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Senator suggests possible end of USOC’s tax-exempt status

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A senator floated the idea of revoking the U.S. Olympic Committee’s tax-exempt status if it fails to effectively combat the sex-abuse problem in Olympic sports.

At a hearing Wednesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, said the USOC’s tax-exempt status and antitrust exemption could be at risk when Congress revisits the law that governs the federation.

Blumenthal also suggested the position of athlete advocate and inspector general be added to the USOC. The federation has an athletes’ ombudsman position and recently revealed plans to give athletes more-accessible avenues to report abuse and other wrongdoing.

Leaders of four Olympic sports federations — figure skating, bobsled, weightlifting and swimming — appeared in front of a Senate subcommittee in the latest in a series of hearings to discuss their response to the sex-abuse crisis.

Blumenthal suggested Congress would make revisions in the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act to “make sure the USOC is held to a higher standard of accountability.”

The USOC does not receive government funding and is a nonprofit, which makes it exempt from taxes. Judges also have ruled that the Ted Stevens Act has given the USOC antitrust immunity. Revoking the USOC’s tax-exempt status could potentially take a huge chunk out of an operation that brought in $336 million during the last Olympic year (2016) and uses much of that to provide assistance to athletes, either directly or through sports federations that train them.

As part of her first address to the U.S. Olympic family, new USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland said last month that athletes needed to be better represented in the decision-making process in Olympic sports.

Blumenthal grasped on that idea and asked the sports leaders if they’d be willing to increase athlete representation on boards and committees to 50 percent or more; the general standard is about 20 percent. But he was met with resistance.

“It comes down to the competence of the board,” said USA Bobsled and Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele. “A competing athlete is looking at four-year increments, and it’s difficult to think about long-term strategy when you’re actually in midst of the competition.”

US Figure Skating president Anne Cammett agreed.

“Part of what you have to look at is the learning and life experiences that come with developing from a young person to an adult,” she said. “I think you need a good balance of life experience and knowledge.”

Cammett piggybacked on Blumenthal’s calls for change, saying the U.S. Center for SafeSport, established to investigate abuse cases in Olympic sports, needs more funding and would also benefit from subpoena power to conduct its investigations.

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MORE: USOC chairman steps down in latest organization change

2020 French Open women’s singles draw, results

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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.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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2020 French Open men’s singles draw, results

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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.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

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