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Jeremy Lin inspires Asian-Aussie basketballers

The global buzz around New York Knicks’ star Jeremy Lin has been dubbed “Lin-Sanity”, with the unassuming Harvard graduate this week named among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people for 2012.

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“From a NBA perspective, which is obviously something we all follow, you didn’t hear anything else but Jeremy, so obviously he’s highly influential,” says Boon Tan, CEO of the Australia Chinese Basketball Association.

Lin’s fame has also boosted interest in Australia’s National Basketball League, said Aaron Flanagan, the NBL’s sales and marketing manager.

“The media coverage that Jeremy Lin has created here in Australia has been fantastic. It makes sense that, that is going to… have a positive impact on the amount of Chinese basketballers who want to play in our competition,” he said.

Lin is also changing the way Asians perceive basketball, and their abilities.

“The Asian physique isn’t that outstanding compared to westerners but after Jeremy Lin proved himself, everyone feels that if we have a dream, with basketball in our hands, we can be the same as everyone else,” says basketballer Michael Zhang.

But following one’s dream isn’t always easy in the Asian culture, which tends to value academic success over sporting achievements.

“If you’ve got your head in the books you’re not out there shooting at the basket and getting your shot developed. Personally, I think there needs to be a balance and Jeremy Lin has shown that. He went to Harvard, for goodness sake,” said Mr Tan.

For young basketball enthusiasts, the weekly Australian Chinese Basketball Association tournament is like their own NBA competition. It’s also a stage where they can showcase their skills.

But to reach that next level, players need to change their mindset, says basketballer Billy Wang. He says Asian often have the capability, but don’t dare go full out and often shy away from dunking.

“Whereas the Caucasians, when I play with them, no matter how short they are, the more [they dunk] the stronger they become,” Mr Wang said.

The CEO of Australia’s largest Chinese basketball association believes the NBL can utilise “Lin-sanity” to boost its domestic following.

The NBL though is also eyeing the world’s largest basketball fan base – China – where an estimated 300 million people play the sport.

Mr Flanagan said there had been talk about establishing a champions’ trophy concept, where the top two Chinese Basketball Association teams take on the best from the NBL.

As for Jeremy Lin, a partial meniscus tear in his left knee may see him out for the remainder of the NBA season, but there’s little doubt his popularity will remain a source of motivation for local basketball enthusiasts.

Chen to get US passport ‘within 15 days’

Blind activist Chen Guangcheng said Thursday China had agreed to issue him a passport within 15 days, allowing him to go to the United States after a bitter row between Beijing and Washington.

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It was the first indication of when Chen would be allowed to leave the country since he left the US embassy more than two weeks ago after seeking refuge there following his dramatic escape from house arrest.

Speaking to AFP by telephone from the hospital where he is being treated, Chen also said authorities had promised to investigate murder charges brought against his nephew that he has said are motivated by revenge.

“Officials visited yesterday, we filled out passport application forms for myself, my wife and children,” said the 40-year-old legal campaigner, who triggered a diplomatic crisis when he fled to the US embassy last month.

“They said the passports should be issued within 15 days,” he added. The couple have a nine-year-old son and a six-year-old daughter.

Chen, one of China’s best-known dissidents, has won plaudits for exposing rights abuses including forced sterilisations and late-term abortions under China’s “one-child” family planning policy.

His activism earned him a four-year prison sentence that ended in 2010 when he was placed under extra-judicial house arrest in his home village of Dongshigu in the eastern province of Shandong, where he languished until his escape.

Wednesday’s meeting with government officials was his first since May 7, when they told Chen they were processing papers for him to leave for the US, where he has been offered fellowships to study law.

Details of his dramatic flight from house arrest have gradually emerged during his time in hospital, and on Thursday, he told how he feared for his life and for the safety of the villagers who helped him.

“After I escaped from home, that is when I was the most worried,” Chen said.

“There were at least 60 or so people guarding me in the village. If they had discovered I had escaped they could have beaten me to death. At that time it was very, very dangerous.”

News of Chen’s escape broke just days before US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Beijing for pre-arranged talks and made headlines around the world, causing major embarrassment for the Chinese government.

As Clinton arrived in China, Chen left the US embassy and was taken by diplomats to a Beijing hospital after Chinese authorities guaranteed his safety.

Since then, he has accused local officials in Shandong of targeting his relatives out of revenge for his escape.

His nephew, Chen Kegui, is in detention charged with “intentional homicide” over an attack on a local official who broke into the family’s home after discovering that Chen had escaped from under the noses of his guards.

The official was said at the time to have survived the attack and the charge has baffled lawyers representing Chen Kegui, who say it will not stand up in court. Police in Yinan county, which includes Dongshigu, refused to comment on the case when contacted by AFP.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a rights group, said police had detained and tortured Chen Guangcheng’s older brother Chen Guangfu, the father of Chen Kegui, on April 27 — the day of the break-in.

“Authorities handcuffed Chen Guangfu and shackled his legs, and then whipped his hands with a leather belt, struck him in the ribs, and stomped hard on his feet,” the group said in a statement late Wednesday.

“The abuses against Chen Guangfu represent the most physically violent treatment to surface so far among the spate of retaliatory acts towards those with links to Chen Guangcheng after his flight from house arrest.”

Chen Guangfu remains “under strict control” and cannot contact other family members, including many who are also being monitored by authorities, the group said, citing local sources in Yinan.

Chen Guangcheng said the government officials who visited him on Wednesday had promised to investigate the situation.

Two lawyers had tried to visit Chen Kegui on Wednesday but were turned away by police.

“Yinan police said the person in charge was not there and did not allow them to see Chen Kegui,” Chen Guangcheng told AFP, adding he feared authorities were refusing visits because his nephew had been beaten.

Comment: Vaccination and the art of gentle persuasion

By Julie Leask, University of Sydney

Dr Seuss’ book Green Eggs and Ham is built around the urgings of a weird creature, Sam I Am, who insists the narrator eat the food of its title.

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When the narrator refuses, Sam issues an ever-widening range of appeals – Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat them with a fox? But Sam’s insistence fails to convince an increasingly vehement narrator.

The story provides a light-hearted analogy to the plight of anyone who has tried to persuade another person to abandon an entrenched position – especially a parent’s decision to not vaccinate their child. In fact, psychologists have found that too much urging can result in a backfire effect, with the person becoming more committed to their beliefs.

When herd immunity hangs by a narrow margin, the decisions taken by a small group of parents matter. With too view children vaccinated, a disease such as measles can easily spread. This impacts on the whole community, including those too young to be vaccinated and those who can’t have a vaccine for medical reasons.

While a measles epidemic cannot be solely blamed on people who actively forgo vaccination – waning immunity in adults also contributes – it can be an important factor. We saw this play out in the United Kingdom in the late 2000s, when the now-debunked theory that the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism drove immunisation rates down to 80%.

Avoiding a disease tragedy

The most important strategy to prevent the avoidable spread of infectious diseases lies on the supply side, with governments maintaining well-oiled systems. Free, easily accessible, safe and effective vaccines need to get to those who actually want them. It’s a tragedy when parents who want to vaccinate their children can’t do so because of external impediments.

The second strategy is to target those who are hesitant about vaccination. People in this group usually vaccinate but might delay or decline a stigmatised vaccine such as MMR or human papillomavirus (HPV).

Australia could do more to meet the needs of these active information seekers. Just this week, the Academy of Science released a high-end publication The Science of Immunisation: Questions and Answers. It sets out to explain the current situation in immunisation science, including where there is consensus in the scientific community and where uncertainties exist.

The third approach to preventing a disease outbreak is to minimise the proportion of people who refuse vaccines. Even though they represent about 2% of Australian parents, they cluster in certain regions where up to 35% may be unvaccinated. An outbreak of whooping cough or measles in those communities would result in a much more sustained spread.

Parents often form views about vaccination during pregnancy or in their child’s first year. Flickr/stephanski

Talking with vaccine refusers

One of the most important times to address this problem is when parents are forming or solidifying their views on vaccination – usually during pregnancy or in the child’s first year. At this time, their family doctor or child health nurse has a crucial role in discussing concerns.

These discussions can be challenging for health professionals. With this in mind, I worked with an international group of clinicians and communication scientists to develop a framework for health professionals in communicating about vaccination. We recognised these health professionals posess a good deal of training, experience and skill in communicating – that they already had a collection of communication tools. The trick is often knowing which tools to use and when.

The framework involves a tailored approach and is informed by evidence in the areas of communication science and motivational interviewing. It begins with a spectrum of parental positions: unquestioning acceptance, cautious acceptance, hesitance, delay/selective vaccination, and refusal. The goals and strategies will differ across these positions.

The common theme is listening and acknowledgement, and, as even Dr Seuss himself inferred, this approach is far more likely to produce a positive result than talking at cross-purposes.

Seuss showed us that a simple acknowledgement and a more respectful plea is part of the art of gentle persuasion. AdolfGalland

When mum “Kate”, for example, declares her intention to her doctor to give her baby homoeopathic preparations instead of vaccination, he may immediately try to put her right, knowing homeopathy won’t protect the baby at all. This “righting reflex” is the natural response of health professionals to instinctively leap in and “put right” health-care problems.

With parents such as Kate who are often fixed in their views, the discussion can descend into a game of scientific ping-pong, arguing back and forth about the evidence. These discussions are usually time consuming and are likely to further entrench Kate who, feeling cornered, will defensively rehearse and reinforce her arguments.

In this situation, a better goal would be to build a rapport that may have gains further down the track, including further discussion, partial vaccination and, perhaps eventually, full vaccination. This would be done by acknowledging her concerns, asking permission to discuss, encouraging her to explore the pros and cons of her decision, and eliciting her own possible motivations to protect her baby from diseases such as whooping cough, particularly since her decision to use homeopathy has already demonstrated some desire for active protection.

This approach draws from motivational interviewing that uses a guiding style, rather than a directing style, for discussions where there is ambivalence and resistance to change. The method has shown to be effective for a range of health behaviours.

Our framework also sets out strategies for parents who want to delay or select-out some vaccines, are hesitant, or generally accepting of vaccination. Across all such scenarios, it is more effective if professionals build rapport, accept questions and concerns, and facilitate valid consent by discussing both benefits and risks of vaccination.

In Green Eggs and Ham, it’s not until Sam I Am finally acknowledges, “You do not like them, so you say. Try them try them and you may” that the winds of refusal change. The narrator tries the strange dish and, by book’s end, happily declares his love for it, and his gratitude to Sam.

Seuss showed us that a simple acknowledgement and a more respectful plea is part of the art of gentle persuasion.

Julie Leask participated in an ARC Linkage grant that received partial funding from Sanofi Pasteur. She contributed to the Science of Immunisation booklet.

Champions League: Aussie fans on edge for all-German final

This will be Bayern Munich’s third Champion League final in four years after losing to Chelsea last year and to Inter Milan in 2010.

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The Bavarian giants, who are hoping to end a 12-year wait for the biggest prize in European club football, are widely regarded as favourites to claim their fifth continental title.

There’s also a lot on the line for Borussia Dortmund.

The 1997 European Champions have yet to beat Bayern this season after two losses and two draws in their four previous encounters.

And the significance of the moment is not lost on 24 year-old Emerald born goalkeeper Mitch Langerak.

He will become the third Australian to take part in the Champions League final, following in the footsteps of Frank Juric and Zjelko Kalac.

For his junior coach, who travelled all the way from Bundaberg to London for the game, it’s a moment of great pride.

“It’s a dream come true. I always knew he would make it,” says Richard Shortman.

Just like Mitch Langerak, Borussia Dortmund have overcome enormous odds to reach the final.

They will again be underdogs against their more illustrious German rivals Bayern Munich, who finished 25 points ahead of them in the Bundesliga and have a budget double that of their opponents.

But under the stewardship of wily coach Jurgen Klopp Dortmund, they have upset their giant neighbours a number of times.

Most notably in last season’s German Cup final, where Dortmund thrashed Bavarian giants 5-2.

Klopp may appear eccentric but he has an eye for detail and that will be crucial in their bid for a second European crown.

“The game can be decided by a small moment,” says Jurgen Klopp.

For Bayern Munich the new Wembley represents a chance at redemption.

The memories of last season’s heart-breaking penalty shootout defeat on home soil by London club Chelsea, could be swept away by claiming European football’s biggest prize in the English capital.

Thousands of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich will fill the football cathedral that is Wembley Stadium for the first all-German Champions League final.

“It’s a special game, if this is to be my only UCL final, I want it to be this one,” Jurgen Klopp says.

While it might be a celebratory mood off the field, on the pitch the final is set to be a tight, tense affair between two sides that have a long history of intimate battles.

SBS ONE will broadcast live coverage of the Champions League final from Wembley from 4:15am AEST on Sunday, 25 May.

McKeon flops in 400m free at world titles

Rising Australian swimmer David McKeon was shattered after becoming a surprise casualty in the 400m freestyle heats on day one of the world championships.

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The national champion, who was ranked second in the world coming into the event in Barcelona, was 12th fastest in Sunday’s heats to miss out on a spot in the eight-man final.

Compatriot Jordan Harrison, just 17, had no such problems as he impressed to qualify third fastest for Sunday night’s final behind Chinese superstar Sun Yang.

NSW swimmer McKeon appeared to tire badly late in his heat as he clocked three minutes and 49.51 seconds, almost six seconds slower than his winning time at selection trials in April.

The 20-year-old was so disappointed he had only a few words to offer reporters after the race.

“Pretty s***. I just don’t know what happened,” said McKeon, the son of former Olympian Ron McKeon.

Harrison said he tried not to watch McKeon’s race before contesting the final heat.

The teenager, who is also competing in the 800m and 1500m events in Spain, was delighted to progress into his first major international final.

He clocked 3:46.85 to go through behind Sun 3:44.67 and Canadian Ryan Cochrane (3:45.74).

“It was pretty overwhelming,” said Harrison.

“I didn’t really think much during the race. I was just trying to stick with Sun Yang and Ryan next to me. I was kind of just going for it.

“To come out third fastest, that’s really good. It’s been a really great experience so far.”

Australian star Alicia Coutts said McKeon’s exit showed paper rankings meant nothing when it came to big meets.

“I don’t really pay too much attention to paper rankings, you never know what’s going to happen,” Coutts said after progressing to the 100m butterfly and 200m individual medley semis.

Reprieved Fenerbahce to face Salzburg in qualifier

Former European champions PSV Eindhoven, last season’s Dutch league runners-up, were paired with Belgium’s Zulte Waregem and Olympique Lyonnais, the other high profile team in the draw, will face Switzerland’s Grasshoppers.

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Lyonnais, third in Ligue One last season, qualified for the Champions League group stage for 12 seasons in a row before missing out last season.

Ambitious Russian side Zenit St Petersburg will face Denmark’s Nordsjaelland, who made their group stage debut last season.

Fenerbahce and fellow Turkish club Besiktas, who have qualified for the Europa League, were handed European bans last month after a protracted UEFA inquiry following a domestic match-fixing scandal in 2011.

Fenerbahce were banned for two years and Besiktas one by European soccer’s governing body UEFA. Both appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) who on Thursday lifted the bans until the final decision is taken.

CAS said the final decision on Fenerbahce will be issued before August 28., one day before the draw for the Champions League group stage takes place in Monaco.

UEFA could be left with a headache if Fenerbahce beat Salzburg, win their following qualifying round tie and subsequently lose their appeal at CAS.

Salzburg, formerly known as Austria Salzburg, have not qualified for the Champions League group stage since the club was taken over by the Red Bull energy drinks company in 2005.

Former European champions Steaua Bucharest are set for a tie against Georgian champions Dinamo Tbilisi, former winners of the European Cup Winners’ Cup, if they complete their second round win over Vardar Skopje. The Romanians have a 3-0 first leg league while Tblisi have a 6-1 lead over Streymur of the Faroe Islands.

Celtic, the other former European champions in the hat, will almost certainly face Sweden’s Elfsborg, if they complete a second qualifying round win over Cliftonville following a 3-0 win in their first leg. Elfsborg are 7-1 up against Daugava Daugavpils.

(Reporting by Brian Homewood; editing by Justin Palmer)

Egypt army cracks down on Muslim Brotherhood

Morsi’s government unravelled late on Wednesday after the army gave him a 48-hour ultimatum in the wake of massive demonstrations since June 30 against his turbulent rule.

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The Brotherhood called for a peaceful protest on Friday over the “military coup” as the army turned the screws on the Islamist movement.

Its supreme leader Mohammed Badie was arrested “for inciting the killing of protesters”, a security official told AFP.

Anger gave way to gloom as thousands of the embattled Islamist movement’s supporters rallied at a Cairo mosque, surrounded by the army.

“It’s a soft military coup. The military was smart, using the cover of civilians,” said one, 26-year-old Ahmed al-Sayyed, in reference to the mass anti-Morsi protests.

Military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced Morsi’s overthrow on Wednesday night, citing his inability to end a deepening political crisis, as dozens of armoured personnel carriers streamed onto Cairo’s streets.

The crackdown came as chief justice Adly Mansour, 67, was sworn in as interim president at a ceremony broadcast live from the Supreme Constitutional Court.

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He will serve until elections at a yet-to-be determined date, said Sisi, as he laid out a roadmap for a political transition that includes a freeze on the Islamist-drafted constitution.

A judicial source said the prosecution would on Monday begin questioning Brotherhood members, including Morsi, for “insulting the judiciary”.

Other leaders of the movement would be questioned on the same charges, including the head of its political arm Saad al-Katatni, Mohammed al-Beltagui, Gamal Gibril and Taher Abdel Mohsen.

Morsi and 35 other Brotherhood leaders have also been slapped with a travel ban.

Analysts said Morsi and his Islamists hastened their own demise.

“Morsi and the Brotherhood made almost every conceivable mistake… they alienated potential allies, ignored rising discontent, (and) focused more on consolidating their rule than on using what tools they did have,” Nathan Brown wrote on the New Republican website.

A senior military officer said the army was “preventively” holding Morsi and that he might face formal charges linked to his prison escape during the revolt that overthrew dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Morsi had issued a defiant call for supporters to protect his elected “legitimacy”, in a recorded speech hours after the military announced his ouster.

“We had to confront it at some point, this threatening rhetoric,” the officer said. “He succeeded in creating enmity between Egyptians.”

Morsi’s rule was marked by a spiralling economic crisis, shortages of fuel and often deadly opposition protests.

Thousands of protesters dispersed after celebrating wildly through the night at the news of his downfall.

Egypt’s press almost unanimously hailed Morsi’s ouster as a “legitimate” revolution.

“And the people’s revolution was victorious,” read the front page of state-owned Al-Akhbar.

Morsi’s opponents had accused him of failing the 2011 revolution by concentrating power in Brotherhood hands.

His supporters say he inherited many problems from a corrupt regime, and that he should have been allowed to serve out his term until 2016.

US President Barack Obama said he was “deeply concerned” over Morsi’s ouster and urged the army to refrain from “arbitrary arrests”.

In May, Washington approved $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt. That was now under review, said Obama, as he called for a swift return to democratic rule.

Germany called the military’s move “a major setback for democracy in Egypt”, while UN chief Ban Ki-moon said civilian rule should resume as soon as possible.

Governments across the Middle East welcomed Morsi’s ouster with varying degrees, with war-hit Syria calling it a “great achievement”.

But pro-government media in Qatar, a key Brotherhood ally, carried words of warning for Egypt.

“Egypt has never before been in such a foggy situation… Every political and ideological group now thinks it has the right to rule,” said a commentary in Asharq newspaper.

At least 10 people were killed in clashes in Alexandria and in the southern province of Minya during the night, security officials said, after the week before Morsi’s downfall saw at least 50 dead.

Watch: The road ahead for Egypt

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Researchers alarmed by jail sentence for Italian scientists

By Sunanda Creagh, The Conversation

Researchers worldwide have condemned an Italian court’s judgement that six scientists and a government official are guilty of manslaughter for failing to predict an earthquake accurately.

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The case, in which seven members of the country’s Major Risks Committee were sentenced to six years jail for underestimating an earthquake that killed 309 people in the town of L’Aquila in 2009, has implications for all scientists, said University of Sydney astronomer Bryan Gaensler.

“This brings a lot of troubling precedents,” he said.

“It raises all sorts of questions about the nature of uncertainty, about the accuracy of models and the responsibilities of scientists.”

Scientists can’t give frank advice if they are to be held criminally liable for a shortcoming in any model which is a work in progress and which uses a lot of assumptions, he said.

“There are many aspects of our lives where we rely on predictions. No theory is fool proof, no prediction is 100 per cent sure and there are a range of day-to-day assumptions we make about vaccines, weather forecasts, the safety of getting in cars or aeroplanes. People have to understand that models have limitations.”

Professor of Seismology, Earth Physics at the Australian National University, Brian Kennett, said that even if the judgement is appealed, it “will have a major inhibitory effect on any group worldwide making pronouncements about future risk.”

“Earthquakes are intrinsically unpredictable and it’s possible the Italian group may have been too reassuring in the light of that fact,” he said.

“However, lives are at risk because building stock is inadequate. The quickest way of saving lives is to build better. People are reluctant to spend the extra five or 10 per cent to make a building earthquake proof.”

The finding will encourage more caution on the part of scientists in making predictions, which may not be helpful, said Prof Kennett.

“You will then be more likely to make no pronouncement rather than the wrong pronouncement,” he said.

Wayne Peck, senior seismologist in the Seismology Research Centre at Environmental Systems and Services told the Australian Science Media Centre that communicating earthquake hazard risk to the public was already complex.

“To err in one direction leaves them open to being charged with being “too reassuring” but to err in the other leaves them open to being accused of being alarmist. Either way, minor nuances in the language used can be interpreted differently by different audiences, leaving the experts in a no win situation.”

Prof David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge, said the “bizarre verdict will chill anyone who gives scientific advice, and I hope they are freed on appeal.”

“The lesson for me is that scientific advisers must try and retain control over how their work is communicated, and are properly trained to engage with the public,” he told the UK Science Media Centre.

Prof Bill McGuire, Professor of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at the University College London, said the verdict was extremely alarming.

“If this sets a precedent then national governments will find it impossible to persuade any scientist to sit on a natural hazard risk evaluation panel. In the longer term, then, this decision will cost lives, not save them.”

Armstrong stripped of Tour titles

USADA branded Armstrong a dope cheat a day after the 40-year-old Texan said he would not pursue a bid to clear himself of charges that he used performance enhancing drugs to win cycling’s most prestigious race from 1999 to 2005.

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The agency laid out five rule violations for which Armstrong has been sanctioned, saying the cancer survivor who became a hero to millions took part in a systematic doping conspiracy with his then US Postal Service team.

It said that, as Armstrong has dropped out of an arbitration process, he “has received a lifetime period of ineligibility and disqualification of all competitive results from August 1, 1998 through the present”.

Along with his celebrated haul of Tour titles, Armstrong stands to lose the Olympic bronze medal he won in 2000 along with other race titles, prize money and other awards.

The International Cycling Union, the sport’s governing body based in Aigle, Switzerland, had been fighting USADA for jurisdiction over Armstrong’s case and said Friday it wanted to see USADA’s full explanation for the sanctions before acting.

However, USADA’s statement made it clear they believe the UCI is bound by the World Anti-Doping Code to back up its findings.

“Because Mr. Armstrong could have had a hearing before neutral arbitrators to contest USADA’s evidence and sanction and he voluntarily chose not to do so, USADA’s sanction is final,” the agency’s statement said.

Armstrong had long denied accusations of doping but said Thursday he would no longer even address the issue.

“Today I turn the page,” he said. But hours after USADA’s announcement on Friday he made it clear that doesn’t mean he’ll disappear, tweeting his intention to compete in a local mountain bike race in the Aspen area in Colorado called the Power of Four.

“Excited to be racing the #poweroffour tomorrow here in @AspenCO,” Armstrong tweeted, apparently confident of a warm welcome from the local cycling community.

Certainly Armstrong had already received support from leaders of the anti-smoking and anti-cancer causes that he champions, and from sports apparel giant Nike.

“Lance has stated his innocence and has been unwavering on this position. Nike plans to continue to support Lance and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a foundation that Lance created to serve cancer survivors,” the firm said.

Armstrong, who has branded the USADA probe a “witch hunt, had gone to court in a bid to block the agency’s proceedings.

But on Monday a federal judge in his hometown of Austin dismissed his lawsuit, leaving Armstrong until midnight on Thursday to tell USADA whether or not he would seek arbitration.

“I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999,” Armstrong said Thursday.

“The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today — finished with this nonsense.”

USADA maintains that Armstrong used banned substances — including the blood-booster EPO, steroids and blood transfusions — dating back to 1996, and said 10 of his former teammates were ready to testify against him.

If the UCI confirms the move, it faces a potential headache of choosing new winners for the seven disputed tours, as a number of cyclists who finished behind the American have also been implicated in doping scandals.

Indeed, Armstrong has argued that at least some of the witnesses who have implicated him cannot be trusted as they are themselves admitted dope cheats.

Former teammate Floyd Landis, who finally admitted doping years after he was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title, accused Armstrong of systematic doping, helping trigger a federal government probe of Armstrong and others.

That investigation ended in February with no criminal charges brought, but it apparently provided further impetus to USADA’s probe of the cyclist.

USADA said it also had blood tests taken from 2009-2010, when Armstrong briefly came out of retirement to compete internationally again, that were “fully consistent” with blood doping.

Armstrong, who retired from cycling last year, said he passed hundreds of drug tests during his career and adhered to the rules in place at the time of his Tour de France wins.

“I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair,” he said, alleging that from the start the probe had been “about punishing me at all costs.”

However, World Anti-Doping Agency chief John Fahey said Armstrong’s decision not to fight the charges could only be seen as an admission of guilt.

“There can be no other interpretation,” he said.

‘Breivik made a mistake when he spared me’

“Breivik made a mistake when he spared me, if you look at it from his perspective,” Adrian Pracon, 21, told the Oslo district court on the 25th day of the right-wing extremist’s trial.

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On July 22 last year, Breivik first bombed a government building in Oslo, killing eight people, before going to Utoeya island, northwest of the capital, where he opened fire on young people taking part in a summer camp hosted by the ruling Labour Party’s youth wing (AUF).

Sixty-nine people died on the island, most of them teenagers. The youngest victim had just celebrated her 14th birthday.

As the now 33-year-old confessed killer looked on, Pracon told the court Friday he had become far more politically active since the massacre, contrary to Breivik’s stated goal of strangling support for the Labour Party, which he blames for making Norway a multicultural society and laying the foundation for a “Muslim invasion”.

“The Labour Party is even dearer to me today,” Pracon said.

Eloquently, he told the court how on July 22 he had first tried in vain to swim to safety through the icy water surrounding Utoeya.

When he surfaced he had been almost face-to-face with the killer who was standing on the shore, shooting at the youths in the water screaming: “I will kill you all!”.

When Breivik turned towards him, Pracon, out of breath and still in the water begged him: “No, don’t shoot!”.

The killer, only five or six metres (16-20 feet) away, had raised his weapon and taken aim: “It looked like he was unsure whether to shoot me in the heart or the head.”

But then, after an eternal moment during which he was certain he would die, Pracon saw Breivik suddenly turn and walk away, before he heard other shots as the killer continued his massacre despite pleas from the frantic campers.

Later shot in the shoulder as he pretended to be dead at another spot on the island, the young survivor told the court he was still haunted by the question of why he had been spared.

“The question of why I was saved when others begged for their lives but were not, is a heavy strain,” he said.

At the beginning of his 10-week trial, which began on April 16, Breivik had told the court he had spared Pracon because he reminded him of himself as a boy and because, according to the killer, he looked like a conservative and not a “cultural Marxist” like the others on the island.

On Friday, Pracon said he did not believe this explanation, but could not provide another answer to the question that haunts him.