Cuban President Fidel Castro has thrown his weight behind his nation's ambitious bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, saying it was merited both because of the island's athletic record and as a right for developing nations.

"I don't think anyone in the world can rebut our right and our arguments," Castro said in a meeting with athletes Friday that was reported yesterday.

If Cuba failed to win the 2008 Olympics, it would try again in 2012, and, if unsuccessful then, would be sure to land the games for 2016 "at the latest," he added.

Castro said rich and developed nations have unfairly dominated hosting the Olympics throughout its history.

"We are not demanding this for Cuba. We are demanding this for all the Caribbean islands, and all the Third World nations who have never been given the right to host the Games," he said.

In the 23 Olympics since Athens in 1896, the only Third World nation to host the Games has been Mexico in 1968.

Golf

Steinhauer Leads

Defending champion Sherri Steinhauer rolled in a five-foot putt at the 18th hole for her sixth birdie and took the lead at the Women's British Open in Woburn, England. She has a one-stroke lead over Cindy McCurdy and Fiona Pike. . . .

John Bland shot a 5-under-par 67 and Christy O'Connor had a 68 as the two tied for the lead at 7-under 137 heading into the final round of the $1 million Senior PGA Tour's Foremost Insurance Championship at the Egypt Valley Country Club course in Ada, Mich . . .

Padraig Harrington and Costantino Rocca, needing a victory to have any chance to make Europe's Ryder Cup team, shared the lead after the third round of the West of Ireland Classic in Galway, Ireland.

Rocca and Ireland's Harrington each shot 4-under 68s for 10-under totals of 206, one ahead of England's Gary Evans, who shot a 71.

Rocca is 24th in the current points standings and has been hindered all season by an injured finger. Harrington is 16th in the points standings.

The top 10 in the standings after next weekend's BMW International in Munich automatically qualify. Mark James will then add two captain's choices . . .

Dorothy Delasin won the 99th U.S. Women's Amateur in wire-to-wire fashion, shooting 5 under par in her opening nine holes to cruise to a 4-and-3 victory over Jimin Kang in Asheville, N.C.

College Football

Jones Ailing

Maryland starting quarterback Randall Jones has been hampered by a sore arm during the first few days of preseason workouts, Coach Ron Vanderlinden said. Jones has not thrown for two days, will not throw today and will be re-evaluated Monday. But Vanderlinden said he is not too concerned, as Jones had a similar problem during last year's two-a-day practices.

Starting right guards Jamie Wu and Bob Krantz also are injured. Wu has three bulging disks in his back, limiting him to one practice per day. Krantz has a twisted ankle that will sideline him indefinitely.

Second-team center Sam Marvis (subluxated shoulder) is out indefinitely, and second-team defensive back Tony Oklanlawon (pulled hamstring) will be out for a week.

College Basketball

Eagles Fall Overseas

The American University men's basketball team opened its 12-day, five-game tour of Europe with a 76-60 loss to B.C. Lugano of Switzerland. Sophomore forward Patrick Doctor led the Eagles with 20 points. American will play Italian club Padova tonight.