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LeBron James takes in Berlin track meet, his latest Olympic sports mix

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LeBron James met fellow Olympic champions runner Caster Semenya and discus thrower Robert Harting at a track and field meet at Berlin’s historic Olympic Stadium on Sunday.

James, in Germany as part of a Nike promotional tour, was later reading about Jesse Owens on the way to an airport, according to one of his friends’ Instagram accounts.

James is an experienced Olympic sports spectator. He attended swimming finals at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, sitting with Dara Torres in Beijing.

At Beijing’s Water Cube, Michael Phelps said he heard James and Kobe Bryant ”starting cheers and getting everybody going” as he chased Mark Spitz‘s record of seven gold medals in the pool, according to The New York Times.

In London, James and another swimmer, relay gold medalist Lauren Perdue, were joined in headlines after she turned down his invitation to eat with her at the dining hall.

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James also took in beach volleyball in Beijing with Jason KiddKobe BryantChris Paul and Carlos Boozer.

James, Bryant and Paul all became acquainted with Phelps, sharing conversations in Phelps’ retirement. Fellow swimmer Jason Lezak also provided this story from Beijing:

“I remember leaving the pool, and we were all in the elevator together, me and all these NBA guys,” Lezak said. “I was like, this is so cool. Kobe says to me, ‘Right before the elevator stops, check this out, I’m going to sit here in the back, LeBron’s going to walk out and get swamped, and I’m going to get right on the bus.’ LeBron was swarmed. Sure enough, Kobe sneaks right onto the bus.”

Similar stories date to the first Olympics with NBA players in 1992 — such as Larry Bird and the Dream Team meeting U.S. female gymnasts on a bus in Barcelona. Or 4-foot-6 gymnast Ragan Smith taking a photo with 6-foot-11 center DeAndre Jordan in Rio.

Also in Barcelona, Karl Malone befriended Oscar De La Hoya and huddled with the boxer’s family during his first bout en route to gold. Bird went to a U.S. baseball game and met the players in the dugout, according to Sports Illustrated.

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Athletes, anti-doping leaders issues statement on RUSADA status

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More Olympic athletes and anti-doping leaders have come out in protest of the possible reinstatement of Russia’s anti-doping agency.

Members of the athletes committees from the World Anti-Doping Agency and the U.S. Olympic Committee, along with a group of international anti-doping leaders and a key supporter of a Russian whistleblower, released statements Tuesday urging WADA’s executive committee not to reinstate RUSADA when it meets later this week.

Jim Swartz, a supporter of former Moscow anti-doping lab director Grigory Rodchenkov, said “WADA has undermined its own moral and regulatory authority” by proposing a weakened version of the roadmap to bring RUSADA back into compliance.

The agency has been suspended for nearly three years in the wake of what investigators said was a state-sponsored doping scandal designed to win Olympic medals.

The WADA athletes’ group is led by Beckie Scott, who resigned her position on WADA’s compliance review committee after it recommended RUSADA’s reinstatement last week.

Italy’s focus for 2026 bid now on Milan, Cortina d’Ampezzo

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ROME (AP) — Italy’s three-pronged bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics has been reduced to a two-city candidacy featuring Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Following Turin’s exclusion, the Italian Olympic Committee is sending a delegation featuring Milan and Cortina representatives to meet with IOC leaders on Wednesday.

The move comes after government undersecretary and sports delegate Giancarlo Giorgetti told the Senate on Tuesday that the three-city proposal “is dead.”

Turin’s exclusion follows infighting between Milan Mayor Giuseppe Sala and Turin counterpart Chiara Appendino, who had been arguing over the bid’s leadership and naming rights.

Peliminary bids are due to be presented at IOC meetings in Buenos Aires next month.

“The candidacy needs to be saved, so we’re open to moving forward together,” Veneto region president Luca Zaia and Lombardy region president Attilio Fontana said in a joint statement.

“If Turin is withdrawing, which upsets us, at this point two realities remain, and they are called Veneto and Lombardy. So we are moving forward with the Lombardy-Veneto Olympics.”

Under the revised plan, hockey and speedskating — which had been slotted for venues built for the 2006 Turin Games — would be held in Milan. Alpine skiing would be held in 1956 host Cortina, while biathlon would be slated for nearby Anterselva — a regular stop on the biathlon World Cup circuit.

Three other bids remain in contention for 2026: Stockholm, Sweden; Calgary, Canada; and Erzurum, Turkey.

The Japanese city of Sapporo dropped its bid on Monday following a recent earthquake.

International Olympic Committee members will pick the host in Milan in October 2019. While IOC rules have long prevented bids from the host country of an IOC session, new rules have created more leeway.

Italy is anxious to bring a bid through the entire process after two Rome candidacies were withdrawn.

Two years ago, Italy was forced to end Rome’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics because of staunch opposition from the city’s mayor. And in 2012, then-premier Mario Monti scrapped the city’s bid for the 2020 Olympics because of financial concerns.