TIME

Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali Wins Tour de France

Race leader Astana team rider Nibali of Italy rides near the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the final 21st stage of the Tour de France in Paris
Race leader Astana team rider Vincenzo Nibali of Italy rides near the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the final 21st stage of the Tour de France cycle race in Paris, July 27, 2014. Jean-Paul Pelissier—Reuters

PARIS — Vincenzo Nibali won the Tour de France on Sunday, becoming the first Italian in 16 years to triumph in cycling’s greatest race by chiseling a lead over his main rivals a few seconds at a time and dominating them in the mountains.

The 29-year-old Sicilian, who called himself “a flag-bearer of anti-doping” during the race, finished in the pack behind Marcel Kittel, who won the 21st stage in a sprint finish.

Nibali’s victory comes after the pre-race favorites — 2013 champion Chris Froome and two-time winner Alberto Contador — crashed out with injuries in the first half of this year’s Tour.

Astana team leader Nibali is only the sixth rider to win all three Grand Tours — France, Italy and Spain. The last Italian to win the Tour de France was Marco Pantani in 1998.

After cruising after Kittel, a German who got his fourth stage win, Nibali got pats on the back, kissed his wife and infant daughter, and was mobbed by cameras as race organizers hustled him away to prepare for the final awards ceremony.

“Unbelievable,” said Kittel, whose victories bookended this Tour. He won Stage 1 when British rival Mark Cavendish crashed out in the final sprint.

Nibali also won four stages, a feat not equaled by a Tour winner since Lance Armstrong won five a decade ago. He wore the yellow jersey for all but two stages since Stage 1. His 7 minute, 52 second margin over runner-up Jean-Christophe Peraud is the largest since Jan Ullrich of Germany beat second-placed Richard Virenque by just over 9 minutes in 1997.

In one of the subplots of this race, Peraud and third-placed Thibaut Pinot became the first Frenchmen to reach the Tour podium since Virenque in that same year.

But such comparisons, many cycling insiders have noted, miss the mark. Armstrong, Ullrich and Virenque were three of the big-name riders caught in nearly a generation of doping scandals in cycling. Armstrong, in the biggest scandal ever in the sport, admitted to doping and was stripped of his record seven Tour titles.

Nibali and many others in the peloton say that era is past. But his own victories in the 2010 Vuelta and the Italian Giro last year were tarnished by high-profile doping cases involving other riders. While cycling’s governing body, the UCI, has made great efforts to halt use of drugs and other performance-enhancers, such as through the biological passport program, few cycling observers believe the pack is fully clean.

Many naysayers may argue that Nibali was the best of the riders still in this Tour. Colombia’s Nairo Quintana, who won the Giro d’Italia in May, did not ride. Bradley Wiggins, the 2012 Tour champ, was passed over so his Sky Team could focus on Froome. Then Froome and Contador pulled out due to injuries.

But even before they left, Nibali had gained a 2-second advantage on them by winning Stage 2, surprising even himself. Then, in Stage 5 after Froome crashed out, the Italian excelled on cobblestone patches that slowed down Contador, who lost more than 2 1/2 minutes to Nibali. The Spaniard was forced into a need to attack.

On a downhill in Stage 10, Contador crashed and fractured his tibia. But Nibali, who is known as “The Shark of the Strait” — a nod to the waterway near his hometown of Messina, Sicily — didn’t stop there. He went on to win that stage into La Planche des Belles Filles. It was the first of three stages with uphill finishes that he won, adding one in the Alps (Chamrousse) and another in the Pyrenees (Hautacam).

Nibali said this Tour layout, announced last fall, “was almost made to measure for me.”

The 101st edition began in Yorkshire, England, and guided riders over 3,664 kilometers (2,277 miles) including cobblestones, wind-swept flats and climbs in the Vosges, Alps and Pyrenees.

With the Arc de Triomphe in Paris as the backdrop, other riders getting TV time on the winner’s podium included Peter Sagan of Slovakia, winner of the green jersey given to the race’s best sprinter; Rafal Majka of Poland, the best climber; and Pinot, the best young rider born since the start of 1989.

TIME Cycling

Tour de France: Determination, Dirt and Damage

With the world's most epic cycling competition concluding Sunday with Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali victorious, TIME takes a look back at the monthlong contest with a photo from every day of the race.

TIME

Kevin Love Withdraws From Team USA

Kevin Love has withdrawn from this summer’s USA Basketball roster because of his uncertain NBA status, leaving the Americans without one of their most experienced international players.

Team USA announced the decision on Saturday. Love, who won gold medals at the 2012 Olympics and 2010 world championship and was one of the first players to commit to play this summer, told USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo that he would be unavailable for training camp that starts Monday.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are considering trading Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers are trying to acquire the three-time All-Star to pair with LeBron James. A trade could fall apart if Love were to play and be injured.

Colangelo says that the U.S. “can only look to the players we have available.”

TIME Sports

ESPN Sportscaster Comments on Ray Rice Stir Controversy

Commentator Stephen A. Smith has been accused of victim blaming

+ READ ARTICLE

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice received a slap-on-the-wrist, two-game suspension after being arrested and indicted for allegedly hitting his now-wife so hard that he knocked her unconscious. Following the NFL’s announcement of the punishment, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith implied yesterday on First Take that women need to be careful about what they do or say so as not to tempt men to viciously attack them:

We know you have no business putting your hands on a woman. I don’t know how many times I got to reiterate that… But what I’ve tried to employ the female members of my family, some of who you all met and talked to and what have you, is that again, and this what, I’ve done this all my life, let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions, because if I come, or somebody else come, whether it’s law enforcement officials, your brother or the fellas that you know, if we come after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn’t negate the fact that they already put their hands on you. So let’s try to make sure that we can do our part in making sure that that doesn’t happen.

He goes on:

In Ray Rice’s case, he probably deserves more than a 2-game suspension which we both acknowledged. But at the same time, we also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation. Not that there’s real provocation, but the elements of provocation, you got to make sure that you address them, because we’ve got to do is do what we can to try to prevent the situation from happening in any way. And I don’t think that’s broached enough, is all I’m saying. No point of blame.

ESPN host Michelle Beadle fired back at Smith after the segment on Twitter.

She has also retweeted several violent threats that were made against her following her comments.

Smith responded by trying to clarify his position and apologizing to Beadle. He tweets that he never accused women of being wrong. But he also concludes, “I was simply saying to take all things into consideration for preventative purposes.”

MORE: The NFL Needs To Take Domestic Violence Seriously

TIME World Cup

Robots Have Their Own World Cup

But they're training to compete in ours

The computer Deep Blue defeating world chess champion Garry Kasparov at his own game in 1997 was one thing but when a team of humanoid robots defeats the world’s greatest soccer players it will be something else altogether. These scientists are working to achieve just that. Founded the same year Deep Blue took down Kasparov, the Robocup was born with the mission of developing an artificially intelligent human-like robot by 2050 capable of beating the World Cup soccer champions. But before the robots get to defeating us humans at the world’s favorite game they’re practicing against each other each year in the Robocup, a robot soccer tournament in which the machines must obey the same rules as normal soccer. For this year’s Robocup, more than 4000 engineers and scientists from over 40 countries assembled in Brazil to set their machines competing against one another.

TIME World Cup

FIFA Rejects Calls to Strip Russia of World Cup

(ZURICH) — FIFA rejected calls to move the 2018 World Cup from Russia, saying the tournament “can achieve positive change.”

Russia’s alleged involvement in shooting down a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine last week prompted calls from some lawmakers in Germany to review the country’s hosting rights.

On Friday, FIFA issued a statement saying it “deplores any form of violence” and questioning the purpose of relocating the sport’s showcase tournament.

“History has shown so far that boycotting sport events or a policy of isolation or confrontation are not the most effective ways to solve problems,” FIFA said, adding that global attention on the World Cup “can be a powerful catalyst for constructive dialogue between people and governments.”

The conflict between Ukraine and pro-Russia separatist rebels escalated days after the World Cup ended in Brazil.

On July 13 in Rio de Janeiro, Russian President Vladimir Putin attended a World Cup hosting handover ceremony with Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff. Both then sat next to FIFA President Sepp Blatter to watch the final at the Maracana Stadium, won by Germany.

FIFA, which has Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko on its executive committee, said a World Cup in the country “can be a force for good.”

“FIFA believes this will be the case for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia,” the governing body said.

Blatter already rejected calls to strip Russia of the tournament after it annexed the Crimea this year.

“The World Cup has been given and voted to Russia and we are going forward with our work,” Blatter said in March.

In a separate statement Friday, Mutko said a U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics had been a mistake.

“So there’s no sense in reacting to politicians trying to make names for themselves,” Mutko was quoted saying by Russian news agency R-Sport. “We’re preparing in a calm way, building facilities, getting ready for the World Cup.”

Russia has announced a $20 billion budget for building and renovating 12 stadiums, and other construction projects, for the first World Cup in Eastern Europe.

“FIFA has stated many times that sport should be outside politics,” Mutko said. “Hosting an event like this, we’re doing it for athletes from all over the world, for footballers, for the fans.”

TIME Sports

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Stop Keeping College Athletes Poor and Trapped

Ed O''Bannon
Ed O'Bannon playing for the UCLA Bruins in 1995. O’Bannon, along with a few other players, is suing for players to have control over the use of their likenesses, which earn millions of dollars for the NCAA. J.D. Cuban—Getty Images

Without unions, college athletics will remain a subtle but insidious form of child abuse.

A new survey finds that 60% of incoming college football players support unions for college athletes. The horror! Were such unions allowed, our glorious cities would crumble to nothing more than shoddy tents stitched together from tattered remnants of Old Glory; our government officials would be loin-cloth-clad elders gathered in the rubble of an old McDonald’s passing a Talking Stick; our naked children would roam the urban wilderness like howling wolves, their minds as blank as their lost Internet connection. We would be without hope, dreams, or a future.

Or at least that’s what you might believe based on the nuclear reaction a few months ago when a dapper man named Ramogi Huma attempted to destroy everything that America holds sacred with just such a proposal to unionize college athletes. His argument was simple: that college athletes should be classified as employees of their colleges and therefore receive certain basic benefits. He did not advocate player salaries, but only programs to minimize brain trauma risks among athletes, a raise in scholarship amounts, more financial assistance for sports-related injuries, an increase in graduation rates, and several other similar goals.

You would have thought he’d proposed dressing the Statue of Liberty in a star-spangled thong.

But Huma is not alone in his assault on the NCAA’s iron-fisted control of all things related to college athletics that might generate income (as befits their new motto: “If it earns, it’s ours.”). Other current and former college athletes are questioning the NCAA-brand Kool-Aid. Former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon, along with a few other players, is suing for players to have control over the use of their likenesses, which earn millions of dollars for the NCAA — but not a cent for the players. Another class-action anti-trust suit has been filed to remove the cap on player compensation — currently limited to the value of the scholarship they receive, plus room and board — as an illegal restraint of trade.

Predictably, the NCAA is against any scheme to get college players paid, claiming that unionizing will “completely throw away a system that has helped literally millions of students over the past decade alone to attend college.” Attend, but not necessarily complete, especially if you suffer any long-term injury. Because if you don’t compete, you don’t complete.

And the NCAA has the backing from some powerful Washington, D.C. politicians who, according to Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), worry about strikes that will “destroy intercollegiate athletics as we know it.” Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) also chimed in: “I haven’t looked at the specifics of this and what would be required, but having formally chaired the House Education and Workforce Committee and worked with the National Labor Relations Act for the last 30 years, I find it a bit bizarre.”

Nothing more reassuring than someone who acknowledges he hasn’t really “looked at the specifics” but has an opinion anyway.

Well, Senator, here are some specifics:

  • Last year, NCAA March Madness made $1 billion for CBS and Turner Broadcasting.
  • The NCAA takes in more than $6 billion a year.
  • The NCAA president made $1.7 million last year.
  • The NCAA top ten basketball coaches earn salaries that range from $2,200,000 to $9,682,032.

While these coaches and executives may deserve these amounts, they shouldn’t earn them while the 18-to-21-year-old kid who plays every game and risks a permanent career-ending injury gets only scholarship money — money that can be taken away if the player is injured and can’t contribute to the team anymore.

The irony is that the NCAA and other supporters claim it will sully the purity of college sports — desecrating our image of it as a youthful clash of school rivalries that always ends at the malt shop with school songs being sung and innocent flirting between boys in letterman jackets and girls with pert ponytails and chastity rings. In reality, what makes college sports such a powerful symbol in our culture is that they represent our attempt to impose fairness on an otherwise unfair world. Fair play, sportsmanship, and good-natured rivalry are lofty goals to live by. By treating the athletes like indentured servants, we’re tarnishing that symbol and reducing college sports to just another exploitation of workers, no better than a sweat shop.

Everyone’s hope was that once these inequities were exposed, the NCAA would do the right thing. That hasn’t happened on a meaningful scale. Instead, they battle in court, issue press releases, and appeal to Norman Rockwell nostalgia.

The athletes are left with the choice of either crossing their fingers and hoping their fairy godmothers will convince the NCAA to give up money that it doesn’t have to, or of forming a collective bargaining group to negotiate from a place of unified strength.

Most Americans agree that the athletes are being short-changed. A recent HuffPost/YouGov poll concluded that 51% of Americans believed that universities should be required to cover medical expenses for former players if those expenses were the result of playing for the school. A whopping 73% believed athletic scholarships should not be withdrawn from students who are injured and are no longer able to play.

But when it comes to these same student-athletes forming a union, an HBO Real Sports and The Marist College Center for Sports Communication poll showed 75% of Americans opposed to the formation of a college athlete union, with only 22% for it.

Why such a difference between wanting equity and supporting the best means to achieve it? Despite 14.5 million Americans belonging to labor unions, we’ve always had a love-hate relationship with them.

The Love: Unions can be like a protective parent arguing with an arrogant teacher over their child’s unfair grade. The Hate: Unions can be like a bossy spouse who complains about all the work they do for you while shoveling corn chips into their maw from the La-Z-Boy.

Our relationship with college athletes is much clearer. We adore and revere them. They represent the fantasy of our children achieving success and being popular. Watching them play with such enthusiasm and energy for nothing more than school pride is the distillation of pure Hope for the Future.

But strip away the rose-colored glasses and we’re left with a subtle but insidious form of child abuse.

Which raises the question: How will things change?

When I was a young, handsome player at UCLA, with a full head of hair and a pocket full of nothing, I sometimes had a friend scalp my game tickets so I could have a little spending money. I couldn’t afford a car, which scholarship students in other disciplines could because they were permitted to have jobs, so I couldn’t go anywhere. I got bored just sitting around my dorm room and frustrated wandering around Westwood, passing shops in which I couldn’t afford to buy anything.

How will things change? It’s possible the NCAA will eventually capitulate to these common-sense requests, but since it hasn’t so far, the only reason it would change its mind now would be because of the threat of the union. Either way, the union will have caused positive change for these young athletes. But without a union, these student-athletes will be without any advocates and will always be at the whim of the NCAA and the colleges and universities that profit from them.

Abdul-Jabbar is a six-time NBA champion and league Most Valuable Player. Follow him on Twitter (@KAJ33) and Facebook (facebook.com/KAJ). Abdul-Jabbar also writes a weekly column for the L.A. Register.

TIME Soccer

Why European Soccer Teams See Gold in America

Manchester United v Los Angeles Galaxy
Robbie Keane #7 of the Los Angeles Galaxy greets Wayne Rooney #10 of Manchester United drurning prematch ceremonies at the Rose Bowl on July 23, 2014 in Pasadena, California. Stephen Dunn—Getty Images

There's money to be made in the New World

The summer of soccer isn’t over yet. Following in the footsteps of nearly rabid fan interest in the United States Men’s National Team during the World Cup, and record numbers of American viewers for the tournament, some of Europe’s best teams have landed here in search of pre-season competition — and pre-season earnings on ticket and merchandise sales.

Manchester United is one of eight teams that will contest the Guinness International Champions Cup against the likes of Inter Milan, A.C. Milan, AS Roma, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester City and Olympiacos. The tournament features a tasty matchup between Man U and Real Madrid on August 2 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan — a.k.a. “The Big House” – that will break the U.S. attendance record for a soccer match in the U.S., given that all 109,901 seats have already been sold. Matches will also take place in Denver, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Toronto, Los Angeles and New York City, among other cities. The championship games will be played in Miami on August 4.

United warmed up for the tournament by tearing apart Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy, 7-0, in a friendly at the Rose Bowl Stadium before a crowd of 86,432. This was not a trip that Man U’s new coach Louis van Gaal, even wanted to make. “But the tour was already arranged, so I have to adapt, I shall adapt,” he said. Better get used to it, Louie. Man U’s American owners, the Glazer family, like to bring their assets home for the locals to see.

Big teams have been making periodic visits to the States for decades, although the scale and scope of this year’s visitors is nearly unprecedented. In the past, it’s been more about reconnecting with immigrant fan bases. Napoli and Santos, with Pele, played to nearly 50,000 in Yankee Stadium in 1968, with the European team tapping into a huge base of southern Italians in the metro New York area.

But as the global game, and its glam teams, have become more visible in the U.S. via weekly television exposure, America has become a destination of choice for brand building and income generation. Why train at home or in Switzerland and play friendlies against local clubs when you can get North American fans to pay your team a premium for getting in shape? Top tickets for these games are as much as $250.

In the case of one of MLS’s newest franchises, New York City F.C., ownership, rivalry and brand building interests come home to Yankee Stadium, where Liverpool meets Manchester City on July 30. NYCFC is jointly owned by the Yankees and Man City, while Liverpool is owned by Fenway Sports Group, the same outfit, controlled by John Henry, that owns the Boston Red Sox. Can’t you just smell the hatred brewing?

Liverpool started its tour with a 1-0 loss in sold-out Fenway Park to another American-owned club, A.S. Roma, which is spending its third consecutive summer in the States with a two-week, four-match schedule. Arsenal, which plays a friendly against the MLS’ New York Red Bulls in Harrison, N.J. on August 2, is partly owned by American Stan Kroenke. And Arsenal knows that, as a global brand, it needs to build its fan base in the U.S. Indeed, Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis is no stranger to these shores, having served as deputy commissioner of the MLS before heading to London.

“I can tell you something I’m completely convinced of ,” noted Gunners boss Arsene Wenger on the team’s web site, “before people didn’t know who you were, but now every American guy I met knows Arsenal, knows England and knows the Premier League.” No reason then not to sell a piece of it to them.

TIME NFL

Ray Rice Suspended For 2 Games Over Assault Charge

Ray Rice Press Conference
Running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens addresses a news conference at the Ravens training center on May 23, 2014 in Owings Mills, Maryland. Rob Carr—Getty Images

Rice was indicted for assaulting his now-wife in March

The National Football League confirmed Thursday that the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice has been suspended for two games without pay and given a $58,000 fine after a grand jury indicted Rice with assaulting a woman he later married.

“As you acknowledged during our meeting, your conduct was unquestionably inconsistent with league polices and the standard of behavior required of everyone who is part of the NFL,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote to Rice in a letter following a meeting between the two men.

Rice pled not guilty to aggravated assault in the third degree after a physical altercation between him and then-fiancee Janay Palmer left Palmer unconscious in an Atlantic City casino elevator. A grand jury indicted Rice in March; Rice and Palmer married the following day. Rice settled those charges by entering a pretrial program in May, which meant he was not required to pay a criminal fine or serve jail time. The indictment will be cleared from Rice’s record in one year.

However, the NFL says Rice violated the league’s personal conduct policy, opening him up to punishment by the league.

The running back’s suspension from play will begin on Aug. 30, and he will be eligible to play again on Sept. 12. He will not be paid for those two games plus an additional game, a loss that totals in more than $470,000. He is permitted to participate in training camp and preseason games. The three-time Pro Bowl player can appeal the decision within three days.

Goodell went on to say that Rice was expected to continue counseling.

“It is disappointing that I will not be with my teammates for the first two games of the season, but that’s my fault,” Rice said in a statement released by the team. “As I said earlier, I failed in many ways. But, Janay and I have learned from this. We have become better as a couple and as parents.”

“We also respect the efforts Ray has made to become the best partner and father he can be,” General Manager and Executive Vice President Ozzie Newsome said in a statement. “That night was not typical of the Ray Rice we know and respect. We believe that he will not let that one night define who he is, and he is determined to make sure something like this never happens again.”

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser