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Wayde van Niekerk has setback in return from injury

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Wayde van Niekerk, the Olympic and world champion and world-record holder at 400m, suffered a knee bone bruise that sets back his international return from 2017 knee surgery five or six weeks.

Van Niekerk, who has raced once since the summer of 2017, is still hopeful of defending his world title in about three months in Doha.

“It’s very disappointing as I probably pushed myself too hard, but I’m now working towards the goal patiently,” he said in a press release. “I will review my competition schedule with my team, and together with my coach we will decide where and when to race.”

Van Niekerk was scheduled to return this summer, namely at a Diamond League meet in London in three weeks. A representative for van Niekerk said that he withdrew from the meet. Van Niekerk’s account also tweeted that he “won’t be participating in the upcoming Diamond League events.” The Diamond League regular season runs through Aug. 24.

Van Niekerk has a bye into worlds as a defending champion. Two months after the 2017 Worlds, he tore a meniscus and an ACL in a celebrity tag rugby match. Van Niekerk made a low-key return at a meet in South Africa on Feb. 28, clocking 47.28 seconds. His world record from the Rio Olympics is 43.03.

During his absence, American Michael Norman emerged as the world’s top 400m runner (also in the absence of 2008 Olympic champ LaShawn Merritt and 2012 gold medalist Kirani James). Norman, 21, ran the sixth-fastest lap in history on April 20, a 43.45 that was also the fastest 400m ever run before the month of June.

Van Niekerk’s best time since Rio was 43.62. He has never raced Norman head to head.

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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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