The latest on how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting sports around the globe:
German soccer’s Bundesliga cleared for May return
Bundesliga can resume playing this month, ending a two-month suspension caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a loosening of a range of containment measures after meeting with the country’s 16 state governors on Wednesday. Pressure to relax the rules had been growing as the rate of daily infections in the country has dropped.
Soccer in the top two divisions will resume without spectators and with a range of other conditions designed to prevent another outbreak, including the continuous monitoring and testing of players. Teams will also have to spend time in quarantine before games can restart.
“Today’s decision is good news for the Bundesliga and second division,” German soccer league president Christian Seibert said.
Australian Open at risk due to virus, tennis exec says
Next year’s Australian Open could be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and even if the first Grand Slam of 2021 goes ahead fans from abroad will not be able to attend, Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley said on Wednesday.
The tennis season was halted in early March due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 3.68 million people around the world while killing over 256,000, according to a Reuters tally.
The Australian Open was able to take place in January as scheduled but French Open organizers have moved the clay-court major back to September from its May start while Wimbledon has been cancelled.
The fate of the U.S. Open in New York is expected to be decided in June.
“Worst-case scenario is no AO,” Tiley told the Australian Associated Press. “Our best-case scenario at this point is having an AO with players that we can get in here with quarantining techniques and Australian-only fans.”
NHL’s Devils donating 10,000 tickets to health workers
The New Jersey Devils are donating 10,000 tickets for next season to health care workers with RWJBarnabas.
The Devils also promised to donate two extra tickets for every season ticket member and plan holder who use credits they earned this year for next year.
The NHL team plans to use social media to honour front-line workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in New Jersey and across the country. The tribute is called Stick Taps at 7 and will be broadcast at 7 p.m. It will include videos of players, alumni, coaches, management, front office staff and others saluting doctors, nurses and health care workers.
The owners of the team previously donated money and medical supplies to the RWJBarnabas Health Emergency Response Fund. RJWBarnabas Health is a sponsor of the Devils.
Toronto’s BMO Field also becoming massive kitchen
Having already turned Scotiabank Arena into a giant kitchen, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment is adding BMO Field to the cooking mix.
With the help of sponsor BMO, the Exhibition-area stadium is being repurposed to add more kitchen muscle to help produce meals for Toronto’s front-line health-care workers and the city’s most vulnerable during the global pandemic.
Adding BMO Field’s primary kitchen is expected to increase the number of daily meals to up to 13,000 from the initial goal of 10,000. The program total to date should hit the 100,000-meal milestone this week.
BMO Field, home to MLS’s Toronto FC and the CFL Argonauts, has a large production kitchen adjacent to the BMO Club under the east stand.
The program is also taking advantage of the nine kitchens at Scotiabank Arena.
3 dates possible for rescheduled Preakness: source
The Maryland Jockey Club and NBC Sports have set aside three possible dates for the running of the Preakness Stakes, a person with knowledge of negotiations said.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because no decision has been made among the dates.
The NBC affiliate in Baltimore reported the Preakness will be run Oct. 3. The person tells The AP that is one of the three possible dates, along with one each in July and August.
Maryland Jockey Club president Sal Sinatra says officials are still working with NBC Sports on rescheduling the race, which would have been run May 16. That date was scratched by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Stronach Group — which owns Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore — said in a statement, “There is no definitive date set and we continue to explore options” for the Preakness.
Spanish soccer players tested upon return to camps
Soccer players in Spain returned to their team’s training camps Wednesday for the first time since the country entered a lockdown nearly two months ago because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Players for Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and other clubs started preparing for the return to training this week. They were all expected to be tested for COVID-19 and should be cleared to practice once the results are back. Most clubs are expected to resume practicing by the end of the week.
The majority of players did not wear masks or gloves when they arrived, according to Spanish media. Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez were among those without masks when they drove into Barcelona’s training centre. Antoine Griezmann, Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic did wear masks. Sergi Roberto arrived without a mask but had one on when he left.
Real Madrid players Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema arrived without masks, as did most of their teammates.
Players will initially practice individually. Smaller group sessions and full squad sessions will be allowed in upcoming weeks.
Russian anti-doping agency to resume testing
Russian anti-doping agency RUSADA said on Wednesday it would progressively resume testing later this month hiatus after having imposed a hiatus in response to government measures aimed at curbing the spread of the new coronavirus.
Speaking at an online news conference, Yuri Ganus, the agency’s director general, said RUSADA had elaborated a plan to resume testing, which it had halted in late March.
Doping control officers will wear personal protective gear when testing resumes to protect themselves and the athletes, Victoria Barinova, head of RUSADA’s testing department, said at the online press conference.
Moscow and several other regions have declared lockdowns to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which has so far infected 165,929 people across Russia. The country has recorded 1,537 deaths from the virus.
RUSADA was suspended in 2015 after WADA found evidence of mass doping in Russian athletics.
WADA seeks more government funding
Even with sports shut down and little testing going on, World Anti-Doping Agency president Witold Banka is trying to convince governments to stump up extra funding in the fight against drug cheats.
Drug testing around the world has nearly ground to a halt due to lockdown restrictions, leaving anti-doping officials looking to other methods to catch cheats. That means more focus on investigations and longer-term analysis of athletes’ data.
“With a budget around $36 million US [in 2019], less than a small football club, it sounds ridiculous,” Banka told The Associated Press. “We need to do everything to increase the budget for anti-doping policy and of course I try to convince the governments also to make an additional contribution to investigations, to science, to our education projects.”
WADA and other anti-doping bodies have used the pandemic to focus on new technology. WADA is working on using artificial intelligence to analyze athletes’ performances and to start testing dried blood spots from athletes.
Spain proposes to end women’s soccer season
The Spanish soccer federation is proposing an end to this season’s women’s league because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The proposal is expected to be approved by the federation’s board on Thursday.
Barcelona was leading the competition at the time it was suspended in March and will be declared champion. No teams will be relegated but the top two from the second division will be promoted.
There will be no relegation in the third and fourth divisions but the promoted clubs will come from the winners of playoff matches played without fans.
Turkish soccer league plans to resume June 12
The Turkish soccer league plans to resume on June 12, a month and a half after it was suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Turkish soccer federation president Nihat Ozdemir said Wednesday from Ankara he hopes to finish the season by the end of July and host the Champions League final in Istanbul in August.
The games will be played without spectators and the Turkish health ministry and its scientific advisory council will determine the conditions and guidelines under which the games will go ahead, Ozdemir said in a teleconference.
“We will finish the league games in July. In August, will host the Champions League,” Ozdemir said. “We are aiming to end the season on July 26 by playing seven weekends and one weekday game.”
Turkey suspended its soccer, basketball and volleyball leagues because of the coronavirus outbreak on March 20, days after the country reported its first COVID-19 death.