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IOC backs Russian whistleblower

In a blow to the credibility of Russia’s denials that it operated state-backed Olympic doping, an International Olympic Committee judging panel has endorsed a key whistleblower and the investigator who exposed the plot. Orchestrated cheating at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games was “a conspiracy which infected and subverted the Olympic Games in the worst possible manner,” an IOC commission prosecuting a slew of Russian cases said on Monday.

Former Moscow and Sochi laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov was a “truthful witness,” the panel said in publishing its first detailed verdict on the same day it sanctioned five more Russian athletes to bring the total to 19.

Rodchenkov is living in the United States under FBI protection as a cooperating witness.

The IOC panel agreed that investigator Richard McLaren — appointed to verify Rodchenkov’s claims to the American media in May 2016 — proved the existence of a doping conspiracy beyond reasonable doubt.

The public vindication of Rodchenkov and McLaren, each repeatedly denounced by state authorities in Russia, will fuel speculation that the IOC executive board meeting next Tuesday will ban Russia’s team from the Pyeongchang Olympics.


Duke, UConn both unanimous No. 1s

Duke (8-0) is the unanimous No. 1 in The Associated Press Top 25 men’s poll. Last week’s No. 2, Arizona (3-3), lost all three games in a tournament in the Bahamas and completely dropped out of the poll. It was the first time that has happened since Louisville in 1986-87. Kansas moved up to No. 2, followed by Michigan State, Villanova and Notre Dame . . . In the women’s poll, Connecticut (5-0) is also a unanimous No. 1, followed by Texas, Notre Dame, Louisville and South Carolina.


Grizzlies fire coach Fizdale

The Grizzlies (7-12) have fired coach David Fizdale after less than two seasons with Memphis. Assistant J.B. Bickerstaff has been named interim coach. The Grizzlies reached the postseason for a seventh straight time in Fizdale’s first season, and they started this season 5-1. But guard Mike Conley has been injured and Marc Gasol made his frustration clear after being benched in the fourth period of a 98-88 loss to the Nets on Sunday.

Harris, Drummond help Pistons win in Boston

Tobias Harris scored 31 points and Andre Drummond had 26 points and 22 rebounds as Detroit won in Boston, 118-108. It was only the second home loss for the Celtics (18-4) . . . LeBron James had 30 points, 13 rebounds and six assists to lead Cleveland over host Philadelphia, 113-91. The three-time defending Eastern Conference champions won their eighth straight.


Luongo reaches milestone as Panthers top Devils

Jared McCann scored the go-ahead goal and Roberto Luongo made 23 saves as visiting Florida beat the Devils, 3-2. Luongo, who started with the Islanders, is now the only goalie besides Patrick Roy to win 200 games with two different teams. He also won 252 with Vancouver.


Rangers sign Fister

Texas agreed on a contract with free-agent righthander Doug Fister, 33, pending a physical. The righthander started 15 games for the Red Sox last season and was 5-9 with a 4.88 ERA.— AP

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