Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wisconsin court rules high school cheerleading is a contact sport

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- High school cheerleading is a contact sport and therefore its participants cannot be sued for accidentally causing injuries, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a case being closely watched in the cheerleading world.

The court ruled that a former high school cheerleader cannot sue a teammate who failed to stop her fall while she was practicing a stunt. The court also said the injured cheerleader cannot sue her school district.

The National Cheer Safety Foundation said the decision is the first of its kind in the nation.

At issue in the case was whether cheerleaders qualify for immunity under a Wisconsin law that prevents participants in contact sports from suing each other for unintentional injuries.

It does not spell out which sports are contact sports. The District 4 Court of Appeals ruled last year cheerleading didn't qualify because there's no contact between opposing teams.

But all seven members of the Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to overturn that decision. In the opinion, Justice Annette Ziegler said cheerleading involves "a significant amount of physical contact between the cheerleaders." As an example, she cited stunts in which cheerleaders are tossed in the air.

The lawsuit was brought by Brittany Noffke, who was a varsity cheerleader at Holmen High School in western Wisconsin. While practicing a stunt in 2004, Noffke fell backward off the shoulders of another cheerleader and suffered a serious head injury.

She sued a 16-year-old male teammate who was supposed to be her spotter but failed to catch her; the school district; and the district's insurer.

Ziegler rejected Noffke's argument that "contact sports" should mean only aggressive sports such as football and hockey. She wrote they should include any sport that that includes "physical contact between persons."

"I think it's groundbreaking, but I'm disappointed in the result," said attorney Tracy Tool, who represented Noffke.

Tool would not elaborate on Noffke's injuries or say if she has fully recovered.

The decision means cheerleaders can be sued only for acting recklessly. The court said Noffke's teammate only made a mistake or showed a lack of skill. As for the school district, Ziegler said it cannot be sued for the coach's behavior under a Wisconsin law that shields government agencies from lawsuits for the actions of employees.

Many observers had warned that families of cheerleaders would be forced to take out big insurance policies if the lower court decision stood.

Because of the increasingly difficult stunts, injuries among high school cheerleaders are a problem. Researchers at the University of North Carolina have found that two-thirds of the roughly 100 cases of "catastrophic" sports injuries among high school girls since 1982 have involved cheerleading.

More than 95,000 female students and 2,100 male students take part in high school cheerleading every year, according to the North Carolina researchers.

Most state athletic governing bodies do not regulate cheerleading. Those that do make a distinction between "competitive spirit squads" and sideline cheerleading, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. The group writes voluntary rules for cheerleading that do not have the force of law.

"There's a lot of gray area about whether it's a sport or an activity," said spokesman Bruce Howard.

Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Original here

Court rules cheerleading is contact sport

MADISON, Wis. -- High school cheerleading is a contact sport and therefore its participants cannot be sued for accidentally causing injuries, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a case being closely watched in the cheerleading world.

The court ruled that a former high school cheerleader cannot sue a teammate who failed to stop her fall while she was practicing a stunt.

The court also said the injured cheerleader cannot sue her school district.

Justice Annette Ziegler said cheerleading involves "a significant amount of physical contact between the cheerleaders."

The National Cheer Safety Foundation said the decision is the first of its kind in the nation.

At issue in the case was whether cheerleaders qualify for immunity under a Wisconsin law that prevents participants in contact sports from suing each other for unintentional injuries.

It does not spell out which sports are contact sports. The District 4 Court of Appeals ruled last year cheerleading doesn't qualify because there's no contact between opposing teams.

But all seven members of the Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to overturn that decision. In the opinion, Justice Annette Ziegler said cheerleading involves "a significant amount of physical contact between the cheerleaders." As an example, she cited stunts in which cheerleaders are tossed in the air.

The lawsuit was brought by Brittany Noffke, who was a varsity cheerleader at Holmen High School in western Wisconsin. Practicing a stunt in 2004, Noffke fell backward off the shoulders of another cheerleader and suffered a serious head injury.

She sued a 16-year-old male teammate who was supposed to be her spotter but failed to catch her. She also sued the school district and the district's insurer.

Ziegler rejected Noffke's argument that "contact sports" should mean only aggressive sports such as football and hockey. Ziegler, in the court's ruling, wrote they should include any sport that includes "physical contact between persons."

The decision means cheerleaders can be sued only for acting recklessly. The court said Noffke's teammate only made a mistake or showed a lack of skill.

As for the school district, Ziegler said it cannot be sued for the coach's behavior under a Wisconsin law that shields government agencies from lawsuits for the actions of employees.

Many observers had warned that families of cheerleaders would be forced to take out big insurance policies if the lower court decision stood.

Because of the increasingly difficult stunts, injuries among high school cheerleaders are a problem.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina have found that two-thirds of the roughly 100 cases of "catastrophic" sports injuries among high school girls since 1982 have involved cheerleading.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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Does Andy Murray have temperament to depose Roger Federer?

By Ed Smith

Andy Murray, Roger Federer - Does Andrew Murray have the temperament to depose the king, Roger Federer?
Way back when: Andy Murray has the potential to knock Roger Federer off his pedestal at the Australian Open Photo: REUTERS

A great sportsman isn't just a player – he is a presence and a brand whose reputation can easily mask a dropping off in form.

But as an opponent, it takes deep confidence to say to yourself, "Allan Donald has lost a yard", or "John McEnroe has lost a step". Cricket dressing-rooms often throw around the cliche, "Play the ball, not the man", as though it isn't Shane Warne who is bowling at you but some blond Aussie who may or may not be having a good day.

Easy to say, harder to do. It requires a healthy disdain for reputations and an all-important lack of vertigo. And vertigo – "dizziness or giddiness, a whirling sensation when the balance is disturbed" – is one of sport's great banana skins. Given that he already leading Roger Federer 5-2 in tour matches, will Andy Murray prove immune to the condition?

Federer and Murray, now fighting for the Australian Open, stand at opposite moments in their careers. Does Murray have the temperament not only to depose the old king, but also to crown himself? And is Federer, the most serene of champions, capable of scrapping his way back to the top?

A declining champion faces an uncomfortable predicament. His mastery may be waning, but the prize of his scalp endures. He might not be quite as good as he was, but that doesn't make beating him less alluring. The hunter becomes the hunted, as McEnroe put it in his declining years, and "those young guys were as keen for my blood as sharks in the water".

Federer was introduced to this alien feeling last year. But it isn't clear what Federer turns to in moments of crisis: anger isn't his style, rivalry has always seemed beneath him, and macho egotism would be grotesque to him. That is why facing defeat has not always brought out the best in Federer – he seems to regard it as a category error without an appropriate response.

But in this year's Wimbledon final, surely the greatest ever, we saw a different side of Federer. He doesn't really do angst. But on Centre Court we glimpsed a more human dimension beneath the zen exterior, as though he was being forced to access a different, unfamiliar strand of his personality to overcome this challenge. It might just have rebooted his career.

I cannot remember ever wanting someone to win a sports match more. And though Federer lost, the experience proved cathartic. He won the US Open soon after, brushing aside Murray in the final, a coda to the loss of his Wimbledon crown.

On Friday, against Marat Safin in Melbourne, Federer played superbly; masterful and elegant. But Federer might do well to keep Wimbledon defeat, not New York victory, near the top of his mind, a prompt to summon his hunger should it ever desert him in the scorching Melbourne sunshine. If your powers do wane, you can't wait until things start to go wrong. You have to summon your psychological retaliation in advance.

Nothing could be further from Murray's mind than decline. It has been a heady few months for him, in which he has been the men's tour's stand-out performer. Murray now stands on the cusp and no one knows how he will handle the jump.

One reason why sports careers are so hard to predict is that each quantum leap requires a new psychological skill. First making your mark, then upsetting a champion here or there, now becoming a consistent contender, and then finally taking up residence at the top. It is not only that more skill is required on every step of that journey; each is also a subtly different mental challenge.

One former team-mate of mine, a brilliantly talented batsmen, never recovered from the daunting reality of becoming a senior player. In his mind, he was still an emerging talent, who looked to wiser, older heads for constant soothing approval. When they retired one by one, he was faced with the unpleasant reality of having to provide reassurance from within. It proved beyond him, and he collapsed.

What works as a newcomer – I'm mixing it against Federer – may not work when you are expected not only to compete but also to win. Murray has proved he relishes a scrap, especially with the big guns. But soon, perhaps already, they will all be gunning for him. Can he embody the idea that he is destined not only to compete but also to conquer? That is what Federer did uniquely: project the aura of inevitability. You had to overcome not only his skill, but also rewrite the seemingly preordained Federer narrative – making even great opponents seem almost complicit.

If the two keep winning – and we haven't mentioned the small matter of Rafael Nadal – Federer and Murray will meet in the final. It might be 5-2 to Murray overall, but it's 1-0 to Federer in grand-slam finals. The next statistic in that sequence might prove the turning point, in different directions, for both of them.

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Crash kills Nigerian footballers


Police in Nigeria say 15 members of a local government football team have been killed in a road accident in central Plateau state.

The Nigeria Football Federation head, Mohamed Sanusi, said the team had been on their way to play a match in Abuja.

A similar incident in the same area last month killed at least nine female football players.

Correspondents say Nigeria's roads are among the most dangerous in the world, killing thousands of people every year.

Mr Sanusi said the team, FC Jimeta from north-east Adamawa state, had been heading to the capital for a professional league match when their bus was involved in an accident.

He told AFP news agency that 11 players had died at the scene while four others died in hospital. Two other injured players were said to be "on the danger list".

"It is really another very sad day for Nigerian football," said Mr Sanusi.

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Michael Phelps will not defend all eight medals at London 2012 Olympics

By Steve Wilson

Michael Phelps will not defend all eight medals in London 2012 Olympics
Taking it easy: Michael Phelps will not compete in eight events at the London 2012 Olympics as he did in Beijing last year Photo: REUTERS

Phelps became the most successful athlete at an individual games in China, beating fellow swimmer Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals set in 1972.

In one of the stand-out performances of any games, the 23-year-old set seven world records, eight American records and eight Olympic records in the process of becoming the most decorated male Olympian of all time with a total of 16 Olympic medals, including 14 golds - the others having been won in Athens in 2004.

His achievements were recognised by the United States Olympic Committee, which named Phelps its Sportsman of the Year for 2008, but the swimmer insisted he would not try and repeat his epic achievement in London or anywhere else.

“I’ll never swim eight events at a major competition again,” Phelps said.

“I’m almost positive that my last eight-event meet was Beijing.”

Phelps said easing back on his competitive schedule would allow him to enjoy the Olympics in London much more than he had at previous Games.

“I think I will have more time to take in all the experiences,” he said, “possibly being in the stands and cheering.

“You know, I haven’t had that experience since, I guess, 2001 at my first world championships. So, really being a part of the team more.

“When you’re swimming so many events, all you do is eat, sleep, swim; eat, sleep, swim; eat sleep swim. You never get to be in the stands.

“I was always warming up, warming down, going back and forth to the pool, eating at the village and then going to sleep.

“So that’s something I’m looking forward to and it’s something that should be fun.”

Phelps, who revealed he had returned to serious training on Tuesday with long-time coach Bob Bowman, was delighted with this latest award which followed being named Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year for 2008.

“I think this year as a whole, being over in Beijing and being SI Sportsman Of The Year and now being USOC Sportsman of the year, it’s all really been a dream come true and things just keep on getting better.

“I’ve just recently started getting back into the water and training a little bit with some kind of ‘official’ days with Bob and everything that has happened this year has just been something that will be with me forever.

“It is really is an honour to receive the USOC Sportsman of the year award.”

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Calif. governor proposes taxing a round of golf

A proposal by California's governor to include golf in a series of tax increases has angered duffers and, apparently, thrilled headline writers.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to add taxing a round of golf to a series of new service fees to close a nearly $42 billion budget deficit, the Associated Press reports.

Hence the string headlines: Sacramento's KXTV's "Golfers Tee'd Off Over Proposed Tax" and The Fresno Bee's "Governor Deserves A Clubbing For This One"

Schwarzenegger appears to be in deep financial rough: The AP quotes Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, as saying that such fees are so "politically difficult and controversial" that it's usually one of the last proposals that's floated.


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Matador, 11, kills six bulls in Mexico

"I'm happy to have achieved this great victory," said the boy before leaving the bloodied bull ring in Merida, southeastern Mexico.

A local judge earlier gave the go-ahead for the child to fight six calves aged from one to two years after reviewing licenses and permits submitted by Michelito's father, the former French bullfighter Michel Lagravere.

Animal rights groups and child protection officials had previously asked the state human rights commission to suspend the event.

But the boy's father defended the decision to allow the 11-year-old to fight, saying: "Michelito has fought bulls since he was six years old and he's never had a serious accident."

A video of the fight will be sent to Guinness for consideration for a world record - for the number of bulls killed and the age of the bullfighter.

Some 3,500 people, including many young children, gathered at the ring to witness the bullfight.

Several bullfights by Michelito were banned in France last summer after protests from anti-bullfighting associations.

Michelito has killed dozens of bulls in Mexico since he was six years old.

The anti-bullfighting alliance in France said it had targeted him over other younger matadors because "he fights in corridas aiming to kill."

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Chat with Stephon Marbury

Marbury has not seen eye-to-eye with the Knicks this season.
Welcome to The Show! On Tuesday, we bring a big star to SportsNation when Starbury himself, Stephon Marbury, will talk about his NBA career, current contract issues and new clothing line.

Over his career, Marbury has averaged 19.7 points and 7.8 assists per game. His career assists per game average is 12th in NBA history and he is 22nd in total career assists with 6,396.

More recently, Marbury has been in the news as a result of his contract. He hasn't played in a game this season for the New York Knicks, however, the team has yet to buy out his contract. Marbury recently said that he would like to reunite with former teammate Kevin Garnett on the Boston Celtics.

Despite not playing basketball, Marbury has teamed with rapper Bow Wow to relaunch his shoeline, along with adding a clothing line. Starbury also got with Amazon to bring consumers stylish, high quality, affordable shoes and apparel online and starting in November 2009, consumers around the world can purchase Starbury products from the comfort of their homes.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

The X Games

By Kate Pickert

A biker competing in the X-Games
A biker competing in the X-Games

It's no secret that professional sport is a commercial enterprise. Sure, there's the love of the game, but no one would ever get to see that love in action without TV commercials and endorsements and sponsorships. In some cases, of course — the World Series, say, or the Olympics — one could argue that television networks and corporate sponsors are merely covering, inflating and capitalizing on an event that was going on regardless.

But the X Games, a collection of extreme sports competitions whose winter event takes place January 22-25, did not exist until ESPN (and its hipper offshoot, ESPN2) realized in the early 1990s that there was a huge, demographically desirable slice of America that wasn't watching SportsCenter. ESPN executives, aware they were missing out on ad dollars that could be coaxed from finicky flannel-wearing Gen Xers, launched the X Games in 1995. (See TIME's Top 10 Fringe World Titles)

That first year, the event was packaged as the "Extreme Games" and included skateboarding, bungee jumping, roller blading, mountain biking, sky surfing, and even street luging. As with the Olympics, winners were awarded gold, silver and bronze medals. Not everyone took the event very seriously. One especially snarky USA Today columnist called the X Games the "Look Ma, No Hands Olympics," adding, "Apparently — and it's possible I'm misinterpreting a cultural trend here — if you strap your best friend to the hood of a '72 Ford Falcon, drive it over a cliff, juggle three babies and a chain saw on the way down and land safely while performing a handstand, they'll tape it, show it and call it a new sport."

Well, yes, actually, he did misinterpret the Games' cultural significance — namely, that they came at a moment when a good chunk of young people were getting a little bored with football and baseball, while even more were on skateboards practicing their Ollies in mall parking lots across the country. ESPN spent a reported $10 million on the 1995 X Games, drawing some 200,000 spectators to the competition held in Rhode Island. Hailed (by ESPN) as a huge success, the Games, originally planned to be biennial, were quickly rescheduled to be held every year. In 1996, marketers promoted the remonickered X Games as "sheer unadulterated athletic lunacy." (See pictures of the World Bog Snorkelling Championships.)

By 1997, the franchise had become successful enough that ESPN launched the Winter X Games, featuring skiers and snowboarders. The winter event eventually got substantially more "extreme" with the inclusion of sports like snowmobile freestyle and ice climbing — a strenuously athletic yet visually uninspiring sport that didn't prove popular enough to stay on the docket. But in one respect, USA Today wasn't far off: the X Games, both winter and summer, have become a proving ground of sorts, with organizers unafraid to experiment with burgeoning sports, some of which have stuck around and some which have fallen by the wayside after just a single season.

While the X Games have helped legitimize now mainstream sports like skateboarding and snowboarding, the annual competition also feeds an audience hunger for life-threatening daredevilry. There are no lions, but at times, it's been easy to see the parallels between those who watch "Big Air" skateboarding and motocross and the bloodthirsty crowds at the Coliseum of Ancient Rome. At the 2003 summer games, one motocross rider left the competition in a wheelchair after crashing; another rider attempting a trick called the "Sterilizer" had an accident that sent him into convulsions in front of the crowd. In 2007, a skateboarder attempting a massive jump fell five stories to a wooden ramp and ended up in the hospital with a bleeding liver, bruised lung and bad case of whiplash.

Many of the tricks and stunts at the X Games are clearly dangerous, but those that don't result in injuries can make a competitor's career. Case in point: Freestyle motocross rider Travis Pastrana's mid-air double back flip in 2006, one of the X Games historical highlights. Risky? No doubt. Totally badass? You be the judge:

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Pat Summitt Makes Tennessee a Cradle of Coaches

Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

Pat Summitt has coached for 35 seasons at Tennessee.


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — It happens to every Lady Volunteers basketball player who has gone into coaching. She’ll be railing about a lazy pass in practice. Glaring at a player who failed to box out an opponent. Lecturing how leadership is about being respected, not liked.

Then it hits her. She has grown up to be just like her coach at Tennessee, Pat Summitt.

“That happens quite often, and it’s quite scary,” said Carla McGhee, who is on the coaching staff at South Carolina. “As a player, I couldn’t see why Pat would get so upset about a lack of effort, why she would say it was disrespecting the game. Now when I see a lack of effort, something about it just grates my nerves, and before I know it, I blow my top, and then, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I’m Pat.’ ”

Mimicking her is one thing. Matching her success will be a tall order. In 35 seasons at Tennessee, Summitt’s winning percentage is .844. She has guided her current team, which starts four freshmen and has one upperclassman, to a 15-3 record and No. 10 ranking in the Associated Press poll.

The Lady Volunteers, the two-time defending N.C.A.A. champions, will play Sunday at unbeaten and sixth-ranked Auburn, intent on securing career victory No. 999 for Summitt. No coach, man or woman, is within 30 victories of her total.

“People talk about 1,000 wins,” Summitt, 56, said last week in her office. “I remind them that I’ve never scored a basket for the University of Tennessee.”

A better measure of Summitt’s success — in her eyes, anyway — is this: 45 Lady Volunteers, about a third of the players who have passed through her program, have become coaches — from youth leagues to the pros. In her coaching tree, the first ring was formed this season with the arrival of Glory Johnson, whose high school coach was Shelley Sexton-Collier, whose college coach was Summitt.

“This job is all about the relationships,” Summitt said, “so obviously that’s rewarding.”

It is also a relief. When she was handed the reins of the Tennessee program in 1974, Summitt was a 22-year-old graduate student who was training for the Olympics and teaching classes in badminton, tennis and self-defense.

“I’d never coached a day in my life,” she said. “I had no idea what was going to happen to this program.”

She reasons that she must not have messed up too badly, if so many players are following in her footsteps.

“The ones that choose to go into coaching,” Summitt said, “people usually say, ‘Well, there’s a little Pat.’ ”

The sisterhood of traveling Pats includes Nikki Caldwell, who is in her first year at the helm at U.C.L.A. after serving apprenticeships at Virginia Tech and Tennessee, and Tanya Haave, a former all-American in her second year as the coach at San Francisco.

The Lady Volunteers opened this season against Haave’s Dons. The night before the game, Summitt organized a party at her home along the Tennessee River for Haave. Though known for her stare, which is cold enough to freeze time, Summitt is, away from the court, the perfect Southern hostess.

She invited a few women who played alongside Haave in the early 1980s. Over a few beers and some wine, they reminisced past midnight. The next afternoon, Summitt traded her honey glaze for a steely gaze and served Haave a 68-39 defeat.

Equal parts nurturing and schooling, that is the recipe for Summitt’s success. In a game at Rutgers this month, the Lady Volunteers trailed by 20 points at the break. It was the biggest halftime deficit in the program’s history. Huddling with her players, Summitt berated the sophomore guard Angie Bjorklund for not taking enough shots, then growled, “You do not want to go home with me tonight having played this way.”

Message received. Behind Bjorklund’s 12 second-half points, Tennessee rallied for a 55-51 victory.

To play for Summitt is to feel her glare everywhere. She has certain nonnegotiable rules, like requiring her players to sit in the first three rows at class. When they are broken, she has a way of finding out. Even after her players leave, Summitt keeps an eye on them. When Caldwell’s Bruins lost at home to Oregon, 73-56, Summitt called afterward to offer encouragement.

Some coaches come into their athletes’ lives for a few seasons, but when the wind blows, they fall away like leaves. Caldwell said she hoped to emulate Summitt, who lodges into her players’ lives like a root, providing steady nourishment.

“Pat just has a balance,” Caldwell said. “She makes time for people. She treats her players like family. It’s really admirable.”

Suzanne Barbre Singleton, a guard on Summitt’s first four Tennessee teams, planned to be a nurse until she fell under Summitt’s spell. She switched her major to physical education and has spent several years coaching high school, college and Amateur Athletic Union basketball.

In December, after several weeks of tending to her dying father, Barbre Singleton consented to taking him off a ventilator. Ten minutes later, she was outside her father’s room, gathering her emotions, when her cellphone rang. It was Summitt, whom she had not spoken to in a while.

“I just want you to know I’m thinking about you,” said Summitt, whose team was preparing for a game later in the day. Recalling the conversation, Barbre Singleton said, “You don’t know what that meant to me.”

At the start of every season, she sends a media guide to each of her former players, along with a handwritten note. After Haave was named the coach at San Francisco, she received a letter from Summitt saying how proud she was.

The communication goes both ways. Last Tuesday, Summitt and her 83-year-old mother, Hazel, spent the morning opening piles of holiday mail, including 300 Christmas cards. It was the first opportunity Summitt, who was divorced in April, had had since Thanksgiving to sift through her correspondence.

She hears from former players regularly. Some are looking for a box-out drill to use in practice. Others seek career advice or want to know how to motivate an underachieving player. Trish Roberts, who played in the Montreal Olympics alongside Summitt before playing for her at Tennessee, said, “I could pick up the phone and talk to Pat anytime, and she’ll take the time out.”

A half-hour before the Lady Volunteers were scheduled to take the floor against Stanford in the 2008 N.C.A.A. title game in Tampa, Fla., Roberts sent Summitt a text message wishing her luck. Less than five minutes later, she received a reply.

“People say: ‘You played for Pat. Oh, my God, she looks so mean on TV,’ ” said Roberts, who guided the programs at Maine, Michigan and Stony Brook and also coached in the American Basketball League. “I always have to defend her.”

Even Lady Volunteers who did not always get along with Summitt during their playing days tend to come around. Michelle Marciniak, a guard who was an integral part of Tennessee’s 1996 national championship, said: “I have a great deal of respect for Pat. I didn’t always like her when I was playing for her.”

After stints in the A.B.L. and the W.N.B.A., Marciniak turned to coaching. When she was a South Carolina assistant two years ago, she wrote a letter to Summitt.

“The gist of it was, Thank you for all you’ve done for me,” Marciniak said. “I may not have appreciated it then, but I’m very grateful now.”

Summitt was pregnant with her son Tyler when she was recruiting Marciniak in 1990. During her official visit to Marciniak’s home in Pennsylvania, Summitt went into labor. She stayed long enough to deliver her pitch before returning to Tennessee to give birth.

Tyler, who turned 18 in September, is a senior at the Webb School of Knoxville. He takes notes on the Lady Volunteers’ games and leaves them for his mother. After a 1-point loss to Virginia in November, his observations filled two pages.

“Point guards passed to corners too much, and ball got stuck down there,” he wrote, adding: “A lot of time, posts were late on help side. When they did help, there was no one there for the weakside rebound. That gave them at least five rebounds.”

And so sprouts another branch in Summitt’s coaching tree.

“He’s already told me he wants my job,” she said. She laughed. “I told him the list is long.”

Original here

Contradictions in Book Seem to Benefit Clemens


One week before Brian McNamee and Roger Clemens testified before a House committee at a contentious public hearing last February, McNamee sat down for a deposition with committee investigators.

During questioning behind closed doors in a Capitol building office, McNamee said that as part of his job as Clemens’s trainer, he had injected him with steroids and human growth hormone. McNamee gave the deposition under oath. He was asked several times if he had ever informed Kirk Radomski, a steroids dealer, that he was injecting Clemens with drugs. In each instance, McNamee answered no, he had not.

That assertion has been contradicted by a passage in “Bases Loaded,” a new book by Radomski, in which Radomski says that McNamee indeed told him that he was injecting Clemens. That contradiction and others have raised concerns that Radomski has hurt his credibility as a government witness in the perjury investigation against Clemens, and that he might have damaged McNamee’s credibility as well.

These concerns will probably be felt in Washington, where federal prosecutors have convened a grand jury to hear evidence about whether Clemens committed perjury when he insisted to the same House committee that he never used performance-enhancing drugs. McNamee is Clemens’s chief accuser. Radomski, who has already testified before the grand jury, is less important to the prosecutors. But he was seen as having some value because he sold McNamee steroids and human growth hormone during several of the years that McNamee says he was injecting Clemens.

In light of the contradictions Radomski is creating with his book, legal experts said the government would probably think twice about using Radomski as a witness if Clemens were indicted and were to go on trial.

“In a perjury case a prosecutor’s worst nightmare is for a witness to make public statements that contradicts another witness, especially the key witness in the case,” said Mathew Rosengart, a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips in New York and a former federal prosecutor. “Perjury cases are almost always a he-said, she-said dispute, and there usually isn’t a smoking gun, so corroboration of witnesses is essential. The questions about Radomski are a good thing for Clemens’s defense.”

Daniel Richman, a professor of law at Columbia University and, like Rosengart, a former federal prosecutor, echoed Rosengart’s concerns. “Every inaccuracy or inconsistency will provide material for the defense for cross-examination,” Richman said. “And they will use it to create doubt in the jury’s mind about Radomski and — by extension — McNamee.”

In his book, Radomski writes that he was introduced on the telephone to McNamee in 1999 by the player David Segui. At the time, McNamee was the strength and conditioning coach for the Toronto Blue Jays. Sometime after they met in person about a year later, Radomski said, McNamee told him that he had injected Clemens with the steroid Winstrol in 1998.

McNamee told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that he began injecting Clemens in 1998 with steroids that Clemens had obtained on his own. To that extent, his account conforms with Radomski’s. However, according to a transcript of his deposition, he said that he never told Radomski he had done so.

“Did you ever indicate to Mr. Radomski that Roger Clemens was using steroids or H.G.H.?” McNamee was asked by a committee investigator.

“No,” McNamee said.

“Did you ever drop hints to that effect?” McNamee was asked, referring to Radomski.

“No,” McNamee said.

McNamee added: “He would ask me how I was doing. You know, obviously he knew I trained him in the off-season.”

“But you’re saying you never told him that Clemens was using these substances?” McNamee was asked.

“Yes,” McNamee said.

But on page 196 of the book, Radomski writes that “McNamee told me that in 1998 he’d begun injecting Clemens with Winstrol that Clemens had gotten for himself.”

The other key contradictions that have arisen pit Radomski against George J. Mitchell, the former senator who used Radomski as a key source of information in the December 2007 report he produced on the use of performance-enhancing drugs. In the book, Radomski implies that Mitchell fished for information from him in several instances, looking for evidence about high-profile players about whom Mitchell had suspicions.

Mitchell disputed that notion twice in the past week, denying that he talked to Radomski about anyone other than the dozens of players who had been Radomski’s drug customers. “The fact that you have a white knight like George Mitchell pointing out that something a witness said is not accurate — a witness he relied heavily on — the same week he is being appointed to be an envoy to the Middle East is something that the prosecutors will find regrettable,” Rosengart said.

A good deal of Radomski’s book, which will be released in bookstores this week, dwells on his days as a Mets bat boy and clubhouse attendant. Some anecdotes, including Radomski’s account of substituting his urine for Dwight Gooden’s in several drug tests, are designed to generate headlines. But what the book may ultimately do is create headaches.

“Clemens and his team of lawyers must be heartened,” Richman said.

Original here

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lance Armstrong's comeback forces Tour Down Under to beef up security

Lance Armstrong's comeback forces Tour Down Under to beef up security
Big draw: Lance Armstrong's Tour Down Under comeback has forced organisers to rethink their security plans Photo: AP

Seven-time Tour de France winner, Armstrong is expected to arrive in Australia over the weekend from Hawaii ahead of the Jan 18 start to the tour.

Events South Australia general manager Hitaf Rasheed would not comment about specific security arrangements but said: "What a great situation to have with Lance Armstrong coming to Australia.

"And as an organisation we will put all the (security) measures in place to make sure the event runs as smoothly as possible."

Speculation in Australia suggests the 37-year old American and his entourage will have the services of a dedicated police motorcyclist, an unmarked car and two patrol vehicles for his training rides.

An Australian newspaper said Armstrong was also expected to have a personal security guard accompany him as he leaves his city hotel each morning for the walk to the nearby tour village from where he will ride out on training runs or drive to the start line.

Armstrong confidante and official photographer Elizabeth Kreutz was quoted as saying that Armstrong was fully focused on riding success and spreading his cancer awareness message.

Kreutz said Armstrong and his entourage expected the frenzy surrounding the athlete in Adelaide to be around "10 times" the magnitude of his Tour de France appearances because it was his comeback ride.

"It is going to be crazy, it is always crazy with the fans and the media but with this being his comeback race and because everyone is so enthusiastic about Australia we think it will be great," she said.

Kreutz said Armstrong's personal team would fly into Adelaide separate from his Team Astana cycling team, which will converge from different parts of the world.

She said the size of the entourage reflected the fact Armstrong had dedicated the Tour Down Under not only to his comeback but his anti-cancer fight through the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which was formed in 1997, one year after Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Armstrong successfully battled the cancer in 1996, retired from riding in 2005, but has dedicated his comeback to his "Livestrong" cancer prevention campaign.

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Fatal Avalanches Rattle Ski Country in the West

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

A snowboarder on Whistler Mountain. A skier and a snowboarder died last week outside Whistler Blackcomb resort's boundaries.


JACKSON, Wyo. — Whistler Blackcomb resort in British Columbia has stationed guards at the top of some areas to prevent skiers and snowboarders from entering hazardous terrain. Grouse Mountain resort, in North Vancouver, has suggested that government action may be needed to deter skiers and snowboarders from using off-limit areas. And Jackson Hole in Wyoming has already burned through nearly half of this year’s budget for avalanche hazard reduction work, one month into the season.

Resorts throughout the western United States and Canada are struggling with avalanche hazards as weather patterns have created uncommonly widespread conditions of instability, wreaking havoc on mountains crowded with skiers of all levels at the start of ski season. Last week, avalanches at Whistler Blackcomb killed a snowboarder and a skier on terrain outside the resort’s boundaries. On Wednesday morning, a controlled slide ran past Jackson Hole’s $10 million Bridger Restaurant — already damaged by a recent avalanche — while the mountain was closed to the public.

“It’s a war zone,” said Lanny Johnson, a wilderness medical advisor and former patroller at Lake Tahoe’s Alpine Meadows ski resort. He added that this avalanche cycle had “the best in the field scratching their heads.”

Since Dec. 14, avalanches have caused 13 deaths in the United States and 23 total in North America — one in a roof slide and the others in skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and ice-climbing incidents, according to Dale Atkins, vice president for the avalanche rescue commission at the International Commission for Alpine Rescue.

Perhaps most troubling to resorts and safety officials is that three people died in-bounds — areas at resorts that are perceived as safe terrain. Avalanches in in-bounds areas have led to deaths of skiers at Squaw Valley in California, at Snowbird in Utah and at Jackson Hole. It is the most in-bound deaths in one season since three skiers were killed in a single avalanche at Alpine Meadows in 1976.

“One in-bound fatal avalanche in a season is unusual; three separate fatal incidents in one season is really rare,” said Bob Comey, director of the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center. “It’s been a really big problem. We’re doing what we normally do. Our techniques work really well, but they’re not ever 100 percent guaranteed.”

Early snow in the fall coupled with rain left a weak, ice-covered base on many mountains. Then heavy storms throughout the West dumped several feet of snow, which has been perilously resting on the vulnerable base.

“It is sort of like dominos covered by a board,” Mr. Atkins said. “If dominos are widely spaced and a few fall over, nothing happens; however, if enough dominos are close to each other and one falls over knocking down others, enough may fall causing the board to collapse.”

Avalanche forecasters anticipate that hazardous conditions could persist well into the season throughout the backcountry in the Rockies, the Pacific Northwest and the Tetons. The Teton County Sheriff’s Department reminded the public last week — for the first time in its 17-year history — that search and rescue may be significantly delayed or unable to respond to backcountry incidents because of heightened avalanche hazards.

“We’re off to a scary start; this December saw the most recorded avalanche fatalities for any December since the mining days,” Mr. Atkins said, adding that, historically, January, February and March were the worst months for avalanches.

The conditions are so alarming that even many expert skiers who normally attack backcountry terrain with ease are staying within the controlled areas of resorts. Sales of transceivers, used to locate people buried in an avalanche, soared at Jackson Hole’s ski shop after a recent in-bounds slide, according to J. D. Disney, a sales representative there. The beacons are typically carried by backcountry skiers, but Mr. Disney said the devices were purchased by many recreational skiers at the resort — including a woman who bought five for her family.

Grouse Mountain, which barred three skiers and one snowboarder indefinitely for using an off-limits, avalanche-prone area on its privately owned resort last week, said the provincial and federal governments may need to pass legislation in the interest of public safety.

Locals and visitors at Jackson Hole have been advised to stay out of the backcountry while the resort tries to keep the upper mountain open and safe. The resort budgeted $81,500 this season for avalanche hazard reduction tools that allow patrollers to trigger slides in a safe method, and Tim Mason, the vice president for operations, said patrollers may have already spent nearly half the year’s budget in an attempt to keep as much of the upper mountain open as possible over the holidays.

This all comes at a time when global economic issues are already putting a strain on ski resorts.

“Resorts definitely rely on big weekends,” Mr. Mason said. “Winter is our time of year. We count on those weekends, especially.”

Mr. Comey said that another storm cycle was expected to hit the Tetons soon and that the amount of snowfall would determine whether avalanche conditions were exacerbated in the backcountry. The added weight of a heavy snowfall could trigger more slides. If it stops snowing, the snowpack may have a chance to stabilize.

“What we patrollers need more than anything else is a break,” he said.

Chris McCollister, a 39-year-old ski patroller at Jackson Hole, can empathize. On Dec. 27, snow on an in-bounds slope shattered like a pane of glass under the weight of a local skier, David Nodine, and his companion, burying Mr. Nodine beneath roughly seven feet of snow. The patrol team had conducted avalanche hazard reduction work on the slope that morning, and it had already been skied. Squaw Valley and Snowbird had also conducted reduction work on their slopes before their in-bound fatalities occurred.

Two patrollers witnessed the slide and located Mr. Nodine’s beacon within two minutes. They uncovered his head within another six. Patrollers quickly recovered him from a deep, concretelike tomb, but it was too late; he had suffocated.

Two days later, Mr. McCollister was on duty when he heard an emergency call over his radio: “The building’s been hit,” and, “there’s workers buried.” He immediately took the gondola to the resort’s Bridger Restaurant, at 9,095 feet.

“I heard someone say multiple workers were down and that one person was definitely not recoverable,” Mr. McCollister said.

A massive deep slab avalanche had rushed down the Headwall slope toward the resort’s midmountain restaurant, partially pinning four patrollers on the outside patio, trapping a fifth and his search dog inside a nearby ski patrol room and knocking two more patrollers down the mountain’s face.

Seven of Mr. McCollister’s colleagues were hit by the slide. Everyone survived.

“It’s been my most stressful year so far,” said Mr. McCollister, who has been a patroller for eight years.

“I don’t have trouble sleeping. I’m so exhausted. My only problem is waking up.”

Original here

Beckham to start on Milan bench

David Beckham
Beckham has impressed coach Ancelotti since arriving at AC Milan

On-loan AC Milan midfielder David Beckham will start as a substitute for his first Serie A game at AS Roma on Sunday, coach Carlo Ancelotti has said.

The Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder, who is spending two months at Milan, has not played a competitive game since the end of the MLS season in October.

"David is ready even if he has been out for two months, but it is therefore tough to start him," said Ancelotti.

Beckham played 45 minutes for Milan in Tuesday's friendly draw with Hamburg.

The England international's stint with the Italian club ends in March, when the Major League Soccer season resumes, but it has been suggested that he may be tempted to extend his stay at Milan if his spell goes well.

However, Ancelotti played down those rumours, saying: "He is ready to give an important contribution and we at Milan are happy he will be with us, if only for two months.

"If then he wants to stay with us, it would be great but the contract he has with Milan is clear and I believe he will respect it."

Still, Ancelotti admits he has been delighted with Beckham, adding that he would offer a a glowing report on the 33-year-old if England coach Fabio Capello asked for one.

"If he wants a report I would only have positive things to say (about Beckham) because I have trained many players but it is not easy to find one with the professionalism Beckham is showing," said Ancelotti.

England face Spain in a friendly on 11 February, while third-placed Milan are returning to Serie A action after a three-week mid-season break on Sunday.

Original here

Stolen Zetterberg Classic stick may be reunited with young fan

There's an interesting second chapter being written to that story we posted on Wednesday, in which 14-year-old hockey fan Kalan Plew was given a stick by Detroit Red Wings star Henrik Zetterberg after the Winter Classic before getting snookered out of it by "a man dressed like a security guard" at Wrigley Field.

The bad news is that the human garbage that stole the kid's stick appears to have actually profited off of it. But there is good news, according to a letter forwarded to Puck Daddy and written by a guy who allegedly purchased the stick -- in a Wrigley Field bathroom, no less.

That good news being that the young fan might actually get his game-used Classic stick after all.

Puck Daddy reader Julie has a neighbor who unknowingly made himself a part of this Winter Classic stick-stealing story, which was first written about in the Chicago Tribune's trouble-shooting column this week. She forwarded us a letter to the editor her friend sent to the Chicago Tribune, which explains his role in this tale.

John Hahn of the Red Wings confirmed that the team was forwarded the letter from the paper, and are aware of the story.

(We chatted with Julie this afternoon, and she said that the writer wanted to keep his name and residence anonymous for now; the Wings said the author is from North Carolina).

The letter, warts and all, to John Yates at the Tribune:

I have a Winter Classic story that just might be very interesting to you and your readers.

I live in ******** . And I had the good fortune to go to Wrigley Field and see the Hawks. The plane tickets, hotel room and game tickets cost a fortune, but I grew up just outside Chicago and my wife just outside Detroit . I like all the major sports. My wife, Lori, loves one, hockey and her team is the Detroit Red Wings. It has been a tough pill for me to swallow for eighteen years. I had my [Chicago Blackhawks] jersey on. She had her Wings jersey on. We had the greatest day, the people were all so happy and festive the game was great. I said it, that day was worth it all. Then it happened.

I wanted to stop at the bathroom before we got back on the red line. While I was in the bathroom, I started talking to a security guard, with a blue jacket, and a white hat holding a hockey stick. I said, hey I'll buy that stick from you. (He didn't look much like a hockey fan). He said not this stick, its Henrick Zetterberg's (sic.); I'm selling it on eBay. I said, you won't sell that on eBay. It will end up in your apartment or house collecting dust. That's my wife's favorite player I'll double my offer. And The Stick was Mine.

I rushed out of the mens room, just like I had scored the Hawks first goal with that stick high over my head. My wife was wide eyed as I presented her with the souvenir of all souvenirs. We showed it to everybody inside and outside the stadium. The other fans and I flexed it and shot every piece of liter we could find (carefully of coarse, that was Henrick's game stick) I carried that stick on the train, down Michigan Ave , it's even been in the John Hancock building. I think everybody I know has heard about that stick and half of ***** has seen it. Then my friend from Detroit called tonight and sent me to your Tribune link. This must be that boys souvenir not mine.

I am so proud of Chicago! I wear some sort of Cubs, Bears, or Hawks clothing every single weekend. I love the people and fans of Chicago and I think some of my friends here are even jealous they aren't from there.

The bottom line, however is that Henrick gave that stick to Kalan not me. Maybe he would like to trade his new stick for an Official Game Used Winter Classic Stick. But if not, that's OK!

Jon, would you help me get this stick back to its rightful owner. Hey Kalan, there are bad people, but the United States is filled with far more good ones. Enjoy your stick buddy and keep loving hockey.

Julie offered a quick update on what's happened after her friend's admission. First, she said the Chicago Tribune is expected to follow up with him about this story, so one can assume we'll know his identity when that story is published.

She also thought the Red Wings were going to put the young fan in touch with the author, but the Wings told us it'll be the paper that does it, if it's anyone. The Wings, remember, already sent Kalan Plew a replacement stick from Zetterberg.

Sounds like what was a really rotten tale from the Winter Classic is going to have a very unexpected happy ending.

Original here

Video: Jarkko Ruutu bites Sabres' Peters, doesn't get penalized

Less than a day after Sweden's Joakim Andersson was accused of biting a Canadian player, Ottawa Senators pest Jarkko Ruutu appears to have acquired a taste for Andrew Peters of the Buffalo Sabres in their game this evening:

You can see Peters rip his glove out of Ruutu's mouth, before either violently shaking his right hand because of the intense pain or overselling the thing like Ric Flair going into the turnbuckles. The glorious part of this incident is that Peters ended up with the only penalty: two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct at 13:13 of the first.

Buffalo Sports Report is already making with the funny.

There will no doubt be much more said about this after the game and, one assumes, in the halls of NHL HQ in the morning. Wonder if fellow Sabre Adam Mair will have anything to say to the Senators locker room?

Thanks to Puck Daddy readers Chris and The Tick for sinking their teeth into this one.

UPDATE 11:54 p.m. EST: Via the National Post, here's Peters on the alleged bite:

"It's a pretty stupid thing to do, regardless of who you are, it's just not part of the game of hockey," said Peters, whose thumb was cut. "I've never had anyone bite me before, I didn't know that happened. The refs didn't see it. That's unfortunate. I saw a replay of it and it's pretty evident that he did bite me and I have a lot of confidence that the league will take the proper procedures and go about it the right way. I'm not going to say anything that's going to get me in any trouble. Like I said, I'm going to let the league deal with it."

And Jarkko's take on the incident? Glad you asked:

"He had his finger in my mouth, but I didn't bite him."

What's that, the hockey goon version of "I didn't inhale?"

Original here

Golfers' hearing at risk from 'sonic boom' created by new clubs, doctors claim

By Simon Johnson

Andrew Coltart - Golfers' hearing at risk from 'sonic boom' created by new clubs, doctors claim
Scottish golfer Andrew Coltart said the newer drivers did sound different, but questioned whether the noise could endanger hearing Photo: GETTY IMAGES

A report in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal claims that some players are at risk if they use a new generation of thin-faced titanium drivers that help propel the ball further.

The booming noise the metal club head makes when it strikes the ball was found by ear specialists to have reduced the hearing of a 55-year-old golfer.

Subsequent tests of six titanium clubs against six thicker-faced stainless steel models found that the former all produced greater sound levels.

Dr Malcolm Buchanan, an ear, nose and throat specialist and one of the report's authors, said: "Our results show that thin-faced titanium drivers may produce sufficient sound to induce temporary or even permanent cochlear damage in susceptible individuals.

"Wearing earplugs is a possibility, although it may prove too radical for some."

The doctors, based at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, conducted the tests after the 55-year-old attended their clinic with tinnitus and reduced hearing in his right ear.

He told them his titanium club sounded "like a gun going off" when it hit the ball and they could find no other explanation for his hearing loss.

The new breed of clubs was designed with a thinner metal face to produce a "trampoline" effect, thereby allowing the player to hit the ball longer distances.

"Caution should be exercised by golfers who play regularly with thin-faced titanium drivers to avoid damage to their hearing," the doctors' report concluded.

Golfing experts agreed the new clubs were louder, but doubted they could cause hearing loss.

Andrew Coltart, a European Tour player, said: "There is definitely a difference in sound levels between the two types of clubs but I would be amazed if they put your hearing in jeopardy."

Original here

Burton European Open Snowboard Championships: Board meeting

Shaun White snowboarding
Ice work: Shaun White, the 2006 Olympic Halfpipe gold medallist, will be competing in this year's Burton European Open Snowboard Championships in Switzerland

The Burton European Open Snowboard Championships in Laax, Switzerland, this month kicks off the 2009 winter sports calendar with a flurry and a bang. Now in its tenth year, the event attracts more than 400 snowboarders, including the very best in the world. The biggest snowfalls in over a decade have just been recorded in the Alps and conditions are perfect for riders and spectators alike.

They are drawn by the two disciplines which make up this challenging event, Slopestyle and Halfpipe. In the former, competitors must board down a hair-raising course featuring rails, ramps and kickers. As if that was not enough, they must then complete a variety of tricks that are judged by a panel of experts on technical complexity and quality of execution.

The Halfpipe is subject to the same rigorous judging system but this run is down a man-made semicircular scoop of snow with high sides. One by one, riders drop into the pipe, zip up the far side and emerge in the clear mountain air to execute a mind-boggling series of twists and turns before plummeting back down to earth. It's adrenalin fuelled, gravity defying stuff.

Jenny Jones, 28, is the UK's most accomplished female snowboarder. In 2006 she ranked second in the world and was runner up in last year's championship Slopestyle competition. This year she's hoping to grab the top spot.

"The European Open is a cracking event. Because of the quality of riders there you've got to be completely on top of your game," she says. "I've been training really hard both on and off my board."

That's just as well because Slopestyle, with its mixture of speed and airborne trickery, requires not only technical expertise but top physical fitness. Consequently, Jones has undertaken a less than conventional fitness regime for the last two months, training with Bath Rugby Club. She hasn't actually been pushing a scrimmage machine around with a pack of sweaty men, but she has been working closely with their conditioning trainer.

"It was absolutely brilliant. I was spending five days a week concentrating on my core strength and balance. I feel it's made a huge difference because the forces that rattle through your body when you land a big jump are massive. You've got to be able to absorb that energy with grace and style."

The championships feature both junior and senior events, with plenty of parties and live concerts providing light entertainment along the way, but Jones is totally focused on the women's Slopestyle finals on January 15 and the Halfpipe the following day.

Someone else who is zeroing in on the finals is 2008 men's Slopestyle winner and 2006 Olympic Halfpipe gold medallist Shaun White, who will again be competing at this year's event. At 21 years of age, this Californian youngster is one of the best-known riders in the world. He's the star of his own best-selling video game, owns a Lamborghini and lives an international jet-set lifestyle. In short, he epitomises the huge leap that snowboarding has made from cult pastime to international sport over the last twenty years.

"I love the championship because it's a really fun event and it's great catching up with my European friends," he says. "What's more, the riding is always really exciting and last year's Slopestyle course was more progressive and better to ride."

So what advice does White have to give to anybody wanting to take up snowboarding?

"Just stick with it. Your first couple of days are going to be a learning process but once you get over that first hurdle the rest is easy."

Easy to say when you are a sportsman once dubbed the 'Coolest Kid in America' by Rolling Stone magazine. But that shouldn't stop the rest of us having a go, or at least just having a look.

• The Burton European Open Snowboarding Championships run from January 9-16 in Laax in Switzerland. For more information visit Live action from the event will be broadcast on and on the Eurosport TV Channel.

Top 10 scariest snowboarding routes in the world

1 Mount Everest. Successfully descended by Frenchman Marco Siffredi in 2001. He attempted it again in 2002 and was never seen again.

2 The Spearhead Traverse, Canadian Rockies. Backcountry expedition that takes in 14 glaciers over three days.

3 The Couloir Bellevarde, Val D'Isere. Fantastic off piste fun favoured by Olympian Lesley Mckenna.

4 Mount Cook, New Zealand. In 2008 British snowboarder Johno Verity nearly perished in a huge avalanche whilst boarding this region. Not only did he live to tell the tale but he captured it on film as well.

5 The Wall, Avoriaz, France. A technically challenging course that features an array of humps, bumps and dips recommended by Jenny Jones.

6 Peak 7601, Alaska. Unspeakably steep pinnacle of snow and rock first negotiated by snowboard legend Terje Haakonsen in 2005.

7 The Valle Blanche, France. Europe's longest uninterrupted off-piste run littered with crevasses and hidden snow bridges.

8 Sache Valley to Les Brevieres in Tigne, France. Precipitous cliffs and avalanche risk make this a truly testing run.

9 The Haute Route. Classic seven day tour between Chamonix and Zermatt in the Swiss Alps.

10 North Face of the Aiguille Midi in France. Treacherously steep run in the shadow of Mont Blanc.

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Police: Tests show Barkley legally drunk

PHOENIX -- Charles Barkley is taking a leave of absence from the broadcast booth.

[+] EnlargeCharles Barkley
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty ImagesFormer NBA great Charles Barkley's blood-alcohol level tested at .149.

The announcement by Turner Sports came Friday, hours after police said the 45-year-old former NBA star was legally drunk when police arrested him Dec. 31 on suspicion of drunken driving in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Test results show Barkley had a blood-alcohol level at .149, nearly twice the legal limit of .08 in Arizona.

While waiting for results of the blood test, TNT considered suspending Barkley if the results showed his blood-alcohol content was over the legal limit, a source told

Barkley will be off the air for a minimum of several weeks and no return date has been set, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press. The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it.

"I have spoken with Charles Barkley regarding the incident. .. and I understand he has hired a lawyer to represent him regarding this matter," said David Levy, president of TNT Sports, in a statement. "When I spoke with Charles, he was apologetic for the events that transpired and it was obvious he understands the significance of the situation. This is an important time for Charles as he deals with the legal and personal issues that confront him. Charles is a valued part of the Turner Sports organization and we are concerned for his well-being."

A Gilbert officer working a regional DUI task force stopped Barkley shortly after he left a popular nightclub at about 1:30 a.m. He failed field sobriety tests but was cooperative.

Barkley was booked and released at a field command post and later issued a statement saying he was disappointed he put himself in that situation.

Barkley's attorney wasn't immediately available for comment Friday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original here

Report: Amphetamines still in play in MLB


Bringing drug testing to baseball has been a slow process, but the results are plenty speedy.

Major League Baseball's anti-doping administrator on Friday released a summary of results from 3,486 urine samples collected last season, and the report by Dr. Bryan Smith shows amphetamine use continues in the sport despite a 2006 ban.

There were eight positive tests for Adderall, a stimulant composed of amphetamine salts that is said to enhance concentration and is commonly prescribed for Attention Deficit Disorder.

Meanwhile, 106 players filed paperwork with the league claiming to have ADD, excusing themselves from punishment if a laboratory encountered signs of Adderall in their samples.

That number is a slight increase from the previous season, when 103 players filed such paperwork, known as a therapeutic use exemption, or TUE (the number had surged from 28 in 2006, the year the amphetamine ban went into effect).

Anti-doping expert Dr. Gary Wadler said he thinks baseball needs to re-examine its TUE protocol in light of the high number of TUEs.

"It seems to me as an internist, that's a disproportionate number of adults with ADD requiring stimulants — roughly 10% of the league. I've seen a lot of adults (as patients) and I can count on one hand the number of people I've seen with ADD," said Wadler, who is chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency's Prohibited List and Methods Committee. "Since so many (players) received TUEs, it's crying out for close examination of the TUE process for baseball and how it stacks up against the international standard. I don't know that there's an epidemic of ADD in baseball."

Rob Manfred, baseball's executive vice president for labor relations, said that because Major League players were younger, they "probably as a group have better access to medical care" than the general population.

"Comparing us to the general population doesn't make a lot of sense," Manfred said. "Fifty years ago, they didn't diagnose people with ADD."

Manfred added that Dr. Smith, whose official title is the Independent Program Administrator of baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, approved the TUEs only after reviewing medical records and deciding the exemptions were medically necessary.

The use of amphetamines in baseball has been common for decades, and was made notorious in Jim Bouton's 1970 tell-all "Ball Four," in which Bouton described how players had easy access to green-colored speed pills called "greenies."

There were five positives for clobenzorex, the proper name for greenies, in this most recent sampling. Only five samples were positive for muscle-building drugs, including two positives for androstenedione and one each for the steroids nandrolone, stanozolol, and testosterone.

Other TUEs were issued for hypertension (3), hypogonadism (3), post-concussion syndrome (1) and metabolic myopathy (1).

During the congressional hearing on the Mitchell Report and baseball last Jan. 15 before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) railed against Commissioner Bud Selig and union chief Don Fehr as to why the number of TUEs had skyrocketed from 28 in 2006 to 103 in 2007.

"When you see the number 28 one year go all the way to 103, it makes you think that we have a loophole here with performance-enhancing drugs," Tierney said then.

The publication of the drug-testing aggregate results was a result of a reform that Senator George Mitchell suggested in the 409-page report on drug use in baseball he delivered in December of 2007.

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California woman finds baseball card from 1869

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - Somewhere amid her collection of worn jukeboxes and slot machines, a 72-year-old California woman recently discovered an antique worth saving: a rare baseball card of the first professional team in the United States.

And if it weren't for the keen intervention of a friend, she would have sold the 1869 card of the Cincinnati Red Stockings on eBay for just $10.

"I didn't even know baseball existed that far back," said Bernice Gallego, who owns an antique shop in Fresno, a mid-sized city in the state's farming region. "I don't think that I've ever been to a baseball game."

She put a $10 price tag on it, deciding against $15 because it would have cost her an extra 20 cents. She pulled it from auction after realizing it could be worth much more when someone asked her to end the auction immediately.

The front of the card features a sepia-toned, gelatin-silver photographic print of the entire team. The reverse, a red-and-white advertisement for Peck & Snyder, a New York sports equipment manufacturer.

Experts at the Los Angeles-based PSA, the leading sports card grading and authenticating company, say the card is authentic and the team photo is relatively unscathed.

Sports card collectors prize any card featuring the Cincinnati Red Stockings, who laid the foundation for today's Major League Baseball.

It could fetch up to low six figures at auction, according to collectors interviewed by The Fresno Bee.

"They were kind of an All-Star team before that concept really existed," said Tim Wiles, who directs research at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. "They went around and challenged all comers. They barnstormed around the country and were undefeated."

Gallego and her husband still can't say for certain how they got the card, but believe it was in the contents of a storage space they bought a few years ago.

"We really don't know where we got it," Gallego said. "It's a little card I found in a bunch of stuff."

Original here

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sources: Smoltz could sign with BoSox

John Smoltz has pitched his entire major league career with the Atlanta Braves, but he is on the verge of a deal with the Boston Red Sox, according to sources.


Smoltz, 41, has pitched in 708 games for the Braves, winning 210 games and earning 154 saves. He has been rehabilitating his shoulder since having surgery last season, and there have been reports that he has made excellent progress.

Smoltz's departure from Atlanta would come in a winter in which the Braves have struggled to fill holes in their rotation; Atlanta was unable to land Jake Peavy, after extensive trade talks, and was unable to sign free agent A.J. Burnett.

Boston's proposed deal with Smoltz is for $5.5 million in base salary, and $5 million in incentives.

Assuming the Red Sox close out negotiations with Smoltz, they will go into spring training with six veteran starters -- Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jon Lester, Tim Wakefield, Brad Penny and Smoltz. Penny agreed to terms on a one-year, $5 million deal and will be in Boston Thursday for his physical examination.

But the Red Sox have come to believe in the idea of going into each season overloaded with starting pitching; their assumption is that, at some point, injuries will factor in the equation, or some members of the rotation will need rest.

The signings of Smoltz and Penny also give the Red Sox the flexibility to consider trading one of their young starting pitchers -- most notably Clay Buchholz, whose name has come up in trade talks with the Texas Rangers, for catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, as well as with other teams.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Celtics seem OK with potential Marbury addition

The Boston Celtics are aware of Stephon Marbury's reputation. They're also aware they may need more depth to win another title.

So if general manager Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers decide the banished New York Knicks guard can help them, the Celtics players sound willing to go along with it.

Even Kevin Garnett, whose promising partnership with Marbury in Minnesota was wrecked when Marbury wanted out, said he'd give the OK if Marbury "was about making this team better."

"I'm not opposed to Steph. I feel like Steph has a lot of basketball in him and his IQ is very, very high," Garnett said Sunday after the Celtics' 100-88 loss to the Knicks.

"He is one of the best point guards I've ever played with. I wouldn't be opposed to that. If Steph came to this team and made it better, I'm all for that."

The Celtics sure look like they could use some help, having lost four of their last six games following a 27-2 start.

"He's been a great talent in this league for a long time," All-Star Ray Allen said before the game. "I don't know the situation that happened with him in New York, but I know he's got a lot of basketball left in him."

It won't be played in New York, though. The Knicks haven't used Marbury this season and have ordered him to stay away while they work toward a buyout. It still hasn't been completed, because Marbury has refused to give up much or any of his nearly $21 million salary in negotiations, and there were no discussions during the holidays.

Knicks president Donnie Walsh and Marbury's representation from the NBA players' association could resume talks next week toward a divorce. If that gets completed, reported last week that the Celtics would be interested in signing him, confident they could deal with any questions about Marbury's character.

"People may think it's a bad idea, but I think that they could help you," point guard Rajon Rondo said of bringing in help. "Anybody that is a great player in this league that could help out -- we are 15 strong but this is a business and that's how it goes. I'm new in this league and I heard a little bit about his reputation, but I'm not going to judge him."

If the Celtics' potential pursuit of a malcontent like Marbury seems confusing, try listening to Rivers talk about it.

"I can't answer the question," he said when first asked about Marbury. "I can, but I'm not. Actually I don't think I can, but if I could, I wouldn't. So I'm just going to leave it alone."

The Celtics added veteran help late last season with the additions of P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell, who helped them win their 17th NBA championship. However, they were respected leaders, while Marbury has feuded with coaches and alienated teammates during his five years in New York.

Rivers said he didn't know Marbury, but a few Celtics do. Allen was traded for him on draft night in 1996, instead sending Marbury to the Timberwolves and the partnership with Garnett that he eventually wanted out of.

Rivers said he would discuss bringing in any player with his team. He would likely find support in the locker room.

"Stephon is very talented, definitely," Paul Pierce said. "I've had a chance to see him in face (to face) since I was in the 10th grade or so. It's an unfortunate situation that he's not able to be on the court right now."

Ever a Critic, Barkley Is Lacking in Credibility

Back in the day when Charles Barkley was selected to be a basketball ambassador as a member of the original Dream Team, he introduced himself on the Olympic stage by putting the force of his 250-plus pounds behind an elbow planted in the modest chest of a player for the Angolan national team.

The overmatched Angolan, Herlander Coimbra, had the audacity to contest a Barkley sortie to the rim during an American rout to launch the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona.

“You hit me, I’ll hit you, even if it doesn’t look like he’s eaten in a while,” Barkley said, oblivious to the fact that his opponent was an economics student from a war-torn third-world nation who said his favorite N.B.A. player happened to be the one, the only and the occasionally ugly Sir Charles.

Given a chance to sleep on that performance, to be a redeem teamer, Barkley said the next day that he was inclined to launch his elbow because he didn’t know if Coimbra “would pull a spear” on him.

Wouldn’t you know it? His audience of reporters had a good laugh. A social critic of slapstick and stereotype got his international baptism. But when did Barkley, an I-man in his own right, become a broadcasting shock ex-jock whose opinions are accepted as serious commentary when he is so lacking in personal credibility?

What makes Barkley — who recently attacked Auburn, his alma mater, for not hiring an African-American football coach — any more of a voice of reason on race than Don Imus?

When was Barkley anointed such an authority on professionalism that his criticism of LeBron James was aired and legitimized as if it had come from the almighty — and not a player whose career greatest hits include spitting on a fan and throwing a bar patron through a plate-glass window?

Earlier this season, Barkley accused James of being “disrespectful to the game and disrespectful to the Cavaliers” by acknowledging in interviews the possibility of a free-agent free-for-all for his services in 2010. Compared with Barkley, James has been an N.B.A. altar boy. He showed up as a teenager with more maturity and accountability than Barkley demonstrates at 45.

“He’s stupid,” James said of Barkley. Harsh, yes, but if the basketball shoe fits ...

We know Barkley is no role model. He told us that himself a long time ago, and he continues to prove it. His arrest early Wednesday morning on a misdemeanor drunken driving charge in Scottsdale, Ariz., was behaviorally true to form — a man-child acting impulsively, living dangerously and ducking the consequences by trying to speak comically.

According to a police report obtained by The Arizona Republic, Barkley showed his great respect for the female passenger in his sport utility vehicle by telling an officer he had run a stop sign because he was hurrying “around the corner” to have sex with her. After failing a field sobriety test and having his vehicle impounded, Barkley told another officer that he would “tattoo your name” on his behind if that would make the charge disappear.

As an alternative tattoo, Barkley may want to consider plastering to his bald dome one of his favorite critiques for players in his cross hairs on TNT: knucklehead.

That in itself is no crime, and certainly does not make him a rarity in sports or sports journalism. It is just time for responsible news media outlets to cast Barkley once and for all as a television clown, not as the conscience of basketball or future governor — another good one — of Alabama.

Barkley’s rationalizations of his publicized high-stakes gambling and losses have been rambling and at times ridiculous — what you would expect from a man in need of counseling much more than a microphone. His history and lifestyle should always be a sub-context when he rants about contemporary players — what you would expect if, say, Latrell Sprewell were in his seat.

Contrary to reputed industry bad guys, Barkley never comes off as threatening because he is portly and pouty and pleasant — at least on air, or apparently under arrest (he shook hands with several officers in Scottsdale before being released).

Others with his record of making off-color remarks and less-than-exemplary news would never have been made a studio star, or lasted this long. In a statement Friday, Turner Sports said: “We take these matters very seriously. Obviously there’s a legal process and we have to wait for that to play out so we won’t have any comment at this time.”

Fair enough. If Barkley is found guilty, he will probably be suspended a short time, if only as an attempt to help him grow up. But he won’t be fired, not over this, because there is always a place for a genuinely funny guy to be heard — and not taken seriously, no matter the subject.