TENNIS

Tennys Sandgren forced an early clarification of the COVID-19 rules as the first of 15 charter flights began flying Down Under to deliver players for the Australian Open.

The two-time Australian Open quarterfinalist was given a special clearance to board one of the flights from Los Angeles to Melbourne despite testing positive for COVID-19 in November and again on Monday.

The first of about 1,200 players, coaches, entourage and officials landed Thursday in Australia. Under tournament protocols agreed with Australian government authorities, all players had to return a negative test before boarding their flights to Australia and would be subjected to further testing on arrival and daily during a 14-day period of quarantine.

The No. 50-ranked Sandgren received an exemption after Australian health officials assessed his case history. The American player posted on social media to say he wasn’t contagious and was allowed to join a delayed flight.

“My two tests were less than 8 weeks apart. I was sick in November, totally healthy now,” Sandgren tweeted. “There’s not a single documented case where I would be contagious at this point. Totally recovered!”

The Australian Open has already been delayed three weeks because of restrictions in place for the COVID-19 pandemic, and is set to open on Feb. 8.

• Andy Murray’s status for the Australian Open was put in doubt after he tested positive for the coronavirus.

The three-time Grand Slam champion is isolating at home near London, the tournament said in a statement.

Murray has been given a wild-card entry into the first Grand Slam tournament of 2021.

SOCCER

OLYMPIC QUALIFYING: Qualifying for men’s teams in North and Central America and the Caribbean was rescheduled for March 18-30 in Guadalajara, Mexico, where the tournament originally was set to be played last spring.

The U.S., which failed to qualify for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, is in Group A with Mexico, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

Honduras, Canada, El Salvador and and Haiti are in Group B.

The top two teams in each group advance to the semifinals, and the semifinal winners qualify for the Tokyo Games.

PREMIER LEAGUE: The coronavirus outbreak at Aston Villa has led to the postponement of another game as the Premier League holds talks with captains and managers of clubs to urge compliance with enhanced regulations.

The league has tightened coronavirus protocols, including telling players and managers to avoid shaking hands and hugging during goal celebrations. That message was being reinforced in virtual meetings with club captains and managers before this weekend’s games.

SPAIN: Athletic Bilbao knocked out defending champion Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup with a 2-1 win, getting two first-half goals from Raul Garcia to set up a final on Sunday against Barcelona.

MLS: Montreal is dropping its Impact nickname.

The team said it will rebrand as Club de Foot Montreal and go without a formal nickname, in the style of European clubs.

FIGURE SKATING

U.S. CHAMPIONSHIPS: Alexa Knierim and her new partner, Brandon Frazier, led after the pairs short program in Las Vegas.

Knierim teamed with husband, Chris, for the 2018 Olympics, and they won their third national title last year. Chris has since retired, so his wife joined with Frazier, the 2017 U.S. pairs champion with Haven Denney.

They scored 77.46 points for a solid lead over Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson, who were second at 71.3034. Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov were third at 69.56.

Pairs conclude Saturday night with the free skate.

MIXED MARTIAL ARTS

UFC: The UFC will no longer punish fighters for using marijuana in most cases, making a major change to its anti-doping policy.

The world’s largest mixed martial arts promotion confirmed that it will no longer worry about positive tests for carboxy-THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, unless it believes a fighter used it intentionally to enhance performance.

All other cannabinoids derived naturally from marijuana are no longer prohibited substances, said Jeff Novitzky, the UFC’s senior vice president of athlete health and performance.

BASEBALL

MLB: The Philadelphia Phillies and reliever Archie Bradley have agreed on a $6 million, one-year contract, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The right-hander was 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA and six saves in 16 games last season with Arizona and Cincinnati. Bradley had a career-best 18 saves in 2019.

• Left-hander Alex Wood agreed to a $3 million, one-year contract with the San Francisco Giants.

Wood, who turned 30 on Tuesday, went 0-1 with a 6.39 ERA in two starts and seven relief appearances last year with NL West rival Los Angeles.

• New Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Corey Knebel agreed to a $5.25 million, one-year contract that avoided salary arbitration, and fellow right-hander Dylan Floro agreed to $975,000.

Knebel was acquired from Milwaukee on Dec. 2.

• Left-hander Nik Turley was traded to the Oakland Athletics from the Pittsburgh Pirates for $60,000.

• Jose Martinez and the New York Mets agreed to a one-year contract that pays $1 million while he is in the major leagues and $225,000 while he’s in the minors.

BASKETBALL

WNBA: The Chicago Sky signed their general manager and coach, James Wade, to a a four-year contract extension through the 2025 season.

Wade has gone 32-24 (.565) in his two seasons with the Sky, the highest winning percentage in franchise history.

TRACK AND FIELD

SUSPENDED: Olympic hurdles champion Brianna Rollins-McNeal has been provisionally suspended for a doping rules violation, the Athletics Integrity Unit said.

Rollins-McNeal won gold in the 100-meter hurdles at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The 29-year-old American was also world champion in 2013. The AIU said it charged Rollins-McNeal with “tampering within the results management process,” but did not specify details of the case.

The AIU cited a section in the World Anti-Doping Code that covers “conduct which subverts the doping control process.”

The code gives one example as “altering identification numbers on a doping control form during testing.”

Rollins-McNeal is the fourth-fastest woman in history in her event.

ROWING

CANADIAN CHAMPION DIES: Kathleen Heddle, a three-time Olympic rowing champion for Canada, has died. She was 55.

She died Monday at home in Vancouver, Rowing Canada said Wednesday in a statement on behalf of her family. Heddle had breast and lymph-node cancer followed by melanoma and brain cancer for six years.

Heddle and Marnie McBean won Olympic gold medals in 1992 and 1996 in the coxless pair and double sculls. Heddle also earned gold in the women’s eight in 1992. Heddle and McBean carried Canada’s flag at the closing ceremony of the 1996 Atlanta Games.

“I am crushed and without words today at this loss,” McBean wrote in a social media post. “Too soon.”

Heddle and McBean are the only Canadian athletes to win three gold medals in the Summer Olympics. They also claimed gold in the coxless pair at the 1991 and 1995 world championships.


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