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Tuesday, May 1, 2007 - Page updated at 02:01 AM

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Briefs | Italian Basso leaves Discovery Channel team

Cycling

Basso says it "was 100 percent my decision" to exit: Ivan Basso quit the Discovery Channel team after Italian authorities reopened an investigation into his alleged role in a Spanish doping scandal.

Less than two weeks before he was to defend his Giro d'Italia title, Basso asked to be released from his contract during a meeting Sunday with Discovery Channel officials, the team said in a statement Monday.

"This was a very difficult decision, for me and my family, but I think it is the right thing to do," the 29-year-old Basso said. "The team is trying to find a new sponsor and win bike races, and my situation is a distraction to both of those goals. It is important that everyone knows this was 100 percent my decision."

Basso is scheduled to appear Wednesday before the Italian Olympic Committee on charges of having used or attempted to use a banned substance or method. The Discovery Channel team already had suspended Basso from riding last week.

Basso repeatedly has denied doping allegations.

French officials ask for scrutiny: The French Anti-Doping Agency has asked outside experts to verify that its lab correctly handled tests that pointed to suspected cheating by Floyd Landis, last year's Tour de France winner, agency director Pierre Bordry said.

Landis' camp contends the lab mishandled and erased computer files involving doping tests during a crucial stage in Landis' Tour win.

Doping

Ex-doctor to plead guilty: Former doctor Ana Maria Santi will plead guilty to illegally prescribing anabolic steroids and human growth hormone to patients she never met or examined, her lawyer said.

Santi reached an agreement with prosecutors and plans to plead guilty June 1 to 29 counts of health-care fraud, conspiracy and illegal drug distribution in federal court in Providence, R.I., said her attorney, Edward C. Roy.

Tennis

Defending champ is ousted: Defending champion Olivier Rochus of Belgium lost 6-2, 6-4 to eighth-seeded Jurgen Melzer of Austria in the first round of the BMW Open in Munich, Germany.

Auto racing

Busch's HANS device cracked in wreck: NASCAR officials tried to figure out why Kyle Busch's HANS device cracked during a crash in Saturday's Aaron's 312 Busch Series race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Of the NASCAR-mandated head-and-neck restraint device, spokesman Kerry Tharp said, "It performed the way it was supposed to, but it had a slight stress crack in it after the accident."

Soccer

Owen returns: England striker Michael Owen played for the first time since injuring his knee in June in the World Cup, appearing for Newcastle in a 1-0 loss to Reading in the English Premier League.

Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, a former Seattle Pacific and Seattle Sounders standout, got the shutout.

Barthez to leave team: Fabien Barthez, former goalkeeper for France's national team, is quitting French-league team Nantes, saying angry and threatening fans have made him fear for his safety. Several fans surrounded his car as he left the stadium Saturday after a 2-0 home loss to Rennes and tried to pull him out.

Backup World Cup hosts available: The United States and several other countries are capable of hosting the 2010 World Cup if South Africa isn't ready, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said.

England, Japan, Spain, Mexico and Australia also all would be ready to step in, Blatter said. He said he is confident South Africa will host the event.

Colorado wins MLS match: Roberto Brown and Kyle Beckerman scored as Colorado beat host Real Salt Lake 2-0 in a Major League Soccer match.

Sailing

Americans lose: China Team upset Louis Vuitton Cup leader BMW Oracle Racing of the United States in Valencia, Spain, for its first win in America's Cup challengers-series racing this year. BMW Oracle Racing lost its headsail halfway on the first upwind lap.

Cricket

Woolmer case: Mark Shields, the deputy police commissioner in Jamaica who is investigating the homicide of Pakistan's cricket coach, said he has not confirmed Bob Woolmer was incapacitated by a drug before being strangled in March. BBC reported a toxicology test shows the presence of a drug that would have incapacitated Woolmer.

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Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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