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Eliud Kipchoge, Caterine Ibarguen win IAAF Athlete of the Year awards

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Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge and Colombian jumper Caterine Ibarguen won the IAAF Athlete of the Year awards.

Kipchoge lowered the marathon world record to 2:01:39 from 2:02:57 at the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 16, winning a modern-era record-extending ninth straight elite marathon. He also won the London Marathon on April 22.

Kipchoge earned the award over finalists U.S. sprinter Christian Coleman, Swedish pole vaulter Mondo Duplantis, French decathlete Kevin Mayer and Qatari hurdler Abderrahman Samba. He is the first male marathoner to grab the annual honor and the second Kenyan after David Rudisha in 2010.

Mayer was the only other man to break an outdoor world record this year, taking down the retired Ashton Eaton‘s decathlon mark.

Ibarguen swept the Diamond League season titles in the triple jump and the long jump, going undefeated for 2018 in the former. She is best known as a triple jumper, taking the 2013 and 2015 World titles and Rio Olympic gold.

The other female finalists were British sprinter Dina Asher-Smith, Kenyan steeplechaser Beatrice Chepkoech, Bahamian sprinter Shaunae Miller-Uibo and Belgian heptathlete Nafi Thiam. Chepkoech was the only woman to break a world record on the track this year, smashing the steeple mark by eight seconds.

The finalists did not include South African Caster Semenya, who extended an undefeated record at 800m dating to 2015 and set personal bests at 400m, 800m and 1500m this year. Semenya finished the season ranked No. 1 in the world in the 800m, No. 4 in the 400m and No. 9 in the 1500m, rare versatility.

The last Americans to earn the annual awards were Eaton in 2015 and Allyson Felix in 2012.

Duplantis and American hurdler Sydney McLaughlin won Rising Star awards.

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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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