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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Former Illinois coach charged with secretly videotaping gymnast

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- A former University of Illinois gymnastics coach has been charged with secretly videotaping a gymnast in a campus locker room.

John Valdez, who coached Justin Spring at the Beijing Olympics, was charged Tuesday with one count of unauthorized videotaping, Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz said. The charge is a Class 4 felony and carries a potential sentence of one to three years in prison.

Valdez resigned from the university in October, citing personal issues.

A gymnast training on Sept. 25 with Valdez in the gym used by the men's gymnastics team noticed a handheld video camera partially hidden under a T-shirt in an open locker, Rietz said.

The 22-year-old gymnast, who is a student, reported the camera to Valdez, but later called campus police and found the incident had never been reported to them, the prosecutor said.

Police who later searched the 40-year-old Valdez's Urbana home found the camera.

"The images had been deleted, but the technicians were able to restore the deleted images," Rietz said. She didn't immediately comment on what was on the tape.

Lance Northcutt, a Chicago attorney representing Valdez, did not immediately return a call Wednesday from The Associated Press.

Valdez has no local telephone listing, and neither Rietz nor the university's athletics department knew how to reach him Wednesday.

Valdez is scheduled to appear in court in Urbana on Dec. 12.

Rietz didn't believe other recordings were made and said no other charges were planned.

Illinois sports information director Kent Brown said the locker room isn't used by the general student population, and school officials have no reason to believe cameras were placed anywhere else on campus. The university plans no changes in its security based on the charges against Valdez, Brown added.

"I think we've done everything possible to ensure the safety and security of our student athletes," he said.

Valdez also faces a drunken driving charge in Waukesha County in Wisconsin after a Sept. 18 arrest. He's pleaded not guilty.

Valdez coached at Illinois from 2000 until his resignation on Oct. 17. He accompanied Spring to the Beijing Olympics, where the U.S. men won the bronze medal.

Earlier this year, the university announced that Valdez would succeed head coach Yoshi Hayasaki when Hayasaki retired following the current season. The university has since hired a new assistant coach, two-time Olympian Ivan Ivankov from Belarus.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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Montgomery 'doped' before 2000 Olympic gold

LONDON, England (AP) -- The International Olympic Committee is ready to "take the necessary actions" after disgraced American sprinter Tim Montgomery admitted he doped before the Sydney Games, where he won a relay gold medal.

Montgomery is currently in prison after being convicted of check fraud and heroin trafficking.

Montgomery is currently in prison after being convicted of check fraud and heroin trafficking.

Montgomery said in a U.S. television interview that he took testosterone and human growth hormone before the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and doesn't deserve his gold in the 4x100 relay. Montgomery ran in the preliminaries but not the final.

"The IOC will look into the matter as part of its open file on the BALCO case and take the necessary actions," IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said in an e-mail Monday. "Back in 2004, the IOC set up a disciplinary commission with a view to how the case might have affected Olympic Games' competitions."

Moreau also said the IOC supports the U.S. Olympic Committee's call for Montgomery to voluntarily return his medal.

The International Association of Athletics Federation needs formal notification from Montgomery in writing before its anti-doping board can review the case, IAAF spokesman Nick Davies said.

Montgomery's admission was made during an interview scheduled to air Tuesday night on HBO television.

"I have a gold medal that I'm sitting on that I didn't get with my own ability," Montgomery said. "I'm not here to take away from anybody else's accomplishments, only my own. And I must say, I apologize to the other people that was on the relay team if that was to happen."

Montgomery never tested positive for drugs, but he was banned for two years and his world record in the 100 meters was erased after he was linked to the BALCO doping investigation. He retired after the ban was imposed in 2005.

How Montgomery's admission might affect his 2000 relay teammates is uncertain.

Jon Drummond, Bernard Williams, Brian Lewis, Maurice Greene and Kenneth Brokenburr were the other members of the team. Drummond, Williams, Lewis and Greene ran in the Olympic final.

The IOC had previously tried to strip the entire U.S. 4x400 relay team of its Sydney gold over a previous doping violation by team member Jerome Young.

But Young had not run in the final, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the rest of the team should not be disqualified.

However, the entire team had to give up its medals this summer after Antonio Pettigrew -- who did run in the final -- admitted doping.

The IOC also vacated the victory by the U.S. women's 4x400 relay team in Sydney and the third-place finish of the 4x100 relay squad because Marion Jones, Montgomery's former girlfriend, had doped.

Montgomery is currently in prison after being convicted of check fraud and heroin trafficking.

He did not say in the HBO interview when or how often he had taken testosterone, just that he had done so before Sydney. He also said he took HGH four times a month.

"If Tim Montgomery cheated at the games, then he should step forward and voluntarily return his medal, just as others from the 2000 team have done," Darryl Seibel, spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee, said on Sunday. "By using a banned substance, any result he achieved is tainted."

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Caller warns he buried mines at Casio World Open

TOKYO -- Police are increasing security for the Casio World Open after a caller warned that mines had been buried at the venue and small explosions shattered windows at the clubhouse and building of a corporate sponsor.

Police said they will deploy around 160 officers at the Kuroshio Country Club in Kochi, where the four-day Japan Golf Tour event will kick off Thursday. They will also guard hotels where players will stay for the tournament about 390 miles southwest of Tokyo.

The police deployment will begin on Wednesday after an anonymous caller told a local newspaper Tuesday and said he had buried mines at the tournament venue.

The man demanded the golf tournament be canceled, police said. Police checked the venue for about two hours following the call but found nothing.

The call follows small explosions last week at the clubhouse and building of a corporate sponsor in Kochi. No one was injured in the explosions, which occurred late at night. Police declined to give details on the explosions.

The Mainichi daily reported Tuesday that hand grenades were the likely cause of the blasts.

Japan Golf Tour officials could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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The 11th Annual Turkey of the Year Awards

Fleming By David Fleming

Now into our second decade of the Flem File's Turkey of the Year Awards -- honest, this is year No. 11 of the TOYs, you can look it up -- we may have finally found our very first uncontested, unanimous, no-doubt-about-it choice for Turkey of the Year.

Flem File

Let's see if you can guess this nominee:

Last week this gobbler was well on its way to snapping a 10-game losing streak, and providing some much-needed good news after Mayor-gate and the auto-industry collapse, only to surrender 35 points in 17 minutes at home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Always one to panic, this team then benched quarterback Daunte Culpepper, a guy who was "retired" two weeks ago, in favor of Drew Stanton, who promptly went 2-of-6 for 13 yards before being knocked out of the game with a concussion that caused him to blow chunks all over the team bench.

If ever there was a fitting metaphor for such a stomach-turning franchise, this was indeed it.

Now, destined to become the first perfectly awful 0-16 team in NFL history, this group will no doubt inspire an entire nation to lose its turkey on Thursday when it matches its 31st-ranked offense and 31st-ranked defense against the 10-1 Titans on Thanksgiving -- a national spotlight (one that's going to feel a little like those turkey juicers in the Sarah Palin video) that the formerly sane head coach now says he's quite looking forward to.

It pains me, as a Motown native, to write this sentence, but here it is: Ladies and gentlemen of the Flem File nation, I give you your first-ever unanimous TOY Award winner: the Detroit Lions.

Here are the rest of your nominees:

Matt Millen

Leon Halip/US Presswire

Thankfully for Lions fans, the only way Matt can get into Ford Field is with a ticket.

MATT MILLEN: When the Lions do finish 0-16, let's all promise not to forget the one man responsible for this entire, historic debacle. Too harsh? Of the 36 players Millen drafted and paid hundreds of millions of dollars to between 2001 and 2005, only three likely will be with the team next season. Darts and a blindfold would have gotten the Lions eight keepers.

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS BEER BOMBER: Toronto Argonauts running back Dominique Dorsey says he was hit by a balloon filled with beer during a September game in Hamilton. Yeah, Dominique, you just keep on telling yourself that was beer.

MIKE SINGLETARY: Thanks to his odd motivational techniques all we really know about Singletary as a potential head coach is that he prefers boxers to briefs.

TREVOR WIKRE: A big, sad, hi-four for the utterly misguided right guard for Division II Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colo., who decided to have his pinkie lopped off so he wouldn't miss the final month of the season.

RETRO TOY (1999) DION RAYFORD: Still my absolute favorite turkey during the past 11 years. The Kansas football player wedged himself, Winnie the Pooh style, into the drive-thru window of a Taco Bell after becoming enraged that workers had left a chalupa out of his order.

CLEVELAND "FAN" BRETT: This dude taunts Browns GM Phil Savage after a win over Buffalo, calls him the "worst GM in the NFL," and when Savage replies with the relatively lame and totally censored "Go root for Buffalo: f--- you" e-mail, this little fella runs right to the radio to broadcast his horrific tale of woe. I'm sorry, but when did they start letting poodles into the Dawg Pound?

ANDY REID: The coach, whose 64/36 pass-to-run play-calling ratio eliminates all the troublesome guess work for defenses, uses an assistant to inform Donovan McNabb -- the guy who has battled through every conceivable obstacle to make Philly football tolerable during the past decade -- that he's going to be benched against the Ravens.

ABILENE CHRISTIAN: The school's mission is to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world. Unless, of course, you're beating West Texas A&M 93-68 in the playoffs and you have a chance to run up the score to 100 points, in which case you put all that silly crap on hold and reportedly run a Cal-like lateral on the final play of the game.

NORV TURNER: Can we please stop with the "oh the poor star-crossed injury-plagued Chargers have lost so many darn close games this year" refrain? As a head coach, Turner is a milquetoast 16-27 in games decided by three points or less.

LENDALE WHITE: Tennessee back says he didn't really care and wasn't really paying attention during the Titans' first loss of the season. The Titans really need to stop serving tryptophan for their pregame meal.

NACOGDOCHES HIGH SCHOOL CHEERLEADERS: At a pep rally in September, cheerleaders from this Texas high school used toy guns to simulate the execution-style murder of their rivals from Center High. The school's principal defended the skit as "simple, innocent satire." Well, that, and the squad just ran out of words that rhymed with Nacogdoches.

STEVE SMITH: Look, why is this so hard? If you play for the Panthers and Smith ever walks up to you and asks if you'd like a 'Hertz donut' ... you say NO, cover your face and run as fast as you can in the other direction.

TROY WILLIAMSON: Jacksonville receiver challenged his former coach Brad Childress to a fight at midfield saying he'd even take on the 52-year-old mustachioed coach with both hands tied behind his back -- which is the same way he played wideout while in Minnesota.

RETRO TOY (2002) PETER FILANDIA: This Australian Rules footballer was suspended for 10 days for biting an opponent's testicles during a match. I've got three for this one: (1) Suddenly mom's squash casserole surprise doesn't sound so bad; (2) Trying to type funny line. Can't breath. Stomach hurts. Sweating profusely. Must move on; (3) The worst part is that the report says testicles, plural.

Joey Porter

AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

If common sense was an NFL stat, Joey wouldn't be among the league leaders.

JOEY PORTER: He's the league leader with 14.5 sacks and nothing can stop this dude: not blockers, not common sense, not conspiracy theories, not the Tuna, not even his own coach.

HORNY BILLS FANS: During the Nov. 2 game against the Jets, Buffalo law enforcement officials arrested a couple having sex in a restroom of Ralph Wilson Stadium. I'm supposed to provide a clean punch line here, but everything I came up with includes the term "wide right."

JAXSON DE VILLE: Either pregame pyrotechnics accidentally set the Jags mascot on fire or he was just trying to fit in with the rest of the team's defensive backs.

BRAYLON EDWARDS: The league leader in dropped passes the past two seasons and the absolute last guy you want handling the scalding hot gravy boat on Thanksgiving.

THINGS I'M THANKFUL FOR THIS YEAR: Miami University's domination of college hockey extending beyond the regular season. The shooting motion of Davidson College's Stephen Curry. (Oh, and the Davidson student who dresses up as a giant white lobster at home games in honor of Maine native and Wildcats guard Bryant Barr.) Randy Moss. Clinton Portis. The real grass at Heinz Field. Kris Jenkins. Piedmont High's A-11 offense. Herm Edwards. Matt Ryan. Rage Against the Machine. Drew Brees. Andre Johnson. ESPN's NFL Blog network. Cortland Finnegan. Brownies with frosting.

RETRO TOY (2006) MITCH COZAD: Cozad (pronounced: Gillooly), the backup punter at Northern Colorado, was recently convicted of second-degree assault after police accused him of stabbing the team's starting punter.

DEION SANDERS: A player done in by a toe injury, who so aggressively avoided physical contact during his own career that he occasionally didn't even bother wearing shoulder pads to practice, actually had the audacity during last season's playoffs to question the toughness of LaDainian Tomlinson.

MATTY ICE: I'm not, in any way, nominating the player, Falcons phenomenal rookie QB Matt Ryan, just his nickname. Matty Ice? My guess is it has something to do with a certain brand of beer. I guess that's OK, but it sounds more like a Slurpee flavor, a Top 40 DJ from Omaha or a dancer in a break-dancing street crew.

CHRIS COOLEY: Redskins tight end accidentally posted a picture of his junk on his blog. (And, no, I'm not talking about his pass blocking.) This led the Washington Post to run, maybe, the greatest NFL quote ever from Cooley's mom, Nancy, who said: "It's never a good day when you hear there's a picture of your son's penis on the Internet."

TATUM BELL: After getting cut by the Lions, Bell was accused of snatching the luggage of his replacement, running back Rudi Johnson. Bell says he picked up the wrong bags by accident. The cops agreed, saying no Lions running back could have carried something made of leather that far without fumbling it.

MIKE BROWN: Four months after boldly declaring that Chris Henry's conduct could no longer be tolerated, the Bengals' owner flip-flops and re-signs the uber-troubled wideout, saying fans just really needed to trust his 18-year rebuilding plan.

THE RAIDERS: I finally figured out this team's problem -- it's not Al Davis, it's his team's logo. I mean, check it out. This is what players in Oakland aspire to become: a guy wearing a patch, presumably blind in one eye, probably brain-damaged from using a leather helmet with no face mask and clearly unaware that he's been stabbed in the back twice by a pair of giant swords.

MATT LIGHT: During a fight last week, the Patriots' left tackle was seen pulling the hair of Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder. Normally, you see moves that badass only in the MLS or during the driver slap fights in NASCAR.

RETRO TOY (2005) ONTERRIO SMITH: One word: Whizzinator.

Ed Hochuli

G Fiume/Getty Images

"Hey it's almost time to renew my restraining order against the Charger fans."

ED HOCHULI: I don't know what's worse, his blown call that likely cost the Chargers a win in Denver; the NFL's asking him to stop owning up to the mistake; or the fact that officiating is so bad this might not even make the Top 10 worst calls of 2008.

DESEAN JACKSON: Rook receiver drops ball before crossing the end zone against the Cowboys. Eagles fans actually rejoiced because the fumble meant Donovan McNabb wouldn't get credit for the touchdown pass.

ST. LOUIS RAMS: Kicked a field goal while trailing the Eagles 38-0 in Week 1 and then did it again while being blown out by 40 points by the Jets. This team is a lot like the processed turkeys you buy at the supermarket: no guts.

DAVID FLEMING: Player-hating, no-good-book-writing, keyboard coward, ugly, stinking hack and a lousy roller-hockey player. There. I just saved you from having to type up your own hate e-mail, since we all know how busy things are in the office the day before Thanksgiving.

Happy turkey day everyone -- Flem

David Fleming is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and the author of the memoir "Noah's Rainbow" and "Breaker Boys: The NFL's Greatest Team and the Stolen 1925 Championship," which has been optioned as a movie. The Flem File will run each Wednesday during the NFL season.

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Around the world in 850 days - on a skateboard



FOUR-WHEELER: Rob Thomson can claim the Guinness World Record for the Longest Journey by Skateboard after travelling 12,159km.

In the spirit of true adventure, a Christchurch man has skateboarded across continents fending off wild dogs with a pole, partying with fiddle-playing rednecks and eating horse-penis salami.

Now, 28-year-old Rob Thomson has come home with a Guinness World Record and a taste for wheeled transport of the non-motorised type.

This week, Thomson returned to Christchurch after a 2½-year journey.

By the time he arrived at his parents' Halswell home he had worn out three pairs of shoes, three sets of wheels, three skateboard decks and had endured three crashes over the 12,159km expedition.

He spent $15,000 during the 850-day trip, but returned with only a $1000 debt that he planned to pay off by writing a book about his adventures.

The Canterbury University graduate was working in Japan as a co-ordinator for international relations when his contract was up for renewal.

Instead of renewing it, he decided to take a "long detour home" and cycle from Japan to England.

Somewhere near Switzerland, the man who was "definitely not a skateboarder", ditched his two-wheeler in favour of four wheels.

"I only planned to trial skating 1500km from Switzerland to England to see if it was an efficient way to travel," he said.

"I'm all about efficient transport. If it was going to be some macho thing I had to push through, I wouldn't have carried on but it was fine more physically demanding than the bike but not so much that I couldn't take it."

Thomson's plan had been to fly home from England but the call of the skateboard was louder.

So, Thomson crewed for passage on a catamaran that took him to the Caribbean. He was stranded there for six weeks until another boat could take him to the United States.

Unfortunately, Thomson's visa for the Caribbean was only valid for four weeks so he took a razor blade to his passport and doctored the date by two weeks.

In northern Florida in 2007, he spent New Year's Eve with bikers. "Think of the biggest rednecks you can imagine and it was these guys, but they were so nice.

"We spent the night around a bonfire, one of their neighbours played the fiddle and they were shooting each other with Roman Candle fireworks. It was amazing."

With so many unusual interactions, Thomson was in no hurry to end the trip.

"I wanted to be able to do this and still have enough energy to communicate and connect with the local people. It wasn't about skateboarding, it was about getting round and experiencing where I was.

"I'm just keen to promote travelling under human power. It has so many benefits; it's sustainable and good for your health."

Thomson skated through the 45deg "furnace" of north-western China to the minus 23deg winter of Turkey.

By this stage he had been in contact with the Guinness record people and was travelling with a GPS to track daily distances and collecting witness signatures. The Guinness World Record for the Longest Journey by Skateboard was claimed somewhere in New Mexico.

Halfway across the United States, Thomson realised he was not ready to quit skating. He flew to China to skate on.

Thomson proclaimed the United States and Uzbekistan as the most hospitable nations.

"They are in such contrast to each other politically and religiously, but it shows the humanity of people no matter what their background is. They both had such a spirit of generosity."

Thomson said he got along with 99.99 per cent of the people he came across.

And that 0.01%?

"They were drunk."

The strangest food he tried was horse-penis salami in Kyrgyzstan, which tasted "like the smell of a sweaty, old, dirty horse".

In China, Thomson was invited to dinner by a nomadic family who killed a sheep for him. But there was no lamb dinner at the end of the evening they sold the meat and used the sheep's innards for his meal.

Thomson was looking forward to someone breaking his record.

"It's not something that requires much skill, just a lot of time and a bit of determination."

Ironically, despite its huge population, Eastern China was home to his loneliest hours and in Kyrgyzstan, where he did not see a soul for six days, he never felt lonely at all.

Alpine passes provided Thomson with the greatest thrill.

"Your lungs are full of breath, your legs are alive, the surrounding environment is quiet and still with massive views. The air is thinner but you just feel alive."

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Clemens, charity behind golf event mutually agree to sever ties

Roger Clemens has been asked to end his involvement with a charity golf tournament he has hosted for four years as the fallout from the Mitchell report continues to haunt the seven-time Cy Young award winner, the New York Daily News reported in Wednesday's edition.

Although Clemens helped raise millions of dollars for charities associated with the event, the Giff Nielsen Day of Golf for Kids was held Nov. 11 at Houston's Shadow Hawk Golf Club without him. "Roger Clemens is no longer affiliated with the tournament," said Nielsen, a Houston broadcaster. "We decided we would go our separate ways until his off-field stuff is settled. "I approached him, and as we talked, we reached a mutual agreement that we would put our relationship on hold. He was good about it. He said `I agree with the decision." Clemens has denied using performance-enhancing drugs since he was identified in former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell's report on drug use in baseball. He filed a defamation lawsuit in January against his former trainer, Brian McNamee, who claims he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone. Federal prosecutors also are looking into whether Clemens committed perjury when he testified under oath in front of a congressional committee that he never used performance-enhancing drugs. "He is dealing with some tough issues," Nielsen said. "He is dealing with something that is very challenging. The accusations against him are serious. It just made sense to say, `Go take care of these issues and we will revisit the relationship later, when it makes sense.' He was very receptive. He was very understanding."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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The trouble with Tazawa

The Red Sox, based on some reports, are close to signing Junichi Tazawa of Japan. He’s a 22-year-old Japanese amateur player who has a chance to be pretty good depending on the scout you ask. Others think he doesn’t throw hard enough.

But whether Tazawa is any good or not isn’t the point. The point is that he is an amateur player and by signing him, the Red Sox would break a decades-old informal agreement between the Major Leagues and the Japanese leagues not to pilfer amateur players from each other’s country.

For the Japanese, this is a huge potential problem. If they can’t keep their best players in the Pacific and Central Leagues for at least a few years, the quality of their baseball will quickly diminish.

So what do you care? You’re a fan of the Yankees, not Japanese baseball. Here’s the problem: The Yankees could have five or six picks in the first 50 slots of the draft in June. What is keeping a well-financed Japanese team from sending scouts to high school or college games in the United States in May and signing top prospects? Nothing.

No, they wouldn’t get everybody. But they could make a dent in the quality of the draft. Think Scott Boras might like that option for a client who goes in the first round? That would be leverage.

Several teams scouted and are pursuing Tazawa, but the Yankees sat this one out. Brian Cashman said from the start that he would abide by the agreement, as did most teams. This is a mess for MLB, which can’t force teams like Boston to abide by rules that don’t really exist.

The solution would be to come up with an ironclad rule and perhaps that will be the legacy Tazawa leaves. But for now, there’s a hole in the system and some teams that don’t care about doing the right thing are walking through it.
As for the rest of the hot stove, it seems like everybody is waiting for CC Sabathia to make his move. Once Sabathia makes a decision, that will clarify what the Dodgers, Angels and Yankees do and the ripples go out from there. Sabathia’s decision also figures to prod A.J. Burnett into a move.

As of right now, the only known offers are from the Yankees and Brewers. Agent Greg Genske does not have any leaks in his organization, however, so nobody is quite sure where the big lefty stands. It’s a waiting game.

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Judge Wipes Away 5 Counts Against Bonds

Getty Images

Five down, eleven to go!

Home run champion Barry Bonds won a reduction of the criminal charges pending against him Monday when a federal judge in San Francisco dismissed five of the 15 counts he faced.

Bonds, 44, is due to go on trial in March in the court of U.S. District Judge Susan Illston on charges of making false statements and obstructing justice in 2003 grand jury testimony in a sports steroids probe.

The former San Francisco Giants slugger is accused of lying when he denied ever receiving anabolic steroids or human growth hormone.

In a pretrial ruling, Illston granted a request by Bonds' six defense lawyers for dismissal of five of the false statements counts on the grounds they were legally defective.

The judge found that two counts duplicated other counts, two were based on ambiguous questions or answers and one other charge contained a typo in which prosecutors left out a key word.

But the judge turned down Bonds' request for dismissal of five other counts.

The ruling still leaves Bonds facing 10 criminal counts, each of which carries a potential maximum sentence of five years in prison. In addition, prosecutors have said they plan to seek a new indictment correcting the charge in which a word was left out, which would bring the total number of counts to 11.

If Bonds is convicted, however, the actual penalty would be determined under federal sentencing guidelines and is expected to be lower than the maximum five years.

Last month, Illston sentenced two other sports figures who were convicted of lying in the steroids probe to home confinement or probation.

Bonds, now a free agent, set the Major League Baseball record for career home runs while playing for the Giants last year.

Copyright Bay City News

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