■ Auto RacingGronholm takes the lead
Three-time former winner Marcus Gronholm of Finland made a strong start to the Rally Australia on Thursday, steering his Peugeot to a slim early lead after the first stage. Gronholm finished the 2.3km super special opening stage of the 16th and final leg of this year's World Rally Championship in 1 minute, 32:9 seconds, 0.3 seconds ahead of Frenchman Sebastien Loeb. Loeb, who has already clinched his first world championship, is seeking a record-equalling sixth win in a season in the 25-stage rally, which concludes on Sunday.
Kraft fails drugs test
Nina Kraft, winner of last month's Hawaii Ironman competition, acknowledged Thursday that she had used the banned endurance-boosting drug EPO. Kraft, who tested positive after the Oct. 16 Hawaii event, said she accepted her guilt and would not request analysis of her backup sample. "The mistake cannot be rectified -- I am going to bear all the consequences," she told the Hesse state radio. Kraft, the first German woman to win the Hawaii Ironman, faces a two-year ban. She said she took EPO during a three-week period and stopped five days before the Hawaii competition. "I never really rejoiced over the victory in Hawaii," Kraft said. "I was ashamed the entire time, especially in front of my family. I cheated." EPO, or erythropoietin, stimulates the production of oxygen-rich red blood cells and is a drug of choice in endurance sports. The German Triathlon Union said Kraft admitted "making a big mistake." Kraft's brother, Florian, said his sister's action "cannot be justified but perhaps it can be understood." "It's a matter of money, a lot of money, and ethics suffer in that case," he said on his Web site.
Hamilton has brain tumor
World and Olympic figure skating champion Scott Hamilton has a benign brain tumor. The 46-year-old Hamilton underwent a biopsy at The Cleveland Clinic, and doctors expected to release him from the hospital by Friday, publicist Michael Sterling said Thursday. "We will be working with him on a treatment plan moving forward," said Dr. Gene Barnett, chairman of the clinic's brain tumor institute. Barnett said Hamilton has a slow-growing, non-cancerous tumor in the region of the pituitary gland. Sterling said Hamilton has been had problems in recent weeks with his eyesight. Hamilton, who lives in Los Angeles, is a four-time US national champion, a four-time world champion and the 1984 Olympic gold medalist. He is now a skating show producer. He was diagnosed with cancer in 1997 and treated with surgery and chemotherapy.
LPGA Tour eyes Oahu
The LPGA Tour is returning to Hawaii in 2005. A US$1 million tournament will be played in late February at the Turtle Bay Resort's Arnold Palmer Course on Oahu's North Shore, officials said Thursday. The event will be sponsored by South Korean television network Seoul Broadcasting System, which will provide coverage throughout Asia. The last LPGA Tour event in Hawaii was the 2002 Takefuji Classic.