Giro d’Italia thrown into chaos by coronavirus

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ROME — The Giro d’Italia was thrown into chaos Tuesday when two full teams, another overall contender and one more elite rider withdrew from the cycling race following a series of positive tests for the coronavirus.

The Mitchelton-Scott and Jumbo-Visma teams left the race before Stage 10.

“Clearly we’re losing key pieces of the Giro. The important thing now is to reach Milan,” race director Mauro Vegni said, referring to the scheduled finish of the event on Oct. 25.

Four Mitchelton-Scott staff members tested positive. That came after Mitchelton-Scott team leader Simon Yates withdrew before Saturday’s eighth stage after also contracting COVID-19.

Dutch contender Steven Kruijswijk of Jumbo-Visma and Australian rider Michael Matthews of Team Sunweb also tested positive amid 571 exams for all riders and staff members coinciding with Monday’s rest day.

Kruijswijk and Matthews were withdrawn from the event.

Then Jumbo-Visma announced minutes before the stage started that it was withdrawing the rest of its team, too. Still, the stage started with the 20 remaining teams and 145 remaining riders.

“We all have been in contact with (Kruijswijk) for the past days,” Jumbo-Visma sports director Addy Engels told RAI state TV. “So the risk of passing it through to someone else has been there for several days. We are not going to keep taking the risk.”

In addition, one staff member for the Ineos Grenadiers team and one staff member for AG2R-La Mondiale came back positive and were put into isolation.

Still, Vegni rejected speculation that the race might be stopped prematurely.

“It’s like in normal life, the more tests you do the easier it is to find positives. The number (of positives) is still relatively low. We’re optimistic,” Vegni said. “At this point there’s zero risk, because I don’t see elements that would require the Giro to be stopped.”

Italy has been hovering around 5,000 new coronavirus cases per day, prompting the government to consider more restrictions after making masks mandatory outdoors last week.

The Giro was already rescheduled from its usual May slot because of the coronavirus pandemic. Stage 10 was being raced in the central Abruzzo region, over a 177-kilometer (110-mile) leg from Lanciano to Tortoreto.

Vegni has suggested that the race won’t have a winner if all 21 stages are not completed.

“This morning, all of the teams with positive cases were given new, rapid tests and we’ll do that again tomorrow,” Vegni said. “We’ve performed nearly 1,500 tests and frankly it’s impossible to do more than that.”

Mitchelton-Scott general manager Brent Copeland said the team’s positives came back after a third round of tests in three days.

“As a social responsibility to our riders and staff, the peloton and the race organization we have made the clear decision to withdraw,” Copeland said. “Thankfully those impacted remain asymptomatic or with mild symptoms. … We are now focused on safely transporting them to areas where they are most comfortable to conduct a period of quarantine.”

Kruijswijk stood 11th overall, 1 minute, 24 seconds behind race leader João Almeida. He’s had three career top-10 finishes in the Giro.

“Within the team we take a lot of measures to avoid contamination. And I just feel fit. I can’t believe I got it. It is a very big disappointment to get this news,” Kruijswijk said. “It is a pity that I have to leave the Giro this way.”

Matthews was not in overall contention — he was nearly an hour behind Almeida — but he is a punchy rider and strong sprinter who was aiming for stage victories. Matthews has won a total of eight stages in the three Grand Tours — the Giro (2), Tour de France (3) and Spanish Vuelta (3).

Sunweb said Matthews “is currently asymptomatic, feels healthy and after receiving the results early this morning, he is now in quarantine.” The team added that all of its other riders and staff members returned negative tests.

Matthews had three top-five finishes in this year’s race, including a second-place result in Stage 6 behind Arnaud Démare.

“Disappointed that this is the way the Giro ends for me after a fantastic first week with the team,” Matthews wrote on Twitter. “For now, I’ll begin my isolation and monitor things closely. Hoping to make a full recovery and get back racing soon.”

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Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

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Italian skier Elena Fanchini, whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won a silver medal in downhill at the 2005 World Championships and also won two World Cup races in her career — both in downhill.

She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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