LOS ANGELES (AP):Tennis star Maria Sharapova says she failed a drug test at the Australian Open.The five-time major champion took full responsibility for her mistake when she made the announcement at a news conference yesterday in Los Angeles.”I know that with this, I face consequences,” Sharapova said. “I don’t want to end my career this way and I really hope I will be given another chance to play this game.”The 28-year-old Sharapova said she tested positive for meldonium, which she said she has been taking for 10 years for numerous health issues. Meldonium, which is thought to be widely used by Russian athletes, became a banned substance this year under the WADA code and Sharapova claimed she didn’t notice its addition to the banned list.”I take great responsibility and professionalism in my job and I made a huge mistake,” Sharapova said. “I let my fans down. I let the sport down that I’ve been playing since the age of four, that I love so deeply.”Boosts exercise capacityMeldonium, also known as mildronate, is a Latvian-manufactured drug popular for fighting heart disease in former Soviet Union countries. Meldonium treats ischemia, or lack of blood flow, but can be taken in large doses as a performance enhancer that increases exercise capacity.WADA President Craig Reedie told The Associated Press that any athlete found guilty of using meldonium would normally face a one-year suspension.The ITF’s anti-doping programme announced in a statement that Sharapova will be provisionally suspended starting this weekend while her case is examined.Sharapova said she tested positive in an in-competition test at the Australian Open, where she lost to Serena Williams in the quarter-finals on January 26. Sharapova hasn’t played since then while recovering from a forearm injury and she had already dropped out of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, which begins this week.Several athletes have tested positive for meldonium since it was banned in January, including two Ukrainian biathletes and Russian cyclist Eduard Vorganov. Earlier yesterday, Russia’s Ekaterina Bobrova, a European champion ice dancer, told local media she had tested positive for meldonium.Sharapova said she began taking meldonium for “several health issues I had back in 2006,” including a magnesium deficiency, regular influenza, “irregular” heart test results and early indications of diabetes, of which she has a family history. Sharapova and her attorney declined to say where Sharapova was put on the drug or where she gets it now, citing the ongoing process with the ITF.”I have to take full responsibility for it,” Sharapova said. “It’s my body, and I’m responsible for what I put into it.”Reedie said he was unaware of Sharapova’s case until she announced it at the news conference.”I understand the drug is sold particularly in Eastern Europe,” he told the AP in a telephone interview. “You can almost get it over the counter. For stronger versions, you might need a prescription. There has been a whole rash of these cases since the first of January when it appeared on the banned list.”
Veteran coach of Charlie Smith High, Jerome Waite, is fuming over the decision to have his team travel to Catherine Hall for today’s ISSA/FLOW Super Cup clash against St Elizabeth Technical High. The pairing was revealed at Thursday night’s draw at the Creative Production and Training Centre. “I am very concerned as it relates to the community and what they can afford. I’m very disappointed that we will have to travel so far,” Waite told The Gleaner. “These players have never travelled further than St Catherine to play games. The organisers could have done better,” Waite, who guided Charlie Smith to three Manning Cup titles in 20 years, pointed out. “Travelling that far to play a game of that magnitude is not easy, I think fatigue will set in after 60 minutes,” he added. However, president of the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), Dr Walton Small, said the travelling costs will be covered by the sponsors. “It is more a concern about the effect that the travelling will have on the team. We have covered gears including football boots and transportation,” Dr Small said. Charlie Smith will not be the only Corporate Area team travelling to the west. Kingston College and Excelsior are also scheduled to play daCosta Cup opponents in Montego Bay. A triple header is slated for the Montego Bay Sports Complex in St James. In the first game, Kingston College will face Glenmuir High at 2 p.m. This will be followed by Charlie Smith against St Elizabeth Technical at 4 p.m. and Excelsior vs St James at 6 p.m.
More support for FIFA candidate InfantinoGENEVA (AP):Gianni Infantino is having the best week of any FIFA presidential candidate for public pledges of support to succeed Sepp Blatter, and got South America on his side on Thursday.The 10-nation body known as CONMEBOL said in a statement that its executive committee agreed to give the UEFA general secretaryunanimous support in the February 26 election.On Monday, Infantino was backed by the seven federations from Central America, and Trinidad and Tobago also endorsed him on Thursday despite mistakenly referring in its video message to him as “Giovanni” Infantino.Infantino can count on a big majority of the 53 members in Europe – already giving him more than 70 of the 209 FIFA votes if public promises hold up in the polling booths in Zurich.A two-thirds majority of eligible voters is required to win in the first round, and a simple majority will clinch the presidency in subsequent rounds.English FA boss leaving over reformsLONDON (AP):The English Football Association chairman, who set the national team a target of winning the World Cup by 2022, is leaving in July.Greg Dyke announced yesterday that he will not stand for re-election this year because of friction which he expects will result from attempts to modernise the FA’s decision-making structures.”I had already decided that if no reform was possible, I was going to leave anyway this summer, a position I had shared with a number of colleagues,” Dyke said. “What I now see is that even if we get the reform through, which will be a difficult and divisive process, although essential, I am probably not the best person to pick up the pieces following the inevitable discord.”Since arriving at the FA in 2013, the former BBC director general has been trying to ensure that England has a pool of players capable of turning England into World Cup winners for the first time since 1966.Dyke has also been a leading critic of Sepp Blatter at FIFA.Sri Lanka recall FernandoCOLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP):Fast bowler Dilhara Fernando has been surprisingly recalled by Sri Lanka after more than three years out, for three Twenty20 matches against India next month, Sri Lanka Cricket said yesterday.The 36-year-old Fernando last played for Sri Lanka in July 2012.Sri Lanka Cricket says Dinesh Chandimal will lead the team as Lasith Malinga is out injured.Seniors Angelo Mathews, Nuwan Kulasekara, Rangana Herath, and seam bowler Nuwan Pradeep will also miss the series due to injuries.The series, preparation for the World Twenty20 which will also be held in India, begins on February 9 in Pune.Squad: Dinesh Chandimal (captain), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Seekuge Prasanna, Milinda Siriwardana, Dhanushka Gunathilaka, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Asela Gunaratne, Chamara Kapugedera, Dushmantha Chameera, Dilhara Fernando, Kasun Rajitha, Binura Fernando, Sachithra Senanayake and Jeffrey Vandersay.
VOLLEYBALL: Jamaica’s female beach volleyballer, Kai Wright, said their fifth place finish at the Norceca Beach Volleyball tour in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, on the weekend resulted from their passion and determination and believes she and partner, Danielle Perry, will make it to Rio this summer. Wright noted that Perry lives abroad so regular practice is not possible and tournament like these play an important role in their preparation. However, the main reason they went to the Dominica Republic was to gain experience and practice. “The main purpose was to prepare for the third round of Olympic qualifiers, get selected for the Pan Am Games, get practice, see other teams and get some experience going into the third round. “The tournament was very challenging. Every team played us competitively because we were the underdogs. Nobody expected anything from us, much less to get a big placing, so they came at us really hard. But we played real hard, worked together and achieved fifth place and it shows the passion we have for the sport,” said Wright. “My partner is from Florida so we don’t get to practice together much, but she is very passionate, she is very determined, she goes hard and plays really hard, she is very motivating, so I have a tremendous partner. Over the weekend we learnt a lot about each other playing wise and we are just working as a team,” she told The Gleaner. She thinks they are strong enough to seriously compete for a spot in the Rio Olympics when they travel to the Casova Women’s Beach Volleyball Olympic third round qualifiers in El Salvador next week. “The more we go and represent and play the more the results are coming, it means our performance is getting better every time and that is what we aim to achieve,” she surmised. “We are very prepared, we have camp where the overseas players come down and we train every day, two times for the day. Hopefully we’ll go to the third round and be ready mentally and physically and I am very confident we can reach the Olympics,” said Wright. “We have one week before we leave for the third round and we’re looking to qualify and put Jamaica on top. We want to pave the way for the younger volleyball players, so we will work hard, play hard and qualify for the Olympics,” she promised.
Schedule for Jamaicans Men’s 110m Hurdles – 2:33 p.m. Hansle Parchment Omar McLeod Women’s 100m – 2:53 p.m. Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce Simone Facey Men’s 400m – 3:35 p.m. Rusheen McDonald Women’s 200m – 4:04 p.m. Elaine Thompson Men’s 100m – 4:13 p.m. Asafa Powell Women’s 400m – 4:42 p.m. Stephenie- Ann McPherson Shericka Jackson
ANOTHER STAIN Jamaica has spent its fair share of time under the anti-doping microscope, and yesterday’s ruling can be seen as another stain on the country’s athletics legacy. However, Blake, who yesterday met with Carter along with Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) president Mike Fennell, JOA Secretary General Christopher Samuda and MVP Track Club president Bruce James is not expecting any fallouts from Carter’s disqualification and Jamaica losing its medal. “This is something that happened from 2008, so I don’t think it will have an effect on Jamaica’s reputation going forward. We have done everything that was asked of us in sorting out the issues that they claimed was at JADCO,” Blake told The Gleaner yesterday before admitting that he was not expecting the IOC’s eventual decision. “I have learnt to expect everything,” Blake began. “I did not rule out that he would be found guilty, but my personal opinion is that I am surprised that they chose that route.” Trinidad and Tobago has been promoted to gold medal winners in the 4x100m from the 2008 Games, with the silver being assigned to Japan and the bronze now going to Brazil. Blake says he is awaiting the athlete’s decision with Carter and his legal team expected to make a determination on whether or not there is sufficient basis to lodge an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sports within a stipulated 21-day deadline. “Having now seen the ruling, the athlete has the right to appeal, and we will await the decision of the athlete as to what he will be doing,” Blake noted. “The athlete will be having discussions with his legal counsel and will decide on his next move.” PROMOTED GOLD MEDALLIST President of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) Dr Warren Blake is adamant that yesterday’s decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to strip Jamaica of its 2008 Beijing Olympics 4x100m gold medal will not have any negative impact on the island’s reputation. The IOC yesterday ruled that first leg sprinter Nesta Carter, who retroactively tested positive for the banned substance methylhexaneamine at the 2008 Beijing Games, has been disqualified from the 4x100m following last year’s Disciplinary Commission hearing in Lausanne on October 16. This means that Jamaica’s team, which was completed by Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Michael Frater, was also disqualified with the JOA ordered to secure and return the medals from the athletes.
Man U set to reduce transfer activity MANCHESTER, England (AP): Manchester United are set to reduce their activity in the transfer market following several overhauls of the squad since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. United have spent about £500 million on new players under David Moyes, Louis van Gaal and current manager Jose Mourinho, although the club hasn’t finished in the top three of the Premier League in the last three seasons. United sold two midfielders Memphis Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin and didn’t buy a player in January, with Mourinho satisfied with his squad and happy to wait until after the season to make further signings. “We aren’t in a position necessarily where we have to churn a large number of players,” Ed Woodward, United’s executive vice-chairman, told investors yesterday. “We want to get to a more steady state and to be buying and potentially selling a lower number of players each year. UEFA wants 16 places NYON, Switzerland (AP): Europe will formally ask FIFA for at least 16 places in the expanded 48-team World Cup line-up, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said yesterday. “We think it’s realistic to ask for 16 slots plus another condition that each European is in a different group,” Ceferin said at a news conference after an executive committee meeting. FIFA decided last month to add 16 teams to the 2026 tournament. Two teams will advance to a 32-team knockout round from each three-nation group. “I think all 16 can qualify for the second round,” Ceferin said. FIFA plans to confirm continental entry quotas for the 2026 World Cup at meetings in Bahrain in May. Africa champs Cameroon ranked 33rd, Argentina still first ZURICH (AP) African champions Cameroon have moved up to No. 33 in the FIFA rankings, rewarded with a 29-place jump for winning the continental title over the weekend. Africa’s top-ranked team is No. 25 Egypt, who lost in the final. Previous leaders Senegal climbed two to No. 31. Argentina lead an unchanged top five following a month when no high-ranked teams played. Brazil are No. 2, followed by World Cup champions Germany, Chile and Belgium. France climbed over Colombia to reach No. 6. Mexico lead CONCACAF at No. 17, and Costa Rica fell two to No. 19. The United States dropped one to No. 29. Jamaica are ranked at No. 77.
Former Reggae Boy, Walter ‘Blacker’ Boyd, rolled back the years at the National Stadium last Friday night with a vintage display for the Jamaica All-Stars team, as they clipped a the Brazil All-Stars XI 2-1 at the ‘Share The Love’ exhibition match.The game was a lacklustre affair before Boyd entered the field of play just past the hour mark.It took a while for him to find his feet, but the moment he got going, the game came to life. In the 76th minute, he collected a pass on the right and burst past his marker towards the 18-yard box. He then turned another two defenders inside out before being fouled just outside the box. With the game tied at 1-1, Ricardo ‘Bibi’ Gardner found the net with a quickly taken free kick. Gregory Simmonds had earlier given the Jamaica All-Stars a 1-0 lead from the penalty spot in the first half, before Correa Motta de Freitas equalised for the Brazilians.After the go-ahead goal, Boyd had the crowd on its feet just like the good old days when spectators crammed into ‘The Office’ to see the mercurial forward.After the match, fans flocked the former Reggae Boy for photos and he was really appreciative of the reception and proud he could return the favour by providing the fans with entertainment.UNDYING LOVE”Sometimes you think that those (glory) days are over and gone and no one might remember, but when I heard the crowd (on entering the field), it brought me to an understanding like it is never going to end. It’s just an undying love and I really appreciate it, and I tried to give it back through the game and I just hope everyone enjoyed it as much as I did,” he said afterwards.Brazil’s Rivaldo, the 1999 World Player of the Year, also provided a touch of class throughout the game, but never really exerted himself.
Over the years, Camperdown High has had fair results at the ISSA GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Championships, and the east Kingston-based school has produced some outstanding sprinters, including the likes of Sandra Kidd, Revoli Campbell, Andria Lloyd, and the twin sister duo of Marlene and Maxine Dawkins in the 1990’s.The team used to finish in the top five on a regular basis, but of late, it has been tough going for them. Last year, they were just out of the top 10 as they finished 11th overall. Head coach for the past three seasons Leacroft Bolt is taking aim at the top 10 this week for his team at the Championship. One of the few coaches now in the system to win a Girl’s Champs title when he did so in back-to-back years for Manchester High in 1994-95, Bolt is confident of his team doing well.”After missing out on the top 10 last year, we are aiming to be in it this time around, and we are very confident that it will happen. Preparations have gone well, and we are just waiting on the girls to deliver over the five days,” said Bolt.”I am not entirely pleased with the build-up as things could have been better, but I just have to work with what I have and the things I have to use in this aspect,” he continued.DIFFICULT CHALLENGEBolt believes that it will be difficult to come out on top as Corporate Area Champions. “This will be kind of difficult because Excelsior is a strong team, which I think can finish in the top six, but we did well at the Anthrick Corporate Area Development Meet, where we finished second, and I think we can finish somewhere between eighth and ninth,” he said.Despite his team not being big on numbers, he believes that it will still give good all-round performances. “Our team is a small one, but we do have people who can score in jumps, sprints, middle distances, and in relays as people like Njeri Roberts in Class 3 sprint, and Monifa Heslop in the Class 2 long jump can make some noise,” he said.In closing, Bolt left a message for his supporters: “We are going to try our best and hope we can keep the Camperdown flag flying high, and definitely, we will be in the top 10,” he concluded.
SILENCE left punters dumbstruck in yesterday’s closing event at Caymanas Park, the 1820-metre Simply Magic Cup, winning under a hand ride at odds of 25-1. Though he had finished third a week-and-a-half ago after twice bumping into the rail, SILENCE was kicked out of the betting with three-kilo claiming apprentice Anthony Thomas, ignored by punters, who made TWILIGHT DREAMS the even-money favourite. However, the chestnut gelding won as though he was the fancied horse, stalking rivals from sixth position down the backstretch before pouncing on MALACHI, WONG DON and EL MAESTRO coming off the home turn. Pushed out by Thomas, SILENCE quickly opened up daylight on the early leaders and sprinted well clear from a furlong-and-half out, coming home a lonely winner at the wire. EL MAESTRO stayed on for second ahead of LADY FAYE whereas WONG DON finished fourth. TWILIGHT DREAMS, who prompted the pace as a quartet with MALACHI, EL MAESTRO, and WONG DON, started showing signs of distress from three furlongs out and failed to stay the distance after his encouraging run in the recent 2000 Guineas. HONOURS SHARED Jockeys Shane Ellis and Robert Halledeen shared riding honours with two winners a piece on the nine-race midweek card. Ellis opened the programme with LEEKOUT and returned to land the fifth with LUCKY STROKE. Halledeen piloted BALLON D’OR to an easy win in the third but had to repel a stretch challenge aboard SUPERLUMINAL to hold Ellis at bay astride WILL IN CHARGE in the eighth event. Racing continues on Saturday with the feature event being the 10-furlong Jamaica Oaks, which has been stripped of its star horse, SHE’S A MANEATER, who injured herself at exercise Sunday morning.