Sports Briefs

Posted: Sunday, February 02, 2003

With James on sideline, lawyer considers appeal

AKRON, Ohio -- LeBron James sat in the bleachers Saturday, watching as his high school's freshman basketball team warmed up for a game.

For now, it's as close as the 18-year-old superstar can get to the court.

James, widely acknowledged as the nation's top prep player, spent his first day on the sideline after being ruled ineligible by state officials for accepting two vintage sports jerseys worth $845.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association ruled Friday that James violated a state bylaw on amateurism by accepting the trendy, ''throwback'' jerseys from a clothing store on Jan. 25.

The decision came four days after James was cleared following a two-week investigation for accepting a $50,000-plus sport utility vehicle as an 18th birthday gift from his mother.

On Friday, OHSAA commissioner Clair Muscaro declared James, a senior expected to be the first overall selection in this year's NBA draft, ineligible and said St. Vincent-St. Mary had to forfeit its last win on Jan. 26.

Francis says he's done with doping

TORONTO -- Ben Johnson's former coach insists his involvement with performance-enhancing drugs is long behind him.

Charlie Francis was Johnson's coach when the Canadian runner failed a drug test and was stripped of his gold medal and world record after winning the 100 meters at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Francis recently has been spotted working with Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery, a relationship that has been questioned by international and U.S. track officials.

Francis released a two-page statement to the media late Friday strongly defending the reputations of the American sprinters and stating he no longer is involved with performance-enhancing drugs.

MacInnis, Roy lead West to skills victory

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Al MacInnis proved he can shoot the puck harder than anyone, no matter what stick he's using.

The St. Louis Blues' defenseman won the NHL's hardest-hot competition for the seventh time, leading the Western Conference to a 15-9 victory in the All-Star skills competition Saturday night.

Shunning a composite stick -- one made of graphite for example -- to use an old-fashioned wooden one, MacInnis won for the first time since a four-year run between 1997-2000 with a shot at 98.9 mph. The 39-year-old player in his 12th All-Star game wasn't on the North America team in either of the past two years.

At the start of the evening, planned ceremonies with a space theme were significantly cut back in memory of the seven astronauts killed in the space shuttle Columbia accident earlier in the day.

The shuttle, scheduled to land in Cape Canaveral, about 200 miles north of the All-Star festivities, broke apart over Texas.

The NHL switched the format for All-Star weekend back to the traditional East against West matchup after five years pitting North America against the World.

Patrick Roy helped the West's cause in goal, stopping eight of nine shots in two events.

MacInnis used the more popular composite stick all last season, but said he was never comfortable with the feel and puck control it provided. While it might be able to let go a more powerful shot, it didn't do so with enough consistency to suit MacInnis -- so he switched back to wood this season.

The West, using Doug Weight, Nicklas Lidstrom and Ray Whitney, won the team puck control relay to earn one point. The East got even by winning the individual part of the event, when Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis, in his first All-Star game, edged 1998 winner Teemu Selanne.

Paul Kariya won the individual event each of the last four seasons, but the speedy Anaheim forward, making his seventh All-Star appearance, didn't compete this year.

Marian Gaborik, also an All-Star rookie, was the fastest skater. He circled the ice in 13.713 seconds. The West easily won the team event, with its three skaters beating all but one player from the East.

Jeremy Roenick of the East knocked out four of six targets to win the shooting accuracy event. He matched his percentage of 1999, when he finished in a three-way tie at the top.

The West won the pass and score event 3-1, and the breakaway relay 7-5 in competition that showcased the goalies.

Defenseman Sandis Ozolinsh, traded from the host Florida Panthers to the West's Anaheim Mighty Ducks on Thursday, didn't take part in Saturday's media availability or the skills competition because he was uncomfortable returning to South Florida so soon after being dealt.

He is expected to play in Sunday's All-Star game as a member of the Eastern Conference team. Ozolinsh will, however, be introduced as an Anaheim player.

The NHL has held the skills competition every All-Star weekend since 1990. The Western/Campbell conference has won five times. The Eastern/Wales Conference finished first three times. The World team held a 4-1 advantage over North America.

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