia over the preceding six months had fallen by more than half against the same period a year earlier, when the Russian agency was still controlling the tests. UKAD has significantly less testing capacity than the Russian agency did because of a limited number of staff and delays to payments from the Russian authorities.

Earlier Wednesday, Russia ramped up its campaign Wednesday for its track and field team to be allowed to compete at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, contending it had met the conditions for reinstatement and saying it would be “obvious discrimination” to exclude athletes who have been not linked to doping.

Two days before the IAAF decides whether to maintain or lift its ban on Russia’s track federation, a group of Russian athletes sent an open letter to IOC President Thomas Bach and a top Russian Olympic official issued a four-page statement appealing for the country’s “clean” athletes to be cleared to compete at the Rio Games.

A blanket ban on all of Russia’s track and field athletes would be unjust to those who have never been implicated in doping and have passed a certain number of tests, the Russians argued.’

The IAAF council meets Friday in Vienna to decide whether to uphold the ban or allow the Russians to compete in Rio.

The International Olympic Committee has scheduled a summit of sports leaders next Tuesday to consider Russia’s eligibility.

Separately, Gennady Alyoshin, the Russian Olympic Committee’s point man for reforms at the Russian track federation, said Russia had met most of the 44 criteria set by the IAAF to be eligible for reinstatement, including changes in the federation, sanctions against dopers and change in the environment.

Meanwhile, the athletes’ commission of the European Olympic Committees issued a statement Wednesday urging the IOC to keep drug cheats out of the games but suggesting that athletes who can show they are clean should be allowed to compete.

“We urge the IOC to take the strongest practicable action to defend clean athletes and ensure honest competition at the Olympic Games,” the statement said.

The European body said athletes deemed “at risk” would have to show they are clean through an “international and independently proven” record of drug tests.

MORE: Russia shot put medalist failed retest, Canadian medalist husband says

NBA participation in Tokyo Olympics could be limited, Adam Silver says

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the Tokyo Olympics’ effect on the league’s schedule planning for 2021 is unclear, but that it’s possible that Olympic participation may be limited.

“There are a lot of great U.S. players, and we may be up against a scenario where the top 15 NBA players aren’t competing in the Olympics, but other great American players are competing,” Silver told Bob Costas on CNN on Tuesday. “Obviously, there are many NBA players who participate in the Olympics from other countries. That’s something we’re going to have to work through. I just say, lastly, these are highly unique and unusual circumstances. I think, just as it is for the Olympic movement, it is for us as well. We’re just going to have to sort of find a way to meld and mesh those two competing considerations.”

Silver said his best guess is that the next NBA season starts in January with a goal of a standard 82-game schedule and playoffs. A schedule has not been released.

In normal NBA seasons that start in late October, the regular season runs to mid-April and the NBA Finals into mid-June.

The Tokyo Olympic Opening Ceremony is July 23. If an NBA season is pushed back two or three months to a January start, and the schedule is not condensed, the Olympics would start while the NBA playoffs are happening.

The current NBA season is in the conference finals phase in an Orlando-area bubble after a four-month stoppage due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is a factor in our planning,” Silver said of the Olympics. “It would be tough for us to make a decision in January based on the Olympics happening on schedule when that’s so unclear.”

The NBA has participated in every Olympics since the 1992 Barcelona Games. Monday was the 29th anniversary of the announcement of the first 10 members of the original Dream Team on an NBC selection show (hosted by Costas).

Before the NBA era, U.S. Olympic men’s basketball teams consisted of college players.

MORE: When Michael Jordan lost in wheelchair basketball to Paralympian

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2020 French Open TV, live stream schedule

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Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams can each tie Grand Slam singles titles records at the French Open, with daily live coverage among NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel.

NBC coverage starts Sunday with first-round action at Roland Garros, its 38th straight year covering the event. Tennis Channel airs the majority of weekday coverage. Peacock, NBC Universal’s new streaming service, has middle weekend broadcasts.

All NBC TV coverage alo streams on NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Nadal is the primary men’s storyline, favored to tie Roger Federer‘s male record of 20 major titles and extend his own record of 12 French Open crowns. Federer is absent after knee operations earlier this year.

The Spaniard’s primary competition is top-ranked Novak Djokovic, the 2016 French Open champion whose only defeat in 2020 was a U.S. Open default for hitting a ball that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Williams bids again to match the overall Grand Slam singles mark of 24 held by Australian Margaret Court. Williams, a three-time French Open champion, lost in the third and fourth round the last two years and is coming off a U.S. Open semifinal exit.

The women’s field is led by 2018 champion Simona Halep but 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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French Open TV Schedule

Date Time (ET) Network Round
Sunday, Sept. 27 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
12-3 p.m. NBC
Monday, Sept. 28 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Tuesday, Sept. 29 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel First Round
Wednesday, Sept. 30 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Thursday, Oct. 1 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Second Round
Friday, Oct. 2 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
Saturday, Oct. 3 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Third Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Sunday, Oct. 4 5 a.m.-12 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Monday, Oct. 5 5 a.m.-3 p.m. Tennis Channel Fourth Round
11 a.m. Peacock
Tuesday, Oct. 6 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Wednesday, Oct. 7 6 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tennis Channel Quarterfinals
Thursday, Oct. 8 5 a.m.-2 p.m. Tennis Channel Women’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Friday, Oct. 9 5 a.m.-4 p.m. Tennis Channel Men’s Semis
11 a.m. NBC, NBCSN
Saturday, Oct. 10 9 a.m. NBC Women’s Final
Sunday, Oct. 11 9 a.m. NBC Men’s Final