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Fallout from Larry Nassar scandal continues with latest resignation

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Michigan State University’s governing body on Thursday accepted interim president John Engler’s resignation , but said it would be effective immediately rather than next week. It’s the latest development stemming from the sexual assault investigation of now-imprisoned gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

Engler took over at the school on a temporary basis after the previous president quit in the wake of fallout from the scandal. The board appointed Satish Udpa as the new interim president. He currently serves as the school’s executive vice president for administration.

Numerous people have been charged, fired or forced out of their jobs during the investigations into the once-renowned sports doctor. He was sentenced to decades in prison after hundreds of girls and women said he sexually molested them under the guise that it was medical treatment, including while he worked for Michigan State and Indiana-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

Here’s a look at some of the individuals and organizations that have been affected:

MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY

— Lou Anna Simon: The university president and school alumna resigned last January amid growing pressure. She denied any cover-up by the university. The governing board later hired Engler. Heresigned amid fallout from remarks he made about some victims of Nassar.

The school has settled lawsuits totaling $500 million. Simon is charged with two felony and two misdemeanor counts of lying to a police officer in connection with the investigation.

— Mark Hollis: The athletic director called his departure last year a retirement, but he, too, faced pressure to leave.

— Kathie Klages: The former head gymnastics coach resigned in 2017 after she was suspended for defending Nassar over the years. Klages was charged with lying to investigators. If convicted, she could face up to four years in prison. She has denied allegations that former gymnast Larissa Boyce told her that Nassar had abused her in 1997, when Boyce was 16.

— Brooke Lemmen: The former school doctor resigned in 2017 after learning the university was considering firing her because she didn’t disclose that USA Gymnastics was investigating Nassar. A state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs investigation cleared her of any violations in November.

— William Strampel: The former dean of the university’s College of Osteopathic Medicine is awaiting trial after being charged in March amid allegations that he failed to keep Nassar in line, groped female students and stored nude student selfies on his campus computer. Strampel, who has also been named in lawsuits, retired June 30, even as Michigan State was trying to fire him.

— Bob Noto: The university in February announced the departure of its longtime vice president for legal affairs. The school called it a retirement. Noto had been Michigan State’s general counsel since 1995.

USA GYMNASTICS

— Rhonda Faehn: The former senior vice president of the organization was dismissed this month by the University of Michigan after working for just a few days as a coaching consultant for its women’s team. She was fired after an outcry over her hiring. USA Gymnastics parted ways with Faehn as senior vice president in May after she was criticized by Nassar’s victims for not contacting authorities about potential abuse concerns.

— Valeri Liukin: The coordinator of the women’s national team for USA Gymnastics announced in early February that he was stepping down, less than 18 months after taking over for Martha Karolyi. Liukin said that while he wanted to help turn around the program, “the present climate causes me, and more importantly my family, far too much stress, difficulty and uncertainty.”

— USA Gymnastics said last January that its entire board of directors would resign, as requested by the U.S. Olympic Committee. The USOC last month took steps to decertify the gymnastics organization that picks U.S. national teams, and USA Gymnastics filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition last week as it attempts to reach settlements in the dozens of sex-abuse lawsuits it faces and to forestall its potential demise at the hands of the USOC.

— Steve Penny: The former president and CEO of the organization resigned under pressure in March 2017. He was replaced by Kerry Perry, who took over in December 2017. Penny pleaded not guilty in October to a third-degree felony alleging he ordered the removal of documents relating to Nassar from the Karolyi Ranch in Texas.

— Less than a year after being hired as USA Gymnastics’ president and CEO, Perry resigned in September after the USOC questioned her ability to lead the scandal-rocked organization.

— Former California U.S. Rep. Mary Bono was hired in October as the interim president for USA Gymnastics only to resign four day later. Bono said she felt her affiliation with the embattled organization would be a “liability” after a social media post by Bono criticizing Nike and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick drew widespread scrutiny within the gymnastics community. Six-time Olympic medalist Aly Raisman also questioned Bono’s association with a law firm that advised the organization on how to handle portions of the Nassar scandal.

— Ron Galimore: The longtime USA Gymnastics chief operating officer resigned in November but denied any wrongdoing in the Nassar scandal. The Indianapolis Star reported in May that an attorney hired by USA Gymnastics directed Galimore to come up with a false excuse to explain Nassar’s absence at major gymnastic events in the summer of 2015. The organization was looking into complaints against Nassar at the time.

TWISTARS GYMNASTICS CLUB

— John Geddert: The owner of the Michigan club was suspended last January by USA Gymnastics and announced his retirement. He was the U.S. women’s coach at the 2012 Olympics. Geddert has said he had “zero knowledge” of Nassar’s crimes.

KAROLYI RANCH

— USA Gymnastics said last January that the Texas ranch where a number of gymnasts said Nassar abused them would no longer serve as the national training center. Owners Martha and Bela Karolyi have since sued the USOC and USA Gymnastics, seeking damages for a canceled sale of the property. They also have been named in lawsuits.

— Debra Van Horn: Texas prosecutors in June filed sexual assault charges against Nassar and Van Horn, a trainer who worked at his side at the Karolyi Ranch and also worked at USA Gymnastics for 30 years. She was charged with second-degree sexual assault of a child. The local prosecutor said Van Horn was charged with “acting as a party” with Nassar.

U.S. OLYMPIC COMMITTEE

— Scott Blackmun: The CEO resigned in February, citing difficulties with prostate cancer and the federation’s need to move forward to deal with the sexual abuse scandal. There had been calls for his departure.

— Alan Ashley: The USOC fired the chief of sport performance last month in the wake of an independent report that said neither he nor Blackmun elevated concerns about the Nassar allegations when they were first reported to them.

 

Rafael Nadal can tie Roger Federer’s Slam record with 13th French Open

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For all of the many qualities contributing to Rafael Nadal’s unprecedented superiority at the French Open — the bullwhip of a high-bouncing lefty forehand, the reflex returns, the cover-every-corner athleticism, the endless energy and grit — there’s one element that stands above all the rest.

According to the opponent Nadal beat in the last two finals in Paris, anyway.

“You go into the match knowing that even your best tennis, even if you play it over three, four hours, might not be enough. I mean, if you do it, you maybe have a little chance, but you have to go to your limit on every single rally, every single point,” Dominic Thiem, who won the U.S. Open less than two weeks ago, told The Associated Press.

“That makes it not easy to go into the match,” Thiem said. “And that’s the mental part, I guess.”

When main-draw competition begins Sunday at Roland Garros, Thiem and every other player in the men’s bracket will be pursuing Nadal as the 34-year-old from Spain pursues history.

If Nadal manages to claim a 13th French Open championship — extending his own record for the most singles trophies won by anyone at any major tennis tournament — he would, more significantly, also collect his 20th Grand Slam title overall, tying Roger Federer’s record for a man.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Nadal’s tally elsewhere: four U.S. Opens, two Wimbledons, one Australian Open.

He spoke Friday in Paris about what “probably are the most difficult conditions for me ever in Roland Garros” — a lack of matches in 2020; a new brand of tennis balls (“super slow, heavy”); cooler weather and plenty of rain in the forecast.

“But you know what?” Nadal said. “I am here to fight and to play with the highest intensity possible.”

Asked recently about the possibility of catching the 39-year-old Federer, out for the rest of the season after a pair of operations on his right knee, Nadal expressed a sentiment he’s uttered before.

Climbing the Grand Slam list, Nadal said, is “not an obsession at all.”

“I know that you put a lot of attention on all of this,” he replied when the topic was raised last week at the Italian Open, Nadal’s first tournament since February because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Of course I would love to finish my career with 25, but (that’s) something that probably will not happen. I’m going to keep fighting to produce chances, and then when I finish my career, let’s see, no?” he said. “I just want to keep enjoying tennis. And that’s it. If I am playing well, I know I normally have my chances. If not, going to be impossible. That’s it.”

There is, of course, another great of the game playing during this era and, like Nadal, gaining on Federer.

That would be No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic, who had won five of seven major titles to raise his total to 17 before being disqualified at the U.S. Open for accidentally hitting a line judge with a ball while walking to a changeover.

In this oddest of years, the Grand Slam season will drawing to a close in France; the clay-court major was postponed from May until now because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Roland Garros is the last Slam, the last opportunity of this season. So we all know who the main favorite is there: Obviously, it’s Nadal. And everything that he has achieved there, losing maybe a couple matches in his entire career on that court … is probably the most impressive record that anybody has on any court,” Djokovic said. “So, yeah, of course you would put him right there in front as a favorite to win it.”

For the record: Nadal has won 93 of 95 matches in the French Open and his last 21 in a row.

So what makes him so dominant there?

“He’s an unbelievably great tennis player. Probably on clay, a little bit better than on the other surfaces,” Thiem said. “He’s left-handed, which makes it very uncomfortable. And then his forehand, the topspin on the clay, it’s cruel to play.”

Thiem takes notes and hopes to emulate aspects of Nadal’s game.

So do others.

In Rome, for example, two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep and one of her coaches, Artemon Apostu-Efremov, caught one of Nadal’s training sessions.

“We were watching the way he hits the ball, the acceleration, the energy he has on the court and the way he practices 100%. It’s always an inspiration,” Apostu-Efremov said.

“This dedication on the court and focus on court,” he said, “it’s something that, for sure, could be transferred to Simona.”

Nadal wound up losing his third match in Italy, which is neither ideal form nor the sort of prep work he is accustomed to ahead of Roland Garros.

Still, Nadal at the French Open is unlike anyone else, anywhere else.

“Regardless of how he feels, I’m sure he’ll find a way,” said Stefanos Tsitsipas, a 2019 Australian Open semifinalist seeded No. 5 in Paris. “He always finds a way, every single year. Clay is his surface. I’m sure he’s going to do well.”

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Skate America will not have fans

Skate America
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Skate America, the top annual international figure skating competition held in the U.S., will not have spectators in Las Vegas from Oct. 23-25.

U.S. Figure Skating said the restriction was “due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and in strict accordance with the Nevada Gaming Control Board guidelines.”

Skate America is the first top-level event of the season, kicking off the six-stop Grand Prix Series leading up to December’s Grand Prix Final, which is scheduled this season for Beijing.

The series has already been modified to restrict fields to skaters from the host country or to the event closest to their training location.

Grand Prix fields have not been announced, though two-time world champion Nathan Chen said last month he hoped to go for a fourth straight Skate America title.

Chen trains in California. Most, if not all, top U.S. skaters train in the U.S. or Canada, which means they will compete in Skate America or Skate Canada if they participate in the Grand Prix Series at all.

Two-time U.S. women’s champion Alysa Liu will not be old enough to compete on the Grand Prix until the 2021-22 Olympic season.

Skaters are limited to one Grand Prix start this season. In past seasons, they’ve typically competed twice.

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