Thursday's Sports in Brief

·5 min read

SOCCER

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) Argentina marked the one-year anniversary of the death of soccer legend Diego Maradona with ceremonies, tributes, graffiti murals and emotional messages on social media.

Maradona died of a heart attack at age 60 after having brain surgery two weeks earlier. Seven health professionals who tended to the star are facing criminal charges after a medical report said Maradona did not receive adequate treatment.

OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) - Tim Hortons Field, an outdoor venue with artificial turf nicknamed ''The Donut Box'' in Hamilton, Ontario, will be the site of Canada's home World Cup qualifier against the United States in January, the Canadian Soccer Association said.

The Jan. 30 game will be the first home match for the Canadian men in Hamilton, which averages a high of 30 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-1 Celsius) and a low of 18 (minus-8) on that date.

The U.S. is second in the North and Central American and Caribbean region with 15 points - one behind Canada and one ahead of Mexico and Panama with six games remaining. Costa Rica has nine, Jamaica seven, El Salvador six and Honduras three.

The top three nations qualify for next year's World Cup in Qatar, and the No. 4 team advances to a one-game playoff for a berth.

ZURICH (AP) - Soccer's lawmakers moved to make permanent the pandemic-era option of using five substitutes and dropped a proposal to let halftime be extended to 25 minutes.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) announced the updates to go to its decision-making annual meeting on March 4-5 in Zurich.

In May 2020, high-level competitions were given the choice to allow teams five replacements in a 90-minute game. It was to help manage players' health and workload in pending fixture congestion when competitions restarted after a near-global shutdown.

The interim rule is currently available through 2022 and is now set to be written into the laws of soccer.

TENNIS

MADRID (AP) - Before any matches were played, Elias Ymer didn't hesitate to say Sweden could succeed at the Davis Cup Finals despite being one of the lowest-ranked nations in the competition.

He backed up his words with a great opening win, then cheered on his brother Mikael in the other singles match that clinched Sweden's victory over 2019 runner-up Canada in Group B.

Top-ranked France and second-ranked Croatia also won on the opening day, while defending champion Spain was left without one of its biggest attractions after 18-year-old Carlos Alcaraz tested positive for the coronavirus and had to be dropped from the squad. Spain was set to open play against Ecuador on Friday in Group A.

France needed to rally against 18th-ranked Czech Republic with a three-set doubles victory following the opening singles loss by veteran Richard Gasquet.

Sweden also won the doubles match against Canada after Elias Ymer defeated Steven Diaz 6-4, 6-2 and Mikael Ymer beat Vasek Pospisil 6-4, 6-4.

OLYMPICS

The World Anti-Doping Agency approved a series of reforms designed to give athletes a bigger voice in decision-making, though the changes were roundly criticized by activist groups that said they didn't go far enough.

At its board meeting, WADA announced it was adding two seats to its executive committee, one of which will go to an athlete representative. It approved creation of an independent ethics board and reformed the athletes council to give a wider group of athletes a say in appointing its 20 members.

WADA also approved a pilot athlete ombudsman program, which is supposed to provide independent advice for athletes in dealing with doping issues.

A number of athlete groups put out statements deriding the changes as little more than cosmetic. One major complaint is that the key decision-making bodies are still populated with members of the International Olympic Committee, which accounts for half of WADA's funding. World governments supply the other half.

SAO PAULO (AP) - Carlos Arthur Nuzman, the head of the Brazilian Olympic Committee for more than two decades, was sentenced to 30 years and 11 months in jail for allegedly buying votes for Rio de Janeiro to host the 2016 Olympics.

Nuzman, who also headed the Rio 2016 organizing committee, was found guilty of corruption, criminal organization, money laundering and tax evasion. The 79-year-old executive won't be jailed until all his appeals are heard.

Judge Marcelo Bretas also sentenced to jail former Rio Gov. Sergio Cabral, businessman Arthur Soares and Leonardo Gryner, who was the Rio 2016 committee director-general of operations. Investigators say all three and Nuzman coordinated to bribe the former president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, Lamine Diack, and his son Papa Diack for votes.

PRO BASKETBALL

MADRID (AP) - Former NBA player Marc Gasol will play for the club he founded in the second division of Spanish basketball.

The 36-year-old Gasol said he will play until the end of the season before deciding whether to retire.

Gasol is the owner and president of Girona, which he founded in 2014.

Gasol played last season with the Los Angeles Lakers after spending most of his NBA career with the Memphis Grizzlies.

He played in his last Olympics with Spain at the Tokyo Games.

His brother, Pau Gasol, last month retired from basketball after a successful career in the NBA and with Spain.

GOLF

BERLIN (AP) - Two-time major winner Martin Kaymer is taking three months off for the birth of his first child, he told a German golf magazine.

Kaymer expects to become a father in January at home in Germany and says he's looking to live in Florida with his family after the baby is born.

Kaymer won the PGA Championship in 2010 and the U.S. Open in 2014 but hasn't won a tournament since. He is ranked 118th in the world.