MOSCOW, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Russia's Olympic gold medalists in pairs figure skating, Anton Sikharulidze and Yelena Berezhnaya, Friday threatened to sue U.S. television networks for running footage with their images in a report linking a Russian mobster to alleged vote-rigging at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.
"Neither we, nor anyone from our team has ever seen or communicated with this man," Sikharulidze told the state-run RTR television network Friday.
The skater referred to Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, a controversial, Uzbek-born entrepreneur, whom Italian authorities arrested Wednesday upon a U.S.-issued criminal complaint charging him with fixing results in the Olympic figure skating competition.
Tokhtakhounov will remain in prison until his extradition to Washington, which is supposed to occur within 45 days of his arrest. Italian authorities said Thursday that the extradition could be delayed further by Italy's judges' summer recess, which ends in mid-September.
According to the charges, Tokhtakhounov persuaded a French judge to give a vote to the Russian pairs team and then coaxed a Russian judge to return a favor and vote for the French in the ice-dance pairs' competition.
Sikharulidze called media reports alleging that he and Berezhnaya had illegally won gold medals a "political provocation."
Baseball negotiators show optimism
NEW YORK, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Baseball's collective bargaining talks resumed Friday amid optimism on both sides that a settlement "is going to get done" and a strike averted.
Don Fehr, executive director of the players union, meanwhile scheduled a conference call of the union's negotiating committee Friday, which could determine whether the executive board will set a strike date sometime from Aug. 16 to Sept. 16.
The executive board meeting would be held sometime next week, said Todd Zeile, the Colorado Rockies player representative.
Fehr will complete his tour of baseball's 30 clubs in Boston next week. He was decidedly upbeat in his addresses this week with the Houston Astros, Texas Rangers, New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs, said players who attended the meetings.
"I still believe (a settlement) is going to get done," said Joe Girardi, the Cubs player rep. "They've made some progress on revenue sharing. They're exploring some new ideas to try to make it more productive. They came up with some concepts that both sides were happy with and now it's just fine tuning those concepts and those numbers."
Mets sign top draft pick
NEW YORK, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- The New York Mets Friday signed high school lefthander Scott Kazmir, the team's first-round pick and 15th overall selection in the 2002 First-Year Player draft.
Terms were not disclosed by the Mets, but Kazmir reportedly received a $2.15 million signing bonus, the highest ever awarded to one of their draft picks. The Mets previously gave pitcher Paul Wilson, the first overall pick in the 1994 draft, a $1.55 million signing bonus.
Kazmir, 18, was ranked by Baseball America as the second best prospect in the 2002 draft after he went 11-2 with a 0.37 ERA in 14 games for Cypress Falls High School in Houston and broke Josh Beckett's single season state record with 172 strikeouts in just 74 2/3 innings.
Projected to go as one of the top five picks in the draft, Kazmir slid all the way to the middle of the round because many teams were scared away by his negotiating leverage. Armed with a 97 mile-per-hour fastball, Kazmir was pondering a scholarship offer to the University of Texas before reaching an agreement with the Mets.
Donovan, McBride lead U.S. vs. all-stars
WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Just six weeks removed from its stunning run to the World Cup quarterfinals, the United States soccer team will have its achievement celebrated at home.
The U.S. side will square off against the best of Major League Soccer on Saturday in the 2002 MLS All-Star Game at RFK Stadium.
The festivities kicked off Friday morning when the 11
U.S.-based players from the World Cup squad, plus injured midfielder Chris Armas, met with President Bush at the White House. The other 12 players were with their respective clubs in Europe preparing for the upcoming season.
Leading the contingent are top strikers Brian McBride and Landon Donovan, who tallied two goals apiece for the U.S. in South Korea. They each scored June 17 as the Americans advanced to the quarterfinals with a 2-0 victory over Mexico.
McBride is the only player in U.S. history to score in two World Cups.
A year ago, Donovan recorded an All-Star Game-record four goals and collected MVP honors as the West and the East played to a 6-6 tie.
Defenders Eddie Pope and Pablo Mastroeni, midfielder DaMarcus Beasley and forward Josh Wolff, all of whom played key roles in the World Cup, also are part of the U.S. team's 18-player roster.