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Australia is first Olympic men’s basketball qualifier, without its star

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Australia will extend the longest active streak of Olympic men’s basketball appearances next summer.

The Australians clinched a spot in their 13th straight Olympics when New Zealand failed to advance out of its group at the FIBA World Cup. Oceania gets one Olympic qualifier out of the World Cup, and Australia took the spot by advancing to the second stage of group play.

Australia is the most accomplished basketball nation yet to earn an Olympic men’s medal. It finished fourth in 1988, 1996, 2000 and 2016, going winless in eight games with a medal at stake.

Australia’s medal hopes in Tokyo may be dependent on Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons.

Simmons passed on the Rio Olympics in favor of preparing for the 2016 NBA Draft, where he was the No. 1 overall pick, and the start of his pro career. He originally committed to the World Cup but withdrew on July 16 in favor of again preparing for the NBA season. But in withdrawing he said he would be “honored and humbled” to play at the Olympics.

Players on the World Cup roster with NBA experience include 2005 No. 1 overall pick Andrew Bogut and fellow Olympic veterans Patty Mills, Joe Ingles and Matthew Dellavedova.

Japan is in the 12-team Olympic field automatically as host nation. Six more nations will qualify for the Olympics at this month’s World Cup — two from the Americas, two from Europe, one from Africa and one from Asia.

The final four Olympic qualifiers will come from last-chance tournaments in 2020.

MORE: FIBA World Cup schedule, results

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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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