Chris Froome runs up Mont Ventoux after Tour de France crash (video)

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MONT VENTOUX, France (AP) — Chris Froome was allowed to keep the yellow jersey after the Tour de France race jury ruled he crashed and lost his bike in unfair circumstances during a wacky conclusion to the 12th stage on Thursday.

“Ventoux is full of surprises. … I’m very happy with the jury’s decision,” Froome said.

In a complete embarrassment for race organizers on Bastille Day, Richie Porte crashed headfirst into a motorbike carrying a TV camera and Froome, who was right behind his former teammate, also hit the pavement in the final kilometer on the wind-shortened climb to Mont Ventoux.

The motorbike appeared to have stopped because fans blocked its path.

“We took an exceptional decision because of this exceptional situation, an incident that might have never happened before in 100 years,” said Tour director Christian Prudhomme, explaining that the wind prevented organizers from erecting the usual barriers at the end of most stages.

“There will be an investigation to find out why the TV motorbike was blocked and the riders fell,” Prudhomme added.

Froome threw his mangled bike aside and began running up the road. He eventually was given a small yellow race assistance bike before his team car was finally able to provide him with a suitable substitute.

“I told myself, ‘I don’t have a bike and my car is five minutes behind with another bike, it’s too far away, I’m going to run a bit,'” Froome told French TV.

All of Froome’s main rivals crossed ahead of him, and Froome shook his head in disbelief when he finally reached the finish.

As Froome ran through the crowds he attempted to communicate with his team via radio but the crowds prevented the Team Sky car from reaching him.

“It was a nightmare,” Sky sports director Nicolas Portal said. “It took up to two minutes for him to get a spare bike but the pedals did not suit him. … I can’t understand how so many people were allowed there. It was mayhem.”

Froome, who is seeking his third Tour title in four years, did not come to the post-stage news conference.

Before the crash, Froome dropped most of his rivals apart from Porte and Bauke Mollema.

“Decision by the commissaires panel: Chris Froome and Richie Porte have been given the same (stage) time as Bauke Mollema due to the incident in the finale. Froome retains the yellow jersey,” the Tour website said.

Froome increased his overall lead to 47 seconds ahead of fellow British rider Adam Yates.

Two-time runner-up Nairo Quintana was third, 54 seconds behind, and Mollema moved up to fourth, 56 seconds back.

“I wouldn’t want to take the jersey like this. I’m happy with the decision,” said Yates, who was initially given the race leadership according to preliminary results. “(Froome) is the rightful owner of the yellow jersey.

“If anyone was in the same situation they would feel the same. Nobody wants to take the yellow jersey like that. You want to take it with your legs. There’s not many sports where the fans can get this close to the athletes like this. It is what it is.”

Thomas De Gendt won the stage after getting into an early breakaway and easily sprinting past fellow Belgian Serge Pauwels on the steep slopes of Ventoux.

“There were too many people in the last kilometer,” De Gendt said. “There was not even a place for one motorbike. They should do something about it.”

With the wind at 125 kph (nearly 80 mph) on top of the “Giant of Provence,” organizers moved the finish line six kilometers (3 1/2 miles) down the road to the Chalet Reynard.

It was still a grueling 10-kilometer (six-mile) climb featuring several sections with gradients exceeding 10 percent.

The 178-kilometer (111-mile) leg began in Montpellier near the Mediterranean coast, passed by the 15th-century Chateau of Tarascon, and scaled the hilltop village of Gordes.

It was De Gendt’s first career stage win in the Tour. He finished third in the 2012 Giro d’Italia.

Froome was the stage winner when the Tour previously scaled Ventoux’s barren, 1,909-meter (6,263-foot) peak in 2013.

Ventoux was also the site of an epic contest between Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani in 2000, and where British rider Tom Simpson died in 1967 from a combination of amphetamines and alcohol.

Now, another memorable chapter has been added to Ventoux lore.

The race’s first time trial comes on Friday with a hilly 37.5-kilometer (23-mile) leg from Bourg-Saint-Andeol to La Caverne du Pont-D’Arc, where Froome will again be favored to add to his lead.

MORE: Froome eyes two Olympic races in Rio

Maria Sharapova appears set to miss Tokyo Olympics

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Maria Sharapova, who would have a difficult time qualifying for the Olympics next year, committed to play an event in California the week of the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova is scheduled to play World Team Tennis matches in California during the Olympic tennis events in late July, according to a press release. Sharapova’s longtime agent hasn’t responded to a message seeking confirmation that she is ruling out the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova, 32 and the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, was barred from the Rio Games due to her 15-month meldonium suspension in 2016 and 2017. That alone could rule her ineligible for Tokyo, given the World Anti-Doping Agency’s sanctions against Russia on Monday.

Sharapova is ranked No. 131 after a season shortened by shoulder surgery. She would have to be among the top four ranked Russian women after the French Open in June for possible automatic Olympic qualification. She is currently the 14th Russian.

Olympic eligibility rules include minimum participation requirements in Fed Cup, which Sharapova hasn’t done in this Olympic cycle, though exceptions can be made.

Sharapova’s passion for the Olympics is well documented.

She carried the Russian flag into the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and carried the Olympic flame into Fisht Stadium at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony, where she worked for NBC Olympics.

“It was the one thing that my parents allowed me to watch on TV late into the evening was the Olympics,” Sharapova said in 2017. “I grew up watching figure skating and hockey and a little bit of tennis. … Just capturing the Opening Ceremonies and seeing all the countries and the little hats that they wore, and I, as a little girl, I just imagined that maybe it would be me. But I never, ever thought that I would be carrying the flag.

“I received that [flag] honor in a text message, which is a very Russian way of communicating. I originally thought it was a joke, a big fat joke. Then I showed it to my mother, and she [said], no, they probably wouldn’t joke like that.”

In February 2016, Sharapova entered a Fed Cup tie, despite saying she was injured, in order to receive Olympic eligibility. One month later, her failed drug test was announced.

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MORE: Roger Federer minted on Swiss coin

Russia banned from Olympics, world champs for 4 years; athletes could compete as neutrals

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Russia is banned from the next two Olympics and other major sports events for four years, though its athletes could still compete without representing the country if cleared by anti-doping authorities.

Russia’s hosting of world championships in Olympic sports also face being stripped after the World Anti-Doping Agency executive committee approved a full slate of recommended sanctions for tampering with a Moscow laboratory database.

Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in major events — including world championships — only if they are not implicated in positive doping tests or their data was not manipulated, according to the WADA ruling. “In this circumstance, they may not represent the Russian Federation,” according to a WADA release.

“While I understand the calls for a blanket ban on all Russian athletes whether or not they are implicated by the data, it was the unanimous view of the CRC [compliance review committee], which includes an athlete, that in this case, those who could prove their innocence should not be punished, and I am pleased that the WADA ExCo [executive committee] agreed with this,” WADA CRC chairman Jonathan Taylor said.

There are 145 unnamed athletes within WADA’s “target group of most suspicious athletes” from 2012-15 who would not be allowed to compete at the Olympics, Taylor said, adding that it’s possible those names will be made public. About one-third of them are still active.

Russia’s anti-doping agency can appeal the decision within 21 days. Russia previously signaled it would appeal the ruling.

“The decision will come into effect only when it becomes final ie when either RUSADA accepts it or it is upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” a WADA spokesperson said in an email.

Russia avoided blanket bans for the Rio and PyeongChang Olympics after a state-run doping program was exposed by media and WADA investigations after Russia hosted the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Approved Russian athletes competed as neutrals — “Olympic Athletes from Russia” — including in team sports in PyeongChang. Those Russians combined to earn two gold medals (figure skater Alina Zagitova and men’s hockey) and 17 overall, compared to the leading 33 Russia earned at the Sochi Olympics before medals were stripped for doping.

“Will Russian athletes be accepted as Olympic Athletes from Russia?” during the ban, Taylor said. “No, they are neutral athletes, which means not representatives of any country. Not representatives of Russia.”

Going forward, “they cannot use the name of the country in the name of the team,” WADA president-elect Witold Bańka told The Associated Press.

Two of the 168 Russians who competed in PyeongChang failed drug tests and were punished for doping.

More recent evidence shows that Russian authorities tampered with a Moscow laboratory database to hide hundreds of potential doping cases and falsely shift the blame onto whistleblowers, WADA investigators and the International Olympic Committee said last month. “Flagrant manipulation” of the Moscow lab data was “an insult to the sporting movement worldwide,” the IOC said last month.

“Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order … but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial,” WADA president Craig Reedie said.

Russia will be allowed to participate in the Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland, that open Jan. 9.

WADA’s inability to fully expel Russia from the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Games frustrated the doping watchdog’s vice president.

“I’m not happy with the decision we made today. But this is as far as we could go,” said Linda Helleland, a Norwegian lawmaker who serves on WADA executive committee and has long pushed for a tougher line against Russia. “This is the biggest sports scandal the world has ever seen. I would expect now a full admission from the Russians and for them to apologize on all the pain all the athletes and sports fans have experienced.”

Although the IOC has called for the strongest possible sanctions, it wants those sanctions directed at Russian state authorities rather than athletes or Olympic officials.

“To allow Russia to escape a complete ban is yet another devastating blow to clean athletes, the integrity of sport and the rule of law,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement. “And, in turn, the reaction by all those who value sport should be nothing short of a revolt against this broken system to force reform.”

Russia’s Olympic champion women’s handball team is currently competing at the world championships in Japan. Its next match is Tuesday against Montenegro. Russia has been the scheduled host for the world luge championships in Sochi in mid-February.

The “major sports” events that fall under WADA’s sanctions do not include European Championships or other non-world championships events such as tennis’ upcoming Australian Open.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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TIMELINE: Russia’s recent history of sports doping