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Usain Bolt eager to prove doubters wrong as soccer trial starts

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Usain Bolt began his indefinite trial with an Australian professional soccer team on his 32nd birthday on Tuesday. And that, he insists, is proof that his new career is legitimate.

“People always gonna say what they want to say,” Bolt said when asked about those who call it “a gimmick.” “Just like when I was in track and field, people say a lot of things about me, but I always prove them wrong. It’s just another moment for me to prove them wrong. … I don’t care what people say.”

Bolt is training with the Central Coast Mariners, the last-place team in Australia’s top division.

His goal is to earn a contract with the club, whose league season begins in two months. His dream is to one day play for Manchester United.

“For me it’s just like track and field,” Bolt said. “The first day of training is always the roughest one. You can tell how much work you need to put in, what you need to do. But it felt OK. I know it’s going to take time and work, and I’m ready to work.”

Bolt said he turned down offers from teams in France and Spain, but not in the top division. He prefers Australia, where he doesn’t have to learn a language.

“The coach has explained to me that there won’t be any special treatment,” said Bolt, who fancies himself a winger or center forward and has to work on “the basic skills.” “They will treat me just like a footballer should be treated. … I don’t want to be treated like I’m the world’s fastest man.”

Central Coast Mariners coach Mike Mulvey said Bolt should be ready to play in a preseason match against local players on Aug. 31, but he doesn’t want to rush.

“If it takes 12 months, I’m happy for him to be here,” Mulvey said. “He’s already brought the biggest throng of media to this area. The highlight, the spotlight is on Central Coast.”

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World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1 (not counting matches played once they’ve already clinched qualification). The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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