Arter wants Rainbow Laces support

Last Updated: 22/11/17 11:47am

Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter has called for fans to “get behind everyone” as Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign kicks off this weekend.

Bournemouth midfielder Harry Arter has called for fans to “get behind everyone” as Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign kicks off this weekend.

Harry Arter has called for fans to “get behind everyone” as Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign kicks off this weekend.

The initiative runs from November 24 to December 3, and clubs across the Premier League are doing their part to fight against discrimination to the LGBT community.

Bournemouth midfielder Arter spoke of the importance of LGBT inclusion in sport and expressed his hope that fans and players alike will come together to support the campaign.

He told Sky Sports News: “I think it’s important that all fans come together. It’s not nice to discriminate anyone of any race or any sexuality.

“I think it’s an important thing to do and I feel happy that I’m part of it. I just feel it’s important to include everyone no matter what sexuality they are.

Arter says all fans should be included in football regardless of their sexuality

Arter says all fans should be included in football regardless of their sexuality

Arter says all fans should be included in football regardless of their sexuality

“If they enjoy football and they want to be a part of it but for whatever reason they don’t feel like they can (and) they don’t feel comfortable in the environment, I think that’s totally wrong.”

Arter is confident that with his teammates’ support, they can help bring an end to LGBT discrimination.

“Everyone I know at this club will definitely support it,” he added. “You know you want to see fans all across the world enjoying football, not feeling like they can’t go to games and enjoy it.

Bournemouth captain Simon Francis wore a rainbow armband against Arsenal last season

Bournemouth captain Simon Francis wore a rainbow armband against Arsenal last season

Bournemouth captain Simon Francis wore a rainbow armband against Arsenal last season

“Get behind it and make sure everyone feels comfortable watching football.”

Bournemouth captain Simon Francis wore a rainbow armband against Arsenal last season and is expected to wear the same band in their match against Swansea this Saturday.

Play Super 6

Simply predict six correct scores to win the £250k jackpot. Enter your selections for free here.

Defining McLaren Honda moments

Ahead of McLaren’s final race with engine suppliers Honda, Sky Sports F1 looks at the defining moments of the failed partnership

Last Updated: 22/11/17 10:57am

As McLaren prepare for their final Grand Prix with maligned engine suppliers Honda, Sky Sports F1 looks at the defining moments of the failed partnership.

2014 debut test woe – a sign of things to come
Looking back, McLaren’s reunion with Honda appeared cursed from the very beginning.

The renewed partnership immediately suffered severe teething problems with the Honda engine’s debut limited to just five laps across two days of post-season testing in Abu Dhabi in November 2014.

While McLaren sought to take positives from the event – “It’s definitely been a positive for both McLaren and Honda to conduct this test – there have been some troublesome issues, but we’ve made progress,” racing director Eric Boullier said at the time – Abu Dhabi would prove to be an ominous sign of things to come.

The McLaren-Honda is recovered to the pits at the 2014 Abu Dhabi test

The McLaren-Honda is recovered to the pits at the 2014 Abu Dhabi test

The McLaren-Honda is recovered to the pits at the 2014 Abu Dhabi test

Pre-season testing 2015 – more signs of trouble
Despite that early setback, many believed that with Honda entering the hybrid era of Formula 1 a year later than the rest of the field, and a winter to try and resolve the problems from Abu Dhabi, they would avoid the struggles of pre-season testing that had plagued Ferrari and Renault in 2014.

How wrong that proved to be!

Fernando Alonso, back with the team for the first time since his acrimonious departure in 2007, was limited to just six laps on the opening day of testing in Jerez with Jenson Button only managing the same number on day two.

Throughout the 12 days of testing in February and March 2015, McLaren only managed more than 40 laps in a session twice and found themselves over two-and-a-half seconds slower than the pace set by the all-conquering Mercedes W06.

McLaren confirm Honda divorce

2015 Australian GP – starting from the back…and not at all
McLaren’s troubles became stark in the season-opener at Melbourne as the eight-time Constructors’ champions found themselves in the ignominious position of propping up the rest of the field.

With the newly-revived Manor team failing to take to the track, Button and Kevin Magnussen – standing in for the concussed Alonso – qualified 17th and 18th respectively to fill the back row. The Australian heat had forced Honda to run their engine conservatively, resulting in laps three seconds off Mercedes’ pace in Q1 and over five seconds off Lewis Hamilton’s pole time.

Come race day and Magnussen would not even see the lights go out as his engine gave up as he made his way to the grid.

Button, meanwhile, would be last of the 11 cars to finish and the only driver to be lapped twice.

2015 Hungarian GP – Alonso records joint-best finish
After Button collected the first points of the McLaren-Honda partnership since the 1992 Australian GP in Monaco, Alonso claimed his first point since returning to the team at Silverstone before following it up with a fifth-place finish at the Hungarian GP.

The Spaniard out-performed his car by climbing from 15th on the grid and overcoming a puncture that had required an emergency pit-stop. With Button finishing ninth, Hungary also represented the first double-points finish for the revived partnership.

But two years later, Alonso’s fifth place still remains McLaren’s joint-best finish since reuniting with Honda, along with the two-time world champion’s results in the 2016 Monaco and US GPs.

Record grid penalty at Spa
The problems with the Honda engine came to a head when McLaren were handed a record 105-place grid penalty at the 2015 Belgian GP.

With Alonso and Button having already used up their allocation of five engines, the duo were handed penalties of 55 places and 50 respectively to leave them at the back of the grid after Honda introduced an upgraded engine following the summer break.

Then-Honda F1 boss Yasuhisa Arai had claimed the upgrade would see the McLaren match the pace of Ferrari but it would prove to be a false promise. At the power-dependent circuit, the lack of performance in the Honda engine was once again laid bare as Button and Alonso could only manage 17th and 18th in qualifying.

Why McLaren had to divorce Honda

2015 Japanese GP – ‘GP2 engine’
In Suzuka, Alonso’s frustration with McLaren’s dismal 2015 finally boiled over. At Honda’s home race, Alonso described the team’s performance as “embarrassing” and yelled over team radio “GP2 engine, GP2” after being passed down the back straight.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso described the team’s performance as “embarrassing” at the 2015 Japanese GP

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso described the team’s performance as “embarrassing” at the 2015 Japanese GP

2016 improvement fuels lofty ambitions
After the troubled first season of the revived partnership, things could not get any worse and 2016 did see McLaren-Honda make some big steps forward. They reached Q3 for the first time at the Spanish GP and would go on to be regular participants in final qualifying – although the sight of this modest progress being celebrated was a sign of just how far the former champions had fallen.

In total, the team achieved 17 points finishes – compared to six in 2015 – although they remained off the podium and led to former McLaren boss Ron Dennis rating the season as only “five out of 10”.

But the relative improvement had McLaren and Honda chiefs predicting the team would be fighting Mercedes in 2017. “We have a plan to challenge Mercedes in 2017,” Honda’s head of F1 Yusuke Hasegawa said, while Boullier predicted: “I think we will get closer. I don’t know if we will match them, I hope so, but we will get very close.”

Nightmare winter of 2017
But for all the positive talk, F1 2017 would prove to be a return to the dark days of 2015. Winter testing in Barcelona was a disaster. The new MCL32 spent nearly as much time on the recovery lorry as it did on track and culminated in four breakdowns over the final two days.

McLaren completed the fewest laps over the eight days of testing while their fastest lap was nearly three seconds off the pace set by Ferrari. The performance led Alonso to deliver a withering rebuke of McLaren’s engine suppliers, stating the Honda power unit had “no reliability” and “no power”.

Sky Sports F1 revealed that unexpected vibrations in the Honda engine were effectively shaking itself into breaking down.

Speaking on the F1 Report – Testing Special, our guests think McLaren are a team in crisis following a disappointing display at testing in Barcelona

Speaking on the F1 Report – Testing Special, our guests think McLaren are a team in crisis following a disappointing display at testing in Barcelona

It was also in Barcelona when reports first emerged that McLaren were considering a split from their maligned engine suppliers. Boullier admitted to Spanish publication AS that the team would be winning if they were powered by Mercedes while McLaren confirmed to Sky F1 that they were “considering options” following claims they were looking to return to their former suppliers.

‘McLaren-Renault can be winners’

2017 Bahrain GP – Engine change after engine change
Perhaps the worst race weekend of the lot for McLaren-Honda. Five engine failures, an irate Alonso on team radio and dropping to the foot of the Constructors’ Championship behind Sauber.

Three of those engine failures befell the unfortunate Stoffel Vandoorne, who did not even make the start as his power unit gave up on his out-lap from the pits.

Alonso had suffered his own MGU-H failure in qualifying before raging at Honda’s lack of performance in the race. “I’ve never raced with less power in my life,” he fumed, with his top speed of 285kph being 14kph slower than Hamilton’s best. The Spaniard would retire late on due to “some problem with the engine”.

It was another difficult day for McLaren in Bahrain and Fernando Alonso voiced his displeasure over their performance over team radio before retiring

It was another difficult day for McLaren in Bahrain and Fernando Alonso voiced his displeasure over their performance over team radio before retiring

And it was in Sakhir where McLaren publicly turned the heat up on Honda. “We need to get on top of this problem, our partner needs to get on top of this problem and we need to do it quickly. But unfortunately there are no quick fixes in this sport,” Zak Brown told Sky Sports F1.

Mclaren’s executive director Zak Brown spoke candidly after the Bahrain GP

Mclaren’s executive director Zak Brown spoke candidly after the Bahrain GP

2017 Canadian GP – Divorce on the cards
The build-up to, and the race weekend itself, of this year’s Canadian GP appeared to be the clearest indication yet that McLaren had decided to part ways with Honda.

It was in Montreal where the dialogue moved away from simply putting pressure on Honda to get their act together to indications that divorce papers were being drawn up. In an extraordinary interview with Reuters, executive director Zak Brown delivered a series of stinging criticisms of Honda, stating “they seem a bit lost”, “we can’t sit around forever”, “they are struggling to get it to come together”, “we have serious concerns” and “we’re near our limit”.

And, perhaps most significantly, Brown stated that, unlike his predecessor Dennis, he believed McLaren could win another world title with a customer engine.

McLaren’s philosophy stops working

Alonso followed this by stating it was “maybe time to change the situation” in his pre-race press conference.

On track, it was the same story that had been played out so often in the two-and-a-half-year partnership as a fresh Honda engine failure denied McLaren their first point of the season. “Completely unacceptable” was Boullier’s verdict.

And after a further five race retirements and 220 places worth of grid penalties for engine component changes, McLaren finally pulled the trigger at the Singapore GP to switch to Renault power from 2018.

Comment below to get involved in the debate, but please adhere to our House Rules. If you wish to report any comment, simply click on the down arrow next to the offending comment and click ‘Report’.

Hit for Six: Bob Willis

Bob Willis

Cricket Expert & Columnist

“Warner is a Michael Slater-type player who can blast 60 or 80 before lunch and set the tone for the series. If England get him out early, they can expose Australia’s soft underbelly.”

Last Updated: 21/11/17 6:05pm

Bob Willis has backed Mark Stoneman to impress on his Ashes debut – but has reservations over James Vince and Dawid Malan heading into the series

Bob Willis has backed Mark Stoneman to impress on his Ashes debut – but has reservations over James Vince and Dawid Malan heading into the series

In a pre-Ashes Hit for Six, Bob Willis makes his series prediction, raises eyebrows at Australia’s squad, discusses the Baggy Greens’ dominance at The Gabba and hails Man City’s “best” side of all time.

Who is going to win the Ashes?

I hope England are going to retain the Ashes – but it is vital they don’t lose in Brisbane. I don’t think there is much to choose between the two batting line-ups at all. It’s Alastair Cook and Joe Root for England versus David Warner and Steve Smith for Australia but I happen to think the likes of Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali are better prospects than the lesser lights in the Australian top seven.

I think Mark Stoneman will also do a good job, with my main concerns for England’s batting over James Vince and Dawid Malan lower down – that said, Malan is a nuggety player and in decent form. Australia are clearly worried about their batting line-up by picking Shaun Marsh and Tim Paine at No 6 and 7.

Bowling Australia out is going to be the thing for England as we are clearly lacking firepower and Ben Stokes. England’s batsmen need to get used to the extra bounce – they haven’t had ideal warm-up matches but there is nothing new about that – but if they can adapt quickly I am optimistic they can draw the series. I am going for 2-2, especially with England well-equipped for the day-night Test.

Ben Stokes gets in some batting practice in the nets as he waits to find out if he will be able to join his England team-mates in Australia for the Ashes

Ben Stokes gets in some batting practice in the nets as he waits to find out if he will be able to join his England team-mates in Australia for the Ashes

Did your eyebrows raise when you saw Australia’s Ashes squad?

They certainly did. Cameron Bancroft is a rookie in Test-match terms and will be more nervous than any of the England players who have played a bit, while he didn’t do anything special until his double hundred for Gloucestershire, so there could possibly be a weak link there. Marsh is now in his eighth or ninth reincarnation, down at No 6 this time, while Tim Paine, who is no Adam Gilchrist or Brad Haddin with the bat, has been selected despite not keeping wicket for his state.

Australia are behaving like England and are determined to pack their batting and bat as low as they can. Also, can these terrifyingly-fast bowlers stay fit? Pat Cummins has yet to play a Test in Australia and Mitchell Starc has had injury problems, too. Josh Hazlewood is a very consistent performer and Starc is at the top of his game but will Cummins’ pace make a difference?

Brett Lee bowled quickly but England often took him for four or five runs an over. It is a massive risk by Australia to go in with just three seamers, even though Nathan Lyon is canny. England possibly lack a spinner like him to keep things tight.

Tim Paine was selected as Australia's wicketkeeper ahead of Matthew Wade and Peter Nevill

Tim Paine was selected as Australia's wicketkeeper ahead of Matthew Wade and Peter Nevill

Tim Paine was selected as Australia’s wicketkeeper ahead of Matthew Wade and Peter Nevill

With Stokes absent, how important is Chris Woakes?

Very. You can’t replace Stokes who is two players wrapped into one but Woakes will get the old ball to move and reverse. I am a little worried about him in those critical overs between 15 and 40 if the pitches are flat – we saw a couple of years ago in South Africa that he wasn’t particularly effective when the conditions weren’t seam friendly.

He is a far better bowler now, though, and turning into a proper batsman down the order. England aren’t going to get any runs from nine, 10 and 11 – they are going to be blown away, I am pretty sure about that – so the likes of Ali and Woakes are going to have to farm the bowling. Woakes’ batting is going to be as important as his bowling.

Bowling-wise he will form part of a disciplined attack that, hopefully, won’t offer Australia any width. Warner, of course, is a Michael Slater-type player who can blast 60 or 80 before lunch and set the tone for the series, so England really must keep him at bay. If they get him out early, they can expose Australia’s soft underbelly.

Australia vice-captain David Warner says he is confident of beating a neck injury to face England in the first Ashes Test

Australia vice-captain David Warner says he is confident of beating a neck injury to face England in the first Ashes Test

Nathan Lyon wants to end careers, David Warner says the Ashes is like a war – do you find this pre-series chat a bit unedifying?

It’s so predictable now from the Australians and England do well not to be drawn in by these comments. I think the Aussie press and public expect it and it wouldn’t be an Ashes series without Glenn McGrath saying “we are going to win 5-0”. This year it is Lyon and Warner chirping away, whereas in my day it was Jeff Thomson talking about blood on the pitch and all that.

It’s part of the give-and-take early on, although it is pretty uncharacteristic for Lyon to open his mouth – you don’t hear much from him normally, it’s usually the fast bowlers. It will fire up the crowd and make for an intimidating atmosphere for England from Thursday, that’s for sure.

Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon has been surprisingly vocal during the Ashes build-up

Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon has been surprisingly vocal during the Ashes build-up

Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon has been surprisingly vocal during the Ashes build-up

Why do you think Australia have got such a fantastic record at the Gabba?

I think the conditions are very foreign to sides coming in at the start of the series. The old trick used to be to take the visiting side to Tasmania with their beanie hats on at nine degrees and then fry them up for the Test match where it’s 38 degrees and 100 per cent humidity. This time they fielded under-strength Cricket Australia XI sides, perhaps to lull England into a false sense of security, but at least their last match was in the heat of Queensland, up in Townsville.

They haven’t faced any quick bowling and that’s definitely going to be a shock to the system, especially as the Gabba has taken over from Perth as the quickest pitch in the country. It’s a test of everybody’s mettle, particularly the batsmen. England’s most recent win there was in 1986/87 but they will look back at the Cook and Jonathan Trott partnership from 2010/11 and know they are well capable of scoring runs.

Finally, you must be delirious at Man City’s form. Is this the best City side you have ever seen?

It’s difficult to say no. The 1968 league-winning side and the 1969 FA Cup-winning side were magnificent but in those days you had the best players in England and now you have the best players in the world.

They pace with which they move the ball around and the form of Leroy Sane and Kevin De Bruyne is brilliant, while I retain my belief, which I made clear on Bumble and Grumble during the Tests this summer, that David Silva is the third-best player in the world, behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. This is, for me, the best City side of all time.

Jamie Carragher and Craig Bellamy discuss Kevin De Bruyne’s sensational start to the season and how far the Belgian playmaker can go

Jamie Carragher and Craig Bellamy discuss Kevin De Bruyne’s sensational start to the season and how far the Belgian playmaker can go

Motor racing: Bragging rights and money at stake in F1 finale

LONDON (Reuters) – The Formula One season winds up in Abu Dhabi on Sunday with both titles won, Lewis Hamilton aiming to close the year on a winning note and big money still at stake for those further down the paddock pecking order.

While four times world champion Hamilton’s Mercedes team mates can again look forward to healthy year-end bonuses, others are scrapping for crucial points that could swell their 2018 budgets.

Toro Rosso, Renault and Haas are just six points apart, with the difference between sixth place and eighth in the constructors’ championship equivalent to about $12 million when it comes to revenue distribution.

“This race is almost a championship in itself,” says Renault Sport F1 head Cyril Abiteboul, whose team are four points behind Toro Rosso and two clear of Ferrari-powered Haas.

There is extra needle in the showdown with Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso using the French manufacturer’s engines for one last time before switching to Honda.

At the top, Hamilton will be determined to grab a 10th win of the season — making it the fourth year in a row that his tally has entered double figures and giving him a warm glow through the winter.

“I‘m going to give it everything in Abu Dhabi,” said the Briton, who won his title in Mexico last month but has failed to make the podium in his last two races.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel will also be looking for bragging rights by becoming the first non-Mercedes driver of the V6 turbo hybrid era that started in 2014 to finish in the top two of the championship.

The German is 22 points clear of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, who can only finish runner-up if he wins and Vettel scores no more than two points.

FELIPE‘S FAREWELL

Ferrari have yet to win in Abu Dhabi but Vettel and Hamilton, who was given a hero’s welcome when he returned to the Mercedes factory this week, have both triumphed three times at Yas Marina’s floodlit circuit.

For Brazilian Felipe Massa, with Williams, Abu Dhabi will be a final farewell to the sport.

“I am looking forward to it and plan to enjoy every moment, to finish my Formula One career on a high note,” said the 36-year-old, who won 11 times for Ferrari in a career that will end after some 270 races.

It could also be goodbye for Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, the German and Swede uncertain to be retained by a team whose engine partners Ferrari are keen to place their own young talent.

McLaren will also be saying ‘sayonara’ to Honda after an ill-fated three year partnership that promised much but delivered only failure.

The former champions will be using Renault power next season.

The days of entirely open cockpits are also numbered, with 2018 set to usher in a new ‘halo’ era and the introduction of a head protection device whose looks will change the cars’ aesthetics.

This week will also see Formula One’s first virtual world champion crowned with the finals of the inaugural eSports series on Friday and Saturday.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John O’Brien

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Spence Jr to face Peterson

Last Updated: 22/11/17 8:57am

Errol Spence JR will defend his IBF title against Lamont Peterson in early 2018

Errol Spence JR will defend his IBF title against Lamont Peterson in early 2018

Errol Spence JR will defend his IBF title against Lamont Peterson in early 2018

Welterweight world champion Errol Spence Jr will defend his IBF title for the first time when he meets former two-division champion Lamont Peterson in New York in January.

The American ripped the IBF belt from Kell Brook with an impressive stoppage victory in May and had hoped to head directly into a unification bout.

But an elbow injury sidelined WBA and WBC champion Keith Thurman until next year, resulting in Spence Jr failing to secure a second fight of 2017.

“My goal is to unify the welterweight division in 2018, but this fight is a true test and Lamont Peterson is a veteran that I definitely will not overlook,” said Spence Jr.

Lamont Peterson forfeited his WBA welterweight title for the opportunity to meet Spence Jr

Lamont Peterson forfeited his WBA welterweight title for the opportunity to meet Spence Jr

Lamont Peterson forfeited his WBA welterweight title for the opportunity to meet Spence Jr

“I sparred him in the amateurs and I know what he brings to the table. I have to get through him to achieve my goals and that is what I plan on doing January 20th.”

Peterson, who has won titles at 140 and 147 pounds, said: “First off, I’m happy to be getting back in the ring.

“I’ve stayed in the gym and I’m ready to go. This is a fight I wanted and as I said before when I became a welterweight, I want to fight the best and make the fights that people want to see.

“I’m ready to give it my all and give the fans a great show.”

Day, Spieth ready to resume rivalry at Australian Open

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Jason Day is desperate to add the Australian Open title to his career honor roll and would love nothing better than to do it after going swing-for-swing with Jordan Spieth in the final round this week.

FILE PHOTO: USA’s Jordan Spieth celebrates with The Claret Jug after winning The Open Championship REUTERS/Hannah McKay

The 30-year-old former world number one has endured a poor season by his own lofty standards and is hoping that the Australian Golf Club, where he last played as a teenager, might offer up his first title of 2017.

World number two Spieth has finished first, second and first at the tournament in the three years since Day last played for the Stonehaven Cup though, and the Australian knows he will need to be on top of his game to better the American.

“I would love to play with Spieth on Sunday, last group, that would be the greatest thing,” the Australian told reporters on Wednesday.

”The Australian Golf Club is kind of suited to his eye, he hits it very straight, which is what you need around here. This course does suit up well for him and I think it does for me as well, as long as long as I‘m driving it straight.

“Fingers crossed, I can keep driving the ball better this week and just try and get myself in contention.”

Day famously outplayed Spieth in the final round of the U.S. PGA Championship in 2015 to win his maiden major and clearly has huge respect for the 24-year-old Texan.

“The biggest thing with Jordan is that he’s a competitor,” Day said.

“He doesn’t have the natural ability such as (Dustin Johnson)’s length, but he has the mental toughness, probably the best mental toughness out of everyone on the tour, and that’s what gets him going. He’s such a grinder.”

The respect is mutual. Spieth remembers fondly the battles they had at the majors in 2015, when the American snared the Masters and British Open and won the Tour Championship to edge Day to the PGA Player of the Year award.

“I‘m like, ‘man, I don’t think I could have played any better for a year and still needed the last tournament to win that?’,” Spieth recalled.

“Honestly, it’s fun then because you can kind of talk about it with each other, how you were feeling, the respect you have for each other’s games and seasons.”

Geoff Ogilvy, the 2010 Australian Open and 2006 U.S. Open champion, is also in the field, as is Canada’s Mike Weir, who won the U.S. Masters in 2003.

Both Day and Spieth will have new relatively faces on their bags this week with the former having recently dropped his mentor Col Swatton for Luke Reardon.

Mike Greller has stayed in the United States to be with his newborn son so Spieth will have his Australian coach Cameron McCormick as caddie. The Texan concedes they will probably not indulge in the lengthy pre-shot chats he and Greller are known for.

“Cam’s more of just shut up and hit it, quit taking so long,” he said.

Editing by Peter Rutherford

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Ice hockey: Russia’s Zaripov has doping ban cut after appeal

MOSCOW (Reuters) – The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has cut Russian forward Danis Zaripov’s doping ban to six months from two years after new evidence came to light.

FILE PHOTO: Finland’s goaltender Harri Sateri (L) reacts after failing to save a goal by Russia’s Danis Zaripov during their Channel One Cup ice hockey game in Moscow, Russia, December 19, 2015. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Zaripov, a three-time world champion who played for Russia at the 2010 Olympics, was suspended in July after one of his samples was found to contain banned stimulants, as well as substances prohibited as diuretics and masking agents.

In a statement published on Tuesday, the IIHF said it had reached a settlement agreement with 36-year-old Zaripov after he appealed the ban.

The federation said Zaripov had demonstrated “he did not engage in intentional doping”, adding that its decision to slash the ban was based on “extensive documentary and expert evidence that was unavailable” when it had initially suspended him.

Given that the suspension dates back to May 23, the IIHF’s decision makes Zaripov eligible to play as of Thursday.

Zaripov’s suspension was a rare case of a doping ban among high-profile Russian national ice hockey players and came as the country said it was taking measures to curb the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sport.

While the International Olympic Committee is set to decide on Russia’s participation in the 2018 Winter Games at its executive board meeting next month, the IIHF decision means Zaripov would be free to represent his country at Pyeongchang.

“The national team coaching staff follows the performances of candidates for the team every day and Zaripov, of course, is one of them,” the Russian Hockey Federation said in a statement on Tuesday.

AK Bars Kazan, the Kontinental Hockey League club Zaripov had signed for shortly before his suspension, said they had always believed in the player.

“We always knew that Zaripov is a true athlete and professional and we believed in his innocence,” the club said.

“We wish Danis new big victories and hope that Zaripov’s future career path will be connected with our club.”

Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Peter Rutherford

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Late charge pushes Lakers past Bulls

(The Sports Xchange) – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 11 of his 21 points in the closing minutes as the Los Angeles Lakers rallied from a 19-point, second-half deficit to defeat the Chicago Bulls 103-94 on Tuesday at Staples Center.

November 21, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) controls the ball against the Chicago Bulls during the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Kuzma scored a game-high 22 points, Brandon Ingram added 17 points, Jordan Clarkson scored 12 off the bench and Julius Randle contributed 10 in a reserve role for Los Angeles (8-10).

Denzel Valentine shot 5 of 7 from 3-point range and scored 17 points to lead five starters in double figures for the Bulls (3-12).

Antonio Blakeney, on a two-way contract that allows him to split time between the Bulls and their G-League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls, scored 15 off the bench for Chicago.

The Lakers rallied to tie the score at 80 on a layup by Josh Hart with 9:32 left. Los Angeles finally went ahead 89-87 when Caldwell-Pope put back a missed 3-pointer with 3:06 remaining.

November 21, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Denzel Valentine (45) controls the ball against Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Caldwell-Pope followed with two 3-pointers that stretched the lead to five each time, and the Lakers kept Chicago from getting back within one possession.

The Bulls took their biggest lead at 61-42 with 10:29 left in the third quarter. An 8-2 run pulled Los Angeles within 13, but the Lakers didn’t begin to make a charge until Clarkson replaced Lonzo Ball and joined Kuzma, Randle, Caldwell-Pope and Hart.

The Lakers cut the deficit to one on a 3-pointer by Clarkson with 35 seconds left in the third quarter and then trailed 75-72 entering the fourth.

Behind double-digit first-half scoring efforts from Blakeney (15), Robin Lopez (12) and Valentine (11), the Bulls led by as many as 18 before taking a 56-42 lead into the break.

Blakeney entered with 4:58 left in the first quarter and scored 15 points in his first eight minutes, including 11 straight for the Bulls during one stretch, helping Chicago to a 41-26 lead.

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Griezmann: United a possibility

Last Updated: 22/11/17 6:48am

Antoine Griezmann has refused to rule out a move to Manchester United in a new biography

Antoine Griezmann has refused to rule out a move to Manchester United in a new biography

Antoine Griezmann has refused to rule out a move to Manchester United in a new biography

Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann has admitted a move to Manchester United remains “a possibility”.

The France international was repeatedly linked with a move to Old Trafford last summer and was quoted as saying his chances of going there were “six out of 10”.

He ultimately extended his contract in Spain instead but speaking in his new biography, ‘Behind a smile, the life of the Little Prince told by himself’, he concedes a move remains in his thoughts.

Griezmann, whose form has dipped in recent weeks, said: “In June, I extended my contract. I’m linked to the club until 2022.

“Although I might be missing out on titles, I have everything here to be happy but that does not mean to say I won’t go one day.

“I haven’t made that decision. It all depends on various factors. I have nothing against England except for the weather. Manchester United is a possibility.

France international Griezmann has struggled for form at Atletico Madrid this season

France international Griezmann has struggled for form at Atletico Madrid this season

France international Griezmann has struggled for form at Atletico Madrid this season

“As much as I repeat that I am delighted at Atletico, I have a great coach and great team-mates, they regularly ask me about my future. I do not exclude anything.”

Griezmann has scored just three goals for Atletico this season, compared with 26 last term – including nine by this stage of the campaign.

He joined the capital club from Real Sociedad in 2014 and has made almost 300 appearances in La Liga.

Play Super 6

Simply predict six correct scores to win the £250k jackpot. Enter your selections for free here.

Soccer – Bono stands firm as Toronto hold Columbus in first leg

(Reuters) – Toronto FC missed the attacking prowess of banned strikers Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco on Tuesday but a solid display from goalkeeper Alex Bono helped secure a 0-0 draw with Columbus in the first leg of their MLS Eastern Conference final in Ohio.

Nov 21, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Toronto FC goalkeeper Alex Bono (25) makes a save against Columbus Crew SC in the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Championship at MAPFRE Stadium. Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

In the Western Conference final, reigning MLS Cup champions Seattle took the upper hand by beating hosts Houston Dynamo 2-0 in the first leg.

With Giovinco and Altidore serving one-game suspensions, top-seeded Toronto were left to contain the Columbus attack and Bono proved up to the challenge, most notably when he was tested repeatedly late on to keep his clean sheet intact.

Bono made a number of key saves but none more important than his reflex stop in the 85th minute off a point-blank effort from Ghanaian defender Harrison Afful, with the rebound falling to Gambian forward Kekuta Manneh, whose shot was blocked.

“Anytime you go on the road in the playoffs your ‘keeper is going to have to come up with something, at least one,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney told reporters.

“And Alex was good today. He was cutting out things behind their back line when they were trying to whip in crosses. Makes a great save. He was good today.”

Without Giovinco and Altidore, who together accounted for nearly half of Toronto’s goals in the regular season, the visitors adopted a safety-first approach against fifth-seeded Crew.

Altidore missed the game after receiving a red card for violent conduct during a fracas at halftime in the second leg of the East semi-final while Giovinco’s ban stems from an accumulation of yellow cards.

Both players will be eligible to return for the second leg on Nov. 29 in Toronto.

Nov 21, 2017; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Crew SC midfielder Artur (7) dribbles the ball while Toronto FC midfielder Victor Vazquez (7) defends in the first half of the game in the first leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Championship at MAPFRE Stadium. Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto did have a chance to open the scoring in the 43rd minute but Canadian forward Tosaint Ricketts’ header from the center of the box missed to the right.

Moments later Columbus nearly went in front through Norwegian forward Ola Kamara but his close-range header missed the target.

Columbus stepped up the pressure after the break but only truly tested Bono in the latter stages of the match.

Slideshow (8 Images)

“This is one of the best defensive efforts we had all season and it’s really something for us to build on. A huge confidence builder for us going forward,” the American goalkeeper said.

“Didn’t get the goal we would’ve hoped for but a nil-nil draw here is not so bad taking it back to Toronto.”

Second-seed Seattle scored the all-important away goal early on when Swedish midfielder Gustav Svensson sent a header past Joe Willis from a Nicolas Lodeiro corner in the 11th minute.

Seattle had the chance to double their lead in the 29th minute when Jalil Anibabe pushed Joevin Jones to the ground in the area, only for Willis to save Lodeiro’s penalty kick.

Anibabe was red carded for the push in the box and it did not take long for Seattle to take advantage as American forward Will Bruin headed home a cross from Jones in the 42nd minute.

Seattle host the return leg on Nov. 30.

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by John O’Brien/Peter Rutherford

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.