BARCELONA - Barcelona has staunchly defended Lionel Messi over claims he racially abused a black Real Madrid player several seasons ago. Dutch midfielder Royston Drenthe, who is currently on loan at Everton, was quoted in a Dutch magazine as saying he was taunted by the Argentina forward and three-time world player of the year during several of their Spanish league encounters. Barcelona said in a statement that the accusations "are well wide of the mark" and that Messi "has always shown maximum respect and sportsmanship towards his rivals." Drenthe, who is black, claims Messi used the word "negro" in a negative tone. Liverpool's Luis Suarez was banned for eight games for taunting Manchester United's Patrice Evra the same way this season.
New ICC boss
DUBAI - Former Test wicketkeeper David Richardson is set to succeed fellow South African Haroon Lorgat as the new chief executive of the International Cricket Council (ICC), the global governing body announced on Thursday. Richardson's name will go forward for approval by the ICC annual conference at its meeting in Kuala Lumpur in June 28 after being chosen by the ICC board. He was one of four candidates, believed to have included England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chief executive David Collier, who were interviewed for the post in Mumbai last weekend. If confirmed, Richardson's appointment would be ground-breaking for two reasons: he would be the first former international cricketer to hold the post of ICC chief executive since its creation in 1993 and the first to be already working for world cricket's governing body. Johannesburg-born Richardson, 52, a qualified lawyer, has been the ICC's general manager for cricket for the last 10 years having previously represented South Africa in 42 Tests and 122 one-day internationals.
Back on top
HYDERABAD, India - Australian opener David Warner smashed a century as Delhi Daredevils climbed back to the top of the Indian Premier League standings with a nine-wicket win over Deccan Chargers on Thursday. Warner bludgeoned 109 not out off 54 deliveries with seven sixes and 10 fours. He featured in a 189-run unbroken stand for the second wicket with Naman Ojha (64 not out) to lead Delhi to 193-1 in 16.4 overs after Deccan had scored 187-4 after electing to bat at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium. Earlier, Shikhar Dhawan (84) and Cameron White (65) had boosted the Deccan innings. Delhi has nine wins and three losses from 12 games. Deccan is last in the nine-team league with two wins, 10 losses and one no-result from 13 to be out of the playoff reckoning.
MADRID - Rafael Nadal has lost to Spanish countryman Fernando Verdasco for the first time in the third round of the Madrid Open on Thursday, blowing a 4-1 lead in the third set as he went down 6-3 3-6 7-5. After overcoming an offbeat first set on the event's unorthodox blue-clay court, Nadal evened the score and appeared set to move on to the quarter-finals. But Verdasco took charge to get his first win over Nadal in 14 tries. "After losing so many times against honestly the best player on clay ever, to beat him on clay is the maximum," said an emotional Verdasco. "I don't have words." Verdasco will play Tomas Berdych next after the Czech beat Gael Monfils 6-1, 6-1.
SOUTHAMPTON, England - The second phase of testing with Hawk-Eye's goal-line technology system has started, less than two months before football's rule-makers decide whether it can be used in games. Experiments with the Sony Corp-owned system were conducted at Southampton's St Mary's Stadium on Thursday. Hawk-Eye is a camera-based ball-tracking system successfully deployed in tennis and cricket. The other system being considered by the International Football Association Board is the GoalRef system which is set to be tested in Danish matches. GoalRef, owned by a German-Danish company, uses a magnetic field with a special ball. IFAB is set to make a final decision on whether to allow the use of goal-line technology at a meeting on July 2.
MADEIRA, Portugal - Spanish journeyman golfer Alvaro Velasco shot a stunning eight-under-par 64 to lead after the first round of the Madeira Islands Open on Thursday. The 30-year-old - who has two wins on the second tier Challenger Tour to his credit including the Kazakhstan Open - holds a two shot lead over a host of players including former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson. "I was consistent all day and putted very well," Velasco told the European Tour website. "If you hit it in the right spots the course is quite easy, but if you're in the wrong place it's easy to get in trouble. "I can't remember the last time I made such a good start to a tournament."
DENVER, Colorado - Denver Nuggets center Chris Andersen was excused from all team activities on Thursday after police seized property from his home as part of a reported investigation into internet crimes against children. The Denver Post reported on Thursday that the Douglas County Sheriff's office contacted the NBA player regarding the investigation and that he fully cooperated with authorities. Sheriff's spokeswoman Deborah Sherman declined to say if Andersen, 33, is a suspect in the probe, and the Post reported that property records show at least one other person lives in the house with him. His manager, Mark Bryant, declined comment. "The Denver Nuggets are aware of today's media reports involving forward/center Chris Andersen," the team said in a statement. "It involves a legal investigation and we are awaiting details.
FANO, Italy - Britain's world road race champion Mark Cavendish won the 209km fifth stage of the Giro d'Italia for his second win in this year's race on Thursday and celebrated by taking his baby daughter onto the podium. Lithuanian rider Ramunas Navardausas retained the overall leader's pink jersey. Cavendish, 26, shrugged off the deep bruising he suffered to his left side when he crashed at Horsens, Denmark, on Monday to edge out Australian Matt Goss, winner of Monday's stage, Italian Daniele Bennati and South African ace Robert Hunter. It was Cavendish's sixth win of the season and ninth overall in the Giro, in which he is competing for the fourth time, taking him to 32 stage wins in the major Tours. "As I couldn't sleep after my fall, I wasn't 100% and I felt tired," said the Isle of Man-born rider, who embraced former girlfriend Peta Todd and daughter Delilah Grace.