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Report: Ex-Brazil gymnastics coach accused of sexual abuse

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SAO PAULO (AP) — A community center fired a former coach of the Brazilian national gymnastics team Monday after a news report revealed that dozens of athletes he worked with have accused him of sexual abuse.

Reporters for the “Fantastico” news show on Globo TV spoke to 40 gymnasts and former gymnasts who said Fernando de Carvalho Lopes had abused them while they were minors, including watching them shower, touching their genitals and asking them to masturbate in front of him. The Sao Paulo state Security Department confirmed police are investigating but would not provide any more details because the case is under judicial seal.

Clube MESC, a community center with several sports programs in an industrial city outside Sao Paulo, said if fired Lopez after the report aired Sunday night. The club said that it had put Lopes on administrative duty two years ago when the first accusations against him emerged and that he had not had any contact with athletes since then. The club said that since the case is under seal, it did not know the extent of the accusations until the Sunday report.

Lopes denied the accusations in an interview with Globo, saying he never raped or molested anyone. Neither Lopes nor a lawyer for him responded to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

The allegations recall the U.S. case of former sports doctor Larry Nassar, who admitted to molesting some of the United States’ top gymnasts, including while he worked at USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University. More than 260 women and girls have said Nassar abused them.

In its report, “Fantastico” said the first accusation against Lopes came in July 2016, when a 13-year-old whom Lopes coached told his parents he was being abused. The accusation resulted in Lopes being fired from Brazil’s gymnastics coaching staff, a month ahead of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Others then came forward.

“Fantastico” recorded interviews with five people who worked with Lopes, including two who agreed to be identified by name. One of those, Petrix Barbosa, said the abuse started when he was 10 or 11.

“I woke up with him — I don’t know how many times — with his hand down my pants,” said Barbosa, who was a gold medalist at the Pan American Games in 2011.

The accusers to whom “Fantastico” spoke said the abuse happened in the showers and the sauna at Clube MESC, during training sessions and also on trips with the coach. The accusers said he touched or asked to see their genitals claiming he needed to understand how their bodies were developing during puberty in order to adapt their training. One accuser said he bought a curtain for the shower at Clube MESC to prevent Lopes from watching him and others shower, but the curtain disappeared the next day. He bought another and it disappeared, too, he said.

It was unclear how far back the oldest accusation dates, but the Clube MESC said Lopes had worked there for 20 years. It said it had never received a complaint against him.

Joanna Maranhao, a Brazilian swimmer who has participated in four Olympics and who alleged she was sexually abused by another coach when she was 9, said Brazilian sporting associations are beginning to address the issue but she hopes more will be done.

“This man, I really hope he pays for the crimes he committed,” said Maranhao, whose own case was never prosecuted because of the statute of limitations.

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MORE: Jordyn Wieber sues USA Gymnastics, Michigan State

Noah Lyles raises black-gloved fist, wins 200m in Monaco

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Noah Lyles said he had plans going forward to make statements, beyond his rapid sprint times. He did that in Monaco on Friday.

Lyles raised a black, fingerless-gloved right fist before getting into the blocks to win a 200m in his first international race of the season, conjuring memories of the famous 1968 Olympic podium gesture.

He clocked 19.76 seconds, leading a one-two with younger brother Josephus. Full results are here.

“As athletes it’s hard to show that you love your country and also say that change is needed,” was posted on Lyles’ Instagram, along with hashtags including #blacklivesmatter. “This is my way of saying this country is great but it can be better.”

Lyles, the world 200m champion, also paid respect to 1968 Olympic 200m gold and bronze medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos three hours before the race.

He tweeted an iconic image of Smith and Carlos raising their single black-gloved fists on the medal stand at the Mexico City Games. Thirteen minutes earlier, Lyles posted an Instagram Story image of his socks for the meet — plain, dark colored.

Smith and Carlos wore black socks without shoes on the podium to signify endemic poverty back in the U.S. at the time.

Lyles is known for his socks, often posting images of colorful pairs he wears before races, themes including Speed Racer, R2-D2 and Sonic the Hedgehog.

“We are at the point where you can’t do nothing anymore,” Lyles said Wednesday. “There aren’t any rules set out. You’re kind of just pushing the boundary as far as you can go. Some people have said, even if there were rules, they’re willing to go farther than that.”

MORE: Noah, Josephus Lyles take 4-year journey to Monaco

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Joshua Cheptegei breaks 5000m world record in Monaco

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Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei broke a 16-year-old world record in the 5000m by nearly two seconds, clocking 12:35.36 in Monaco on Friday.

Cheptegei, the 2019 World 10,000m champion who reportedly needed 80 hours to travel from Uganda for the Diamond League meet, took 1.99 seconds off Ethiopian legend Kenenisa Bekele‘s world record from 2004. Bekele is also the 10,000m world-record holder and the second-fastest marathoner in history.

“It took a lot of mind setting to keep being motivated this year because so many people are staying at home, but you have to stay motivated,” Cheptegei said, according to organizers. “I pushed myself, I had the right staff with me, the right coach.”

Cheptegei, 23, came into Monaco as the 73rd-fastest man in history with a personal best of 12:57.41. But he declared before the meet that the world record was his goal, given he had no Olympics or world championships to peak for this year.

“It is very difficult to run any world record,” was posted on the Instagram of Bekele, who is part of the NN Running Team with Cheptegei. “Congratulations to my teammate [Cheptegei].”

Full Monaco results are here. The Diamond League next moves to Stockholm on Aug. 23.

In other events Friday, Noah Lyles easily won a 200m after raising a black-gloved first before the start. More on Lyles’ gesture and victory here.

Donavan Brazier extended a year-plus 800m win streak, clocking 1:43.15 and holding off countryman Bryce Hoppel by .08. Brazier won his last seven meets, including national, world and Diamond League titles in 2019, when he broke a 34-year-old American record.

Olympic silver medalist Orlando Ortega of Spain won the 110m hurdles in 13.11 seconds, overtaking world champion Grant Holloway. Holloway, who won worlds in 13.10 last autumn, finished fourth in 13.19.

Timothy Cheruiyot followed his 2019 World title by clocking his second-fastest 1500m ever. The Kenyan recorded 3:28.45, holding off Norwegian 19-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen, who set a European record of 3:28.68.

Sifan Hassan, the world’s top female distance runner, dropped out of the 5000m with two and a half laps left while in the lead pack. Two-time world champion Hellen Obiri won in 14:22.12, surging past Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey on the final lap.

Karsten Warholm ran the joint eighth-fastest 400m hurdles in history, a 47.10 against a field that lacked rivals Rai Benjamin and Abderrahman Samba. Warholm, the two-time world champion, ranks second in history with a personal best of 46.92, trailing only American Kevin Young‘s 46.78 from the 1992 Olympics.

American Lynna Irby won her Diamond League debut with a 50.50 in the 400m. Irby, the second-fastest American in 2018, failed to make the 2019 World team. On Friday, she beat Wadeline Jonathas, the top American in 2019.

Pole vault world-record holder Mondo Duplantis needed three tries to clear 5.70 meters, then won with a 5.80-meter clearance (and then cleared six meters). Duplantis, whose mom drove his poles 25 hours from Sweden to Monaco, brought the world record to 6.18 meters in February.

American Sam Kendricks, two-time reigning world pole vault champion, did not compete because his poles did not arrive.

MORE: Noah, Josephus Lyles take 4-year journey to Monaco

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