PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — IOC board member Gian-Franco Kasper apologized Thursday for comparing a ban on Russia from the 2018 Olympics to persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany.
“It was an inappropriate and insensitive comment,” Kasper, the long-time International Ski Federation president, said in a statement.
The 73-year-old Swiss official had been speaking on the sidelines of an IOC board meeting in 2018 host city Pyeongchang.
Kasper compared a potential Olympic ban for Russia — as punishment for state-backed doping and cheating at the 2014 Sochi Games — with indiscriminate persecution by the Nazis.
“I apologize unreservedly for any offence I have caused. I am truly sorry,” Kasper said in the statement released by the IOC.
The IOC has set up two commissions to verify evidence — detailed in investigations appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency — of Russia’s doping program before deciding on the country’s Olympic participation.
Last July, the IOC board declined to impose a blanket ban on Russian teams and athletes competing at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Instead, the decision was left with the sports federations in a chaotic two weeks of legal debate and hearings before the games.
Kasper was not a board member at the time. He has since been promoted to represent winter sports on the IOC’s policy-making committee.
The two IOC commissions, investigating claims of a Russian doping conspiracy and prosecuting disciplinary cases against individual athletes, are expected to work for several more months.
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.
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.