Sports Update

Feb. 21, 2002 at 11:54 PM
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In Sports from United Press International

Russia threatens to leave Olympics

SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The first drug controversy of the Winter Olympics turned into an international incident Thursday night with the president of the Russian Olympic Committee threatening to remove his country's athletes from the remainder of the Games.

Russian cross-country superstar Larissa Lazutina was barred from taking part in the 4x5-kilometer relay Thursday because a test showed she had levels of red blood cells above the minimum accepted in international competitions.

That prompted outrage on the part of the Russian delegation, the head of which promptly called a news conference at the cross-country venue.

Russian Olympic Committee President Leonid Tyagachev said through an interpreter that he had taken his complaints to IOC President Jacques Rogge and that he had given Rogge 24 hours to take some unspecified action.

"If decisions are not made and issues we raised not resolved, the Russian team will not play hockey," he said. The United States is scheduled to play Russia at 4:15 p.m. local time Friday in the hockey semifinals on the 22nd anniversary of the Americans' shocking victory over the Soviet Union at the Lake Placid Games.

During the rambling list of complaints, Tyagachev indicated the episode involving Lazutina simply brought to a head what the Russian delegation believes to be a series of injustices. He complained about the decision to award a second goal medal in pairs figure skating and what he felt was poor officiating during Russia's 1-0 hockey victory over the Czech Republic on Wednesday.

Then came the banishment of Lazutina, who almost certainly would have won the 10th medal of her Olympic career. That would have equaled the most ever won by a woman at the Winter Olympics. The Russian team was informed just before the start of the race, leaving no time to arrange for a substitute skier.

"This is a scandal," said the head of the Russian delegation, Gennady Ramensky. "They are specifically hunting out Russian sportsmen."

Germany wound up winning the race by 1.3 seconds over Norway. It was the 10th gold medal of the games for Germany, which moved into a tie with Norway in that department -- one ahead of the United States.

The Russian complaint took attention away from the achievement of Austrian hero Stephan Eberharter, who won his first Olympic gold medal in what was his final opportunity. He did so by holding off American Bode Miller, who in typical fashion charged from behind on the second run of the giant slalom and passed five skiers to earn a silver medal. Eberharter, 32, is the king of Austrian alpine skiing and he had already won two medals in Utah. But neither of them was gold.

Bucs sign GM McKay to 6-year extension

TAMPA, Fla., Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers ended any doubts about the future of Rich McKay on Thursday by signing their general manager to a six-year contract extension.

Financial terms were not disclosed. McKay had one year left on a contract that will pay him $1.8 million this year.

The announcement came three days after the Bucs ended their prolonged search for a coach by prying Jon Gruden away from the Oakland Raiders on Monday and signing him to a five-year contract.

McKay is entering his 11th season with the Buccaneers and his eighth as general manager. Under his leadership, Tampa Bay has had 35 Pro Bowl selections since 1995. Prior to his arrival as general manager, the Buccaneers had just 18 total Pro Bowl selections in the club's first 20 seasons.

"The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have flourished under the leadership of general manager Rich McKay," Bucs vice president Bryan Glazer said. "We are extremely excited about the unlimited possibilities that exist for the future of this franchise with Rich McKay as our general manager and Jon Gruden as our head coach."

The Bucs tried to hire Gruden, who had one year left on his contract with the Raiders, last month, but were unable to put together a compensation package to the liking of Oakland owner Al Davis until Monday. Before hiring Gruden, McKay and the Bucs also were jilted by Bill Parcells and talked to Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis and San Francisco 49ers coach Steve Mariucci.

McKay admitted to talking with the Atlanta Falcons about their vacancy before staying put. "I asked for permission to talk to Atlanta but I never said 'fire me' or 'get rid of me.'" said McKay, who has been tied to the franchise since his father was the team's first coach.

Top seeds continue to lose in match play

CARLSBAD, Calif., Feb. 22 (UPI) -- The top seeds continued to fall by the wayside Thursday at the upset-plagued World Golf Championships-Match Play Championship.

Five more top-10 seeds were bounced in the second round of the 64-player event as South Africans Ernie Els and Retief Goosen, Fiji's Vijay Singh and Americans Davis Love III and Chris DiMarco all went down. They joined Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and David Duval, the top three seeds who were sent packing in Wednesday's first round.

The highest-seeded player to reach the third round is No. 4 Sergio Garcia of Spain, who defeated No. 36 Charles Howell III, 1-up, in a back-and-forth battle of two of the game's brightest young stars.

With eight of the top 10 seeds out, Garcia appears to have emerged as the favorite. The only other top-10 seed to reach the round of 16 is No. 6 David Toms, the reigning PGA Championship winner, who defeated No. 27 Rocco Mediate, 1-up. Toms advanced when Mediate missed a short par putt on No. 18.

No. 28 Tom Lehman posted the day's first upset, rallying from 3-down after nine holes to defeat Els, the fifth seed, in 19 holes. It was hardly the only surprise. Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal, the 26th seed, held on to beat Goosen, the No. 7 seed and reigning U.S. Open champion, 1-up. Olazabal was 5-up after seven holes but needed to make a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to win the match. Goosen pulled even with a birdie on No. 17.

No. 41 Niclas Fasth of Sweden, the runner-up in last year's British Open, posted the day's biggest upset with a 3 and 2 victory over Singh, the No. 9 seed. No. 25 Paul Azinger ousted No. 8 Love, 2-up, and No. 10 DiMarco, the tour's leading money winner, fell to No. 23 Mark Calcavecchia, 2 and 1.

Australia's Peter O'Malley, who posted the tournament's biggest shocker with his 3 and 2 victory over Woods on Wednesday, could not pull off a second straight upset but he put up a good fight before falling to No. 32 Nick Price of South Africa, 2 and 1.

Allen shoots 64 at Tucson Open

TUCSON, Ariz., Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Micheal Allen carded an 8-under-par 64 Thursday to open a one-stroke lead over a trio of players after the first round of the Tucson Open.

Allen joined the PGA Tour in 1990 but the 41-year-old native of San Mateo, Calif., is still seeking his first career win. His best results were a pair of third-place finishes at the Telecom Open and Phoenix Open in 1993.

With the world's top 64 players completing in the Match Play Championship, the Tucson Open was left with a depleted field, but birdies were plentiful at the Omni Tucson National Golf Resort and Spa.

Fred Funk, the top money winner in the tournament at No. 25, carded a 65 and is tied for second with Brandel Chamblee and Loren Roberts. A total of 18 players are within three shots of the lead. David Berganio, Jr., John Huston, Andrew Magee and Bob Heintz are tied for fifth at 6-under with another 10 players at 5-under.

Al Unser Jr. Kelley Racing's IRL driver

INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., undergoing a rigorous workout regimen that enabled him to lose 20 pounds,was introduced Thursday as Kelley Racing's newest driver in the Indy Racing League.

Unser joins Scott Sharp on the two-car IRL team co-owned by Tom Kelley and his father, Jim, a pair of Fort Wayne, Ind., car dealers. The two-time CART champion had been out of work since Galles Racing of the IRL went out of business last November when it was unable to secure major sponsorship.

Unser's father, Al, is a four-time Indy 500 winner and his uncle, Bobby, a three-time winner of the world's most famous race.

The 1992 and 1994 Indianapolis 500 winner will drive the No. 7 Kelley Racing entry, a Dallara/Chevrolet, in the IRL through the 2004 season.

This will be the third IRL season for Unser, one of the most accomplished drivers in American motorsports history. Besides his Indy 500 victories in 1992 and 1994, Unser won CART titles in 1990 and 1994 and was on the winning team at the Rolex 24 sports-car endurance classic in 1986 and 1987.

He also won the True Value IROC championship in 1986 and 1988 and is tied with the late Dale Earnhardt as the winningest driver in the history of that annual all-star series.

Kelley Racing has recorded six victories and eight poles in Indy Racing League competition. Formed in 1997, the team begins its sixth season of Indy Racing competition on March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the 20th Anniversary Grand Prix of Miami.

First black NFL QB dead at 71

NEW KINSINGTON, Pa., Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Willie Thrower, the NFL's first black quarterback who also starred at Michigan State, died Wednesday of a heart attack. He was 71.

Thrower played in one game for the Chicago Bears in 1953, relieving George Blanda and throwing for 27 yards and an interception in a 35-28 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It would be 15 more years before the next black quarterback would appear in a pro game. In 1968, Marlin Briscoe started for the Denver Broncos of the American Football League.

Thrower also was the first black quarterback to play in the Big Ten and led the Spartans to a national championship in 1952.

After a short stay with the Bears, he played three years with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League.

A Pennsylvania native, Thrower is recognized in an exhibit about black players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Colts release four players

INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Trying to clear room under the salary cap, the Indianapolis Colts released four players Thursday--starting tight end Ken Dilger, defensive back Jeff Burris, strong safety Chad Cota and defensive tackle Mike Wells.

Indianapolis entered this offseason just over $3 million under the salary cap. Under new coach Tony Dungy, the Colts are expected to try to strengthen a defense that ranked 29th in the NFL last season.

Dilger, who was set to make $1.64 million this season, was placed on the expansion list and received a letter from the club that said he would be released if he was not chosen in Monday's expansion draft by the Houston Texans. Last summer, the Colts signed Marcus Pollard--Dilger's backup--to a five-year, $15 million deal.

A starter in each of his seven seasons with the Colts since being taken in the second round of the 1995 draft, Dilger was one of quarterback Peyton Manning's favorite targets. This past season, Dilger made the Pro Bowl as injury replacement after catching 32 passes for 343 yards and a touchdown. In 109 career games -- 106 starts--Dilger has 251 receptions for 3,181 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Burris, Cota and Wells all were part of the Colts' expansion list as well.

O'Hern sets record at Singapore

SINGAPORE, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Ian Woosnam's hopes of another victory here suffered an early blow as he struggled to a 1-over-par 73 on Thursday in the first round of the Caltex Singapore Masters.

Australian Nick O'Hern broke a course-record with an 8-under-par 64 to take the lead. Christophe Pottier of France is second after carding a 65 and Carlos Rodiles of Spain is third after shooting a 66.

Woosnam has not played in Singapore since winning the 1996 Johnnie Walker Classic by defeating Scotland's Andrew Coltart at the third hole of a sudden-death playoff at Tanah Merah, literally across the road from the Laguna National course, which is hosting the $900,000 event.

With the top 64 players in the world golf rankings at the World Matchplay in California, Woosnam was one of the pre-tournament favorites despite not playing competitively for more than three months.

Seniors visit Mexico for Audi Classic

NAUCALPAN, Mexico, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- In a country where it is often suggested that you avoid drinking the water, Mike McCullough knows all about ending a drought.

McCullough will try to defend his title as the Senior PGA Tour heads south of the border for the $3 million Audi Senior Classic, which begins Friday at the Club de Golf Chapultepec near Mexico City.

McCullough won for the first time in 612 PGA Tour-sanctioned events last season, beating Jim Colbert and Bob Eastwood by a stroke at La Vista in Puebla. Currently 15th on the money list, McCullough faces a field that includes Hale Irwin and Bruce Fleisher.

Irwin, a 33-timer winner on the elder circuit, finished second in last week's Verizon Classic, one shot behind winner Doug Tewell, who is taking the week off.

Watson named baseball discipline chief

NEW YORK, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Major League Baseball Thursday hired Bob Watson as its new dean of discipline.

Watson, a two-time All-Star and former general manager, was named vice president of on-field operations. He replaces Frank Robinson, who last week became manager of the Montreal Expos, a franchise now run by the commissioner's office.

The 55-year-old Watson, who was hired by MLB in December 2000 to supervise pace of games, will handle player discipline, time of games, uniform policy, stadium configuration and all other on-field matters. He will report directly to Sandy Alderson, MLB executive vice president.

Watson played 19 seasons in the major leagues for the Houston Astros, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves. He became baseball's first African-American general manager when the Astros promoted him in 1993. He also worked in that capacity for the Yankees from 1995-97, winning a World Series in 1996.

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