IOC Says Athletes Can Speak Freely

From News Services and Staff Reports
Sunday, August 3, 2008

BEIJING, Aug. 2 -- Olympic athletes are free to criticize China's politics during the Summer Games, which begin with Friday's Opening Ceremonies, as long as they do not participate in "propaganda exercises," International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said Saturday night.

Rogge said the Olympic Charter, the rule book that governs the Games, allows athletes full rights of expression during interviews or at venues but prohibits demonstrations of a political, religious or racial nature.

"If we allow [such demonstrations] in the Olympic Village, stadium or venues, that's the end of the harmony in the Games or the Olympic Village," Rogge said during a news conference. "The IOC is not worried, not concerned. It's convinced athletes have the decent common sense" to understand the distinction.

Hardy Drops Appeal

The lawyer for American swimmer Jessica Hardy, who withdrew from the Olympics on Friday following a positive test for a banned substance, said his client has no quibbles with the testing procedures or results, and she "sadly accepts" that she won't participate in the Beijing Games.

In a statement issued late Friday night, lawyer Howard Jacobs said Hardy dropped her appeal to compete in Beijing but stood by her claims that she never had knowingly taken the stimulant clenbuterol despite a positive test on July 4. But after reviewing the evidence against her and discussing the results both with officials from the United States Anti-Doping Agency and arbitrators who were to hear her appeal, Hardy relented.

"Based upon information obtained as recently as today, August 1, she accepts the fact that the testing was properly done and the results properly reported," Jacobs said.

Jacobs, though, said "active investigations are being conducted," and that Hardy would try to obtain new evidence that might help her reduce the two-year suspension that accompanied the positive test. Jacobs said he expected a hearing "within the next several months."

U.S. Loses Another '00 Medal

The United States lost another gold medal from the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney when the IOC voted Saturday to disqualify the U.S. men's 4x400-meter relay team because of doping admissions by one of the team members.

Antonio Pettigrew, who competed in the event's final, admitted in federal court in May during the criminal trial of track coach Trevor Graham that he took performance-enhancing drugs during the Sydney Olympics.

The medal was the fourth U.S. gold and sixth overall to be stripped. The IOC took away the three gold and two bronze medals that Marion Jones won during those Games after she admitted last fall she used steroids.

The IOC's decision means relay team members Michael Johnson, Calvin and Alvin Harrison, and Angelo Taylor also will lose their medals. Jerome Young, who competed in the preliminary round, previously was stripped of his gold because of a doping violation.

Hammon Debuts in Loss

Becky Hammon began her Russian national career with a loss.

Anete Jekabsone scored 34 points to lead Latvia to a 75-69 victory over Russia on Saturday afternoon in the opening game of the FIBA Diamond Ball tournament, an Olympic tuneup in Haining, China.

Hammon scored three points -- all from the foul line -- and missed all six of her shots from the field.

The 31-year-old point guard, who plays for the WNBA's San Antonio Silver Stars, wasn't in the 29-player pool used to select the U.S. Olympic team. So she chose another option: playing for Russia, where the South Dakota native competes for a Russian club team.

Russia's next game is Monday night against the United States. The Russians beat the Americans in the semifinals of the 2006 world championships without Hammon.

The U.S. women arrived in China on Saturday and play Latvia on Sunday.

Ma Out With Knee Injury

Ma Xiaoxu, a striker for the Chinese women's soccer team, likely will miss the Olympics with torn ligaments in her right knee. Ma, who recently had recovered from a similar injury, was expected to fill a backup role for the Chinese, who open play Wednesday against Sweden.

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