Review Category : National Sports

Experts Skeptical of Brazil Group’s ISIS Pledge Before Olympics

iStock/Thinkstock(RIO DE JANEIRO) — Experts are questioning a recent pledge of allegiance to ISIS by a purported group of extremists in Brazil in what may be an attempt to rattle the international community before the Rio Olympics.

A group calling itself Ansar al-Khilafah Brazil on Sunday pledged its loyalty to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on the messaging app Telegram and promised to “wage jihad against the enemy of Allah.” The group also posted ISIS propaganda translated into Portuguese.

But J.M. Berger, a terrorism expert who closely follows ISIS’ online activity, said he doubts Ansar al-Khilafah Brazil actually exists.

“The Ansar al-Khilafah Brazil Telegram channel appears to be the work of an ISIS social media activist rather than reflecting any bricks-and-mortar initiative,” said Berger, a co-author of “ISIS: State of Terror.”

John Horgan, an ISIS expert who teaches at Georgia State University, said he didn’t know if the group was real, but he called ISIS supporters “masters of exploiting opportunity,” such as security concerns over the Olympics.

A U.S. counterterrorism official told ABC News, however, that while ISIS isn’t known to have any cells in Rio de Janeiro, “we should take every threat like this seriously.”

ISIS is not believed to wield much influence in Brazil, where a tiny percentage of residents are Muslims, much less Islamic extremists. Only three individuals are said to have traveled from Brazil to Syria and Iraq to fight with any extremist groups, according to the Soufan Group, compared with an estimated 1,700 from France and 250 from the U.S.

In a recent interview, a former counterterrorism official told ABC News that at least as of last month, there was “no credible ISIS-related threat to the 2016 games.”

“It’s not impossible, but ISIS has other areas in the world where it is much easier for them to operate,” the former official said, a sentiment shared by Horgan.

Matt Olsen, a former director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said that historically Islamic terrorist groups like al-Qaeda have made “limited inroads” in South America but that any sign that the jihadist extremist threat has grown on the continent “would be concerning.”

The U.S. State Department’s Overseas Advisory Council, which offers guidance to American companies on security issues, noted a litany of security concerns at the Rio Olympics in a May report obtained by ABC News, from local protests to the Zika virus. But the report did not mention any terrorist threats.

Still, as the Olympics are set to begin next month and ISIS-inspired terrorist attacks repeatedly claim innocent lives the world over, intelligence officials in Brazil reportedly consider the terrorism threat high.

Last month the chairman of Brazil’s joint chiefs of staff told Reuters that after terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, “a bell went off in terms of terrorism.”

On Tuesday an unidentified purported Islamic extremist also used Telegram to call for attacks on the Olympics and listed suggestions for lone-wolf attacks and targets.

The State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which has responsibility for the security of American Olympians and spectators, declined to comment for this report, describing the threat from the purported Brazilian group as an “intelligence matter.”

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IOC Explores ‘Legal Options’ on Russia Olympic Ban

iStock/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) — The International Olympic Committee said Tuesday it is exploring “legal options” whether to ban Russia from this summer’s Olympic Games, and called for the country to be barred from hosting international sporting competitions over what the IOC said was a “shocking” state-sponsored cover-up of doping by Russian athletes.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) recommended on Monday that Russia be excluded from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer after a new WADA investigation found Russia’s sports ministry, helped by the F.S.B. security service, had created a system for letting dozens of athletes compete dirty, in particular at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Following an emergency meeting to discuss WADA’s findings, the IOC held off on making a decision on that recommendation, saying it will “explore legal options” regarding a collective ban, balancing it against the “right of individual justice.”

There is an ongoing court hearing in Switzerland, where the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) is considering appeals from Russian track and field athletes against an earlier ban barring them from competing in Rio. That ban was imposed by track and field’s top body, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) in June in response to WADA findings around the same doping system.

At least 67 Russian track and field athletes have appealed that collective ban. If the CAS rules in their favor, it might set a precedent that would discourage the IOC from imposing a general ban on all Russian athletes from every sport.

The IOC said in its statement Tuesday that it would have to take that decision into account. The CAS hearing began Tuesday, but a verdict was expected to be made public on Thursday, July 21.

However, the IOC did impose severe measures on Russia, saying it would not organize or support any events in Russia and calling on all winter sports federations not to hold their own championships there.

“The IOC will not organise or give patronage to any sports event or meeting in Russia,” the statement published by the IOC read, noting that this included the 2019 European Games, one of Europe’s largest sporting events.

That call also raised difficult questions for FIFA, soccer’s international body, which is due to hold the 2018 soccer World Cup in Russia. Though the IOC recommendations do not directly affect FIFA, it appeared the body would have to explain why it considered Russia acceptable to host events, when the IOC did not.

The IOC also barred all officials from Russia’s sports ministry from attending the Rio Olympics, meaning Russia’s sports minister himself won’t be allowed to spectate.

The IOC also appeared to raise other approaches to a ban, calling on international sporting federations to immediately open inquiries into Russian athletes and officials from their sports and if necessary to impose “sanctions.”

Ahead of the IOC decision, Russia has sought to limit the damage from the WADA report. Russian authorities on Tuesday suspended almost every official implicated in the report, including two senior sports ministry officials. Russia’s sports minister also suggested that Russia’s equivalent of the FBI would be opening an investigation into the report.

But Russian authorities have largely dismissed the report as baseless, with President Vladimir Putin suggesting it was part of a U.S. conspiracy. Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told the Interfax news service, “there are no state doping programs in Russia.”

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Running Back Arian Foster Signs Deal with Dolphins

Don Juan Moore/ESPN Images(MIAMI) — After seven seasons with the Houston Texans, Arian Foster is changing gears and heading to Florida.

The 29-year-old running back signed a free agent contract with the Miami Dolphins on Monday.

Welcome to Miami, Arian Foster! pic.twitter.com/18ygSYDAVt

— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) July 18, 2016

Making it official. pic.twitter.com/GRMdg0ddxx

— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) July 18, 2016

A league source tells ESPN the one-year deal is worth $1.5 million but could reach up to $3.5 million when you factor in the added incentives.

Foster, a four-time Pro Bowler, has been with Houston since 2009. The Texans released him on March 3.

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Matt Kenseth’s Car Fails Post-Race Inspection After New Hampshire Win

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images(LOUDON, N.H.) — Matt Kenseth’s No. 20 Toyota failed a post-race inspection following his victory in the New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s car failed inspection in the laser inspection station and will undergo further evaluation at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina, NASCAR.com reports.

Any penalties forthcoming would likely be announced in the middle of the week.

Kenseth finished ahead of Tony Stewart and Joey Logano in Sunday’s race. It was his second Sprint Cup victory of the year.

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Scoreboard Roundup — 7/18/16

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Here are the latest scores and winners:

INTERLEAGUE

Colorado 7, Tampa Bay 4

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Kansas City 7, Cleveland 3
L.A. Angels 9, Texas 5
Oakland 7, Houston 4
Seattle 4, Chi White Sox 3
N-Y Yankees 2, Baltimore 1
Detroit 1, Minnesota 0

NATIONAL LEAGUE

St. Louis 10, San Diego 2
Miami 3, Philadelphia 2, 11 Innings
Chi Cubs 5, N-Y Mets 1
Cincinnati 8, Atlanta 2

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NSAC Extends Jon Jones’ Temporary Suspension

Steve Marcus/Getty Images(PHOENIX) — UFC star Jon Jones’ temporary suspension has been extended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Officials revealed that Jones tested positive for clomiphene and traces of letrozole on June 16, both of which are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

In a series of tweets to fans, Jones said he knew he wasn’t a cheater.

“Don’t write me off just yet, I know in my heart that I’m not a cheater. I trust in the system to help me prove it,” he said in a tweet.

Don’t write me off just yet, I know in my heart that I’m not a cheater. I trust in the system to help me prove it https://t.co/aE2vP9BlVp

— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) July 18, 2016

The Nevada district attorney’s office informed the NSAC of a potential hearing in September or October.

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Former Cardinals Scouting Director Sentenced to 46 Months in Prison for Hacking Astros

iStock/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) — A former St. Louis Cardinals official has been sentenced to jail for hacking the Houston Astros’ computers.

Chris Correa, 36, was scouting director for the team when he accessed the Astros’ player personnel database and email system during the 2013 and 2014 seasons.

He was handed nearly four years of imprisonment (46 months) by a federal judge, as well as two years of supervised release and $279,038.65 in restitution to the Astros.

Correa apologized in the court, but when he tried to call his behavior reckless, U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes for the Southern District of Texas said, “No, you intentionally and knowingly did these acts.”

In January, the former Cardinals official pleaded guilty to five of 12 related federal charges of unauthorized access of a protected computer.

Major League Baseball has not finished its investigation and could still discipline the Cardinals.

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WADA Calls for All Russian Athletes to Be Barred From Olympics

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(MOSCOW) — The World Anti-Doping Agency has recommended Monday that Russia be totally barred from this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro after a damning new investigation by the body found the country directed a doping cover-up affecting virtually “all sports” in the country.

Russia’s track and field athletes are already banned from competing in Rio after a WADA investigation in November found a cover-up of systemic doping among them. The new WADA investigation found that doping affected almost every sport, not just track and field, and provided fresh evidence it was controlled directly by the Russian state.

The investigation was presented in Toronto Monday by the man who oversaw it, Richard McLaren, a Canadian lawyer commissioned by WADA to examine spectacular claims made in May to The New York Times of a cover up at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. McLaren’s report largely upheld the claims made to The New York Times by Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory, but also described in far greater detail how the system had been controlled directly by Russia’s ministry of sport and aided by its F.S.B. security service.

Speaking at a news conference, McLaren said Russia had created a “state-directed” system that “allowed cheating Russian athletes to compete while using performance enhancing drugs” and that this affected “all sports.”

Following the report’s release, WADA released a list of recommendations that included that the International Olympic Committee and Paralympic Committee “decline entries, for Rio 2016, of all athletes submitted by the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and the Russian Paralympic Committee.” The list also recommends Russian officials be barred from attending the Olympics.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the WADA report Monday a “dangerous relapse into political interference in sport” that could lead to the splitting of the Olympic movement.

Coming just weeks before the Olympics, Russia now faces a whole-sale ban of its athletes from the summer games. Ahead of the report, 10 national anti-doping bodies, including those of the U.S., Germany and Japan, had called for Russia to be barred if the report was damning. WADA does not have the power to bar Russia, but international sports bodies are bound to take its recommendations into account.

In a statement immediately after the report’s release, the IOC said “the report shows a shocking and unprecedented attack on the integrity of sport and on the Olympic Games” and that the IOC would “not hesitate to take the toughest sanctions available” against those implicated in it. The IOC is due to convene a conference call on Tuesday, which is expected to discuss the issue.

Russia has repeatedly denied that it has a state doping program. But McLaren’s report, which he said was supported by forensic and documentary evidence, as well as testimonies, describes Russian state involvement in the cover-up in greater detail than WADA’s previous reports.

As described by Monday’s report, the system allegedly hinged on Russia’s anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, where Rodchenkov had been director. According to McLaren, every positive sample was sent to Russia’s sports ministry for it to decide which samples should be covered up. An order would then be sent back down to the lab, ordering it to conceal certain results, which it would do by entering false information into the Russian and WADA’s own anti-doping database.

According to the report, the orders to cover up were particularly frequent around international competitions hosted by Russia and the Olympics, taking in all the major athletics events hosted by the country since 2011.

“The State implemented a simple failsafe strategy,” McLaren said in the report. “If all the operational precautions to promote and permit doping by Russian athletes proved to have been ineffective for whatever reason, the laboratory provided a failsafe mechanism. The State had the ability to transform a positive analytical result into a negative one.”

Those findings are particularly damaging to Russia’s hopes of going to the Olympics because the report says it demonstrates its anti-doping system was compromised for every sport.

“It affected athletes from all sport 36 disciplines whose urine samples were being analysed by the Moscow Laboratory,” the report reads, noting the swapping of samples was widespread from at least 2011 to 2015.

Russia has disputed that there was an actual system of doping and has never accepted WADA’s earlier findings, insisting doping was done only by individual athletes. Last month, Putin told an audience that “there could never be support for doping at the state level.”

But Monday’s report described the cover-up as “state directed and controlled,” overseen at the highest levels of Russia’s sports ministry and assisted extensively by Russia’s F.S.B. security service. It identifies Russia’s deputy sports minister, Yuri Nagornykh, as the man who chose which samples should be concealed. The report found that Nagornykh was tasked specifically with “a plan to protect dirty athletes” at the Sochi Olympics.

The report also detailed the F.S.B.’s involvement, finding that the service had three agents at the Moscow lab, including one working under the cover of a plumber.

It also confirmed some of the most extraordinary claims made by Rodchenkov, including one claim that the F.S.B. had succeeded in opening the supposedly tamper-proof urine sample bottles at the Sochi Olympics. McLaren’s team ran its own experiments, which demonstrated this was possible. Analysis also found tiny scratches and marks on the inside of bottles from some Russian athletes at Sochi, showing they had been opened.

Ahead of the report, WADA President Craig Reedie had said if the findings showed a cover-up across Russian sports, he might recommend no Russian athletes compete at Rio. McLaren did not make any recommendations about whether Russia should now be completely banned from the Rio Olympics, saying his job had been to “establish the facts.”

Widespread calls from other countries for Russia to be barred are expected. Over the weekend, a draft letter signed by 10 national anti-doping bodies, including the United States’, was leaked, and the letter calls for the IOC “to declare that no athlete can represent Russia at the Rio Olympic Games.”

Russian officials have repeatedly said a blanket ban would be unfair, and suggested the WADA investigations are part of a U.S.-led conspiracy. Russian state TV Monday was scheduled to screen a film attacking WADA’s motives for investigating.

However, McLaren said he was “supremely confident” in his report.

“We can demonstrate the existence of this system beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.

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Report: NFL Planning to Insert Chips into Game Balls

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The NFL is reportedly looking to insert data chips into balls in an effort to get more information on how the game is played.

A league source told ESPN on Sunday that plans are being finalized to introduce the chips during the upcoming preseason and use them on Thursday night games once the regular season kicks off.

“The data would be used for research that could spark significant changes in officiating, kicking and other areas as soon as the 2017 season,” ESPN reports.

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Young Pirates Fan Endures Extra Inning Highs and Lows

iStock/Thinkstock(PITTSBURGH) — One pint-sized Pittsburgh Pirates fan endured an emotional roller coaster in a game that went into extra innings on Sunday — from Daniel Murphy’s game-tying home run in the ninth inning to Starling Marte’s game-winning homer in the 18th.

Four-year-old Nicholas Golnoski was caught on camera thanks to his brightly colored shirt, and fans followed his entertaining and expressive highs and lows, even when he started to get sleepy.

Luckily, the young boy had enough energy to see the winning run and celebrate the win with his family.

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