What was supposed to be a holiday break on the ski slopes for members of France's 1998 World Cup soccer team took an unpleasant turn when six players were subjected to surprise drug tests.
Officials went to the French Alps to administer the tests as part of an effort to avoid a drug scandal when the country plays host to next summer's World Cup.
The unexpected move was criticized by France's Coach, Aime Jacquet, and several players. In television interviews, they expressed shock that the testing would take place during what they hoped would be a few days of rest and relaxation.
"It's a bit out of place," Jacquet said, adding that the party was planned "for fun, for the families, with their children."
The testing was part of a crackdown that intensified when officials confirmed several new doping cases among French League in October. Several players have tested positive for steroids or illegal drug use.
The French Football Federation at the time backed a get-tough plan to fight doping by establishing new guidelines with clubs, players, trainers and doctors ahead of the 1998 World Cup, to be held in 10 French cities in June and July.
Convicted soccer hooligans could be banned from traveling to France for the World Cup, British Home Secretary Jack Straw said.
Straw said he was urging police, prosecutors and the courts to take advantage of a special law that allows them to impose "restriction orders" on fans who have been convicted of soccer-related offenses.
"I now expect to see vigorous use of these powers over the coming months," Straw said. "For the convicted hooligan, the issue of a restriction order will mean a visit to the police station--not the World Cup in France."
Under a law passed in 1989, courts can impose restriction orders on hooligans to prevent them from traveling abroad for matches involving teams from England and Wales.
Straw said the power to impose restriction orders had been used only 10 times.
The Oakland Athletics, unhappy with changes at the Oakland Coliseum, have made a veiled threat to leave the region next year if their demands are not met, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
Discussions remain cordial, but an official told the newspaper there could be real problems in connection with a $10-million laundry list of problems.
The Athletics' demands--over utilities, advertising and luxury suites--have been overshadowed by the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority's problems with the NFL's Raiders and the NBA's Golden State Warriors.
Slow sales of personal seat licenses for Raider games have pushed the Coliseum into debt, forcing an Oakland and Alameda County taxpayer bailout of $16 million.
"We have a number of unresolved issues we are working with the A's on," said Mary King, chair of the coliseum authority. "But all of that stuff can be worked out by reasonable people."
King confirmed the demands add up to about $10 million, but would not specify what they were. An arbiter will step in to settle the matter if the two sides cannot agree, she said.
A's officials said only that talks were progressing.
"They're ongoing discussions," Ed Alvarez, executive vice-president of administration for the team, told the newspaper. "As long as we keep talking, we'll continue to make progress."
Infielder Alex Arias, released by the Florida Marlins, agreed to a one-year $425,000 contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. Arias, 29, hit .247 for the Marlins last season with one homer, 11 RBIs and two errors.
Jim Tatum, an infielder and outfielder who split last season between the minor leagues and a Japanese team, agreed to a minor league contract with the New York Mets. In 138 career major league games, Tatum, 30, has a .199 average with six doubles, one triple, one homer and 16 RBIs.
Fred Page, inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder in 1993, died in Vancouver, Canada at age 82. Page was first vice-president of the International Ice Hockey Federation from 1968 to 1972 as well as chairman of hockey for the 1972 Olympics in Sapporo, Japan. . . . No criminal charges will be filed in the death of University of Michigan wrestler Jeff Reese, who collapsed Dec. 9 following a severe weight loss regimen. Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie said an investigation found nothing to "support a finding of criminal wrongdoing." . . . Jeff Farkas and Brian Gionta each scored twice as the United States defeated Kazakhstan, 8-2, in the World Junior Hockey Championships at Helsinki.