U.S. Olympic Committee Will Not Punish Athletes for Anthem Kneeling ... at U.S. Olympic Trials

The kneeling ban for athletes at the U.S. Olympic trials is over.

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has decided it will NOT punish athletes who take a knee -- or engage in any other sort of peaceful protest -- at the Olympic trials.

In other words, American athletes hoping to use the platform to shine a spotlight on police brutality and racial injustice are now allowed to follow Colin Kaepernick's lead without fear of sanctions.

The USOPC issued a 9-page explanation -- acknowledging it decided to implement the new policy after conferring with its new Council on Racial and Social Justice.

The org. spells out several forms of peaceful protests that will be allowed at the U.S. Olympic trails -- from kneeling to raised fists to wearing clothing items with statements like "Black Lives Matter" and "justice."

It won't be a free for all -- there are still limits regarding how athletes can demonstrate. For example, athletes are not allowed to do anything that could affect competition -- like forming a human wall that would prevent opponents from completing a race, etc.

Also, hate symbols such as swastikas and nooses are also not allowed.

So, how will the new policy affect the Olympic Games in Tokyo?

That's where things get a little tricky ...

The USOPC says its new policy will extend to the 2020 Games -- but notes this caveat ... it cannot prevent a "third party" from taking action.

USOPC is obviously referring to the International Olympic Committee -- which oversees the 2020 Games.

Just because kneeling is cool with the USOPC doesn't mean the IOC will sign off as well.

The IOC is expected to weigh in on the issue next month. The Tokyo Games are slated to begin in July.

2020 Olympics Olympic Torch Relay Resumes In Japan ... After 1 Year Delay

GAME ON, FLAME ON ... right?!

The Olympic torch relay has resumed in Japan on Thursday -- 1 year after that stupid pandemic put the 2020 Games on ice.

Remember, the flame was initially lit in Greece back in March 2020 -- but when COVID exploded, event organizers put a halt to the traditional torch relay and decided to keep the flame burning in a secure location in Japan.

But, now that the world is slowly opening back up (mostly thanks to the vaccine), the Olympic fire is going back on on the road.

Event organizers hosted a small, intimate torch ceremony in Fukushima -- where a handful of musicians and dancers performed in front of roughly 150 people who were all following social-distancing protocols.

That's when Japanese soccer star Azusa Iwashimizu -- who starred for Japan in the 2011 Women's World Cup -- took the torch and began the new relay, which will end in Tokyo in July.

Officials say 10,000 people will participate in the 4-month torch relay-- followed by an opening ceremony event at Japan National Stadium.

Let's hope everyone uses hand-sanitizer before and after passing the torch!

Olympic Snowboarder Julie Pomagalski Dead At 40 ... After Avalanche In Swiss Alps

French Olympian snowboarder Julie Pomagalski -- who won a World Championship in 1999 -- has died after an avalanche in the Swiss Alps on Tuesday.

She was 40.

The French Ski Federation made the announcement Wednesday .. saying Pomagalski and a guide, Bruno Cutelli, died in the accident.

Police say the cause of the avalanche is unknown at this time.

Pomagalski was a two-time Olympian for France ... finishing 6th in the parallel giant slalom at the 2002 Salt Lake City games ... and also competed in the 2006 games in Torino, Italy.

She was also the 1999 World Champion in snowboard cross, and won the 2004 Snowboard World Cup and was Vice-World Champion in parallel giant in 2003.

Skiing runs in Pomagalski's family ... her grandfather, Jean Pomagalski, invented the first ski lift in 1934 and is the founder of POMA, a manufacturer for chairlifts.

The French Olympics team made a statement Wednesday, saying "the tragic death of Julie, snowboard world champion and Olympian, leaves the France OLY team in mourning for one of their own."

RIP.

Toshihiko Koga Judo Legend Dead At 53 1992 Olympic Gold Medalist

The martial arts world has lost a legend ... Toshihiko Koga -- who won a gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics -- died at 53 years old Wednesday, officials in Japan confirmed.

The judo champ -- a 3-time Olympian -- had reportedly battled cancer in the past year ... though it's unclear if that was the cause of his tragic death.

Japanese politician Katsunobu Kato lamented the loss of Koga at a news conference Wednesday ... telling reporters, "He was so young, and the news of his death is such a shame."

"I express my deepest condolences."

In his first run in the 1988 Seoul Olympics with the Japanese national team ... Koga failed to medal -- but just four years later in Barcelona, he won gold, battling through a leg injury to come out with the hardware.

At the ensuing 1996 Games in Atlanta, he won a silver medal in the -78 kg division.

Koga ended up retiring four years later in 2000 ... and went on to coach the Japanese women's judo team.

He was so successful in that role, one of his students, Ayumi Tanimoto, went on to win a gold medal at the 2004 Games in Athens.

RIP

Top Surfer Katherine Diaz Killed By Lightning Strike During Ocean Training Session

Katherine Diaz -- one of El Salvador's top surfers -- died on Friday after she was hit in a lightning strike during a training session near her home.

The 22-year-old rising star -- who had been gunning to compete for El Salvador at the Olympics in Tokyo -- was surfing at a spot called El Tunco when the lightning storm hit.

Katherine's uncle Beto Diaz told a local media outlet his niece had gone to hug a friend she spotted at the surf spot when lightening struck.

"She, the friend, was thrown by the force of the lightening strike too, the board threw me back. Katherine died instantly."

Emergency personnel reportedly raced to the scene and scrambled to revive Diaz ... but it was too late.

Diaz was a rising star in the sport and beloved by the surf community in El Salvador.

Waiting for your permission to load the Instagram Media.

She was expected to compete in the ISA World Surf Games in May -- the event is a qualifier for Olympics in Tokyo.

The International Surfing Association issued a statement on her death ... saying, "It is with a heavy heart that the ISA has learned about the passing of El Salvador’s Katherine Diaz."

"Katherine embodied the joy and energy that make surfing so special and dear to us all, as a global ambassador of the sport. She excelled at the international competition level, representing her country with pride at both the ISA World Surfing Games and ISA World Junior Surfing Championship."

"We send our heartfelt condolences to Katherine’s family, the surfers of El Salvador, and to all those in the international surfing community whose lives she touched."

"We will never forget you."

RIP.

Drew Brees Inks Huge Deal with NBC Sports to Cover NFL, College Football, Olympics

Drew Brees will definitely be BUSY in retirement -- the QB just announced he signed a massive deal with NBC Sports to cover everything from football to the Olympics.

"I'm gonna be working for NBC," Brees announced Monday on "Today" ... "I'm part of the team now!"

The 42-year-old -- who retired from the NFL over the weekend -- will serve most prominently as a studio analyst for "Football Night In America" on NBC's Sunday Night Football coverage.

Brees' duties will also include game analyst for NBC's coverage of Notre Dame football.

No, Brees didn't attend ND -- he's a Purdue guy --  but NBC has a massive contract with Notre Dame, so that's the school he'll cover for now.

NBC notes Brees will also work Super Bowl LVI and be included during its Olympics coverage. No word on which sports Brees will focus on -- but he's got a talent for breaking down film, so put him anywhere!

"I'm excited about that journey. I'm excited to stay very closely connected with the game of football, it's been such an important part of my life," Brees said on "Today."

"I continue to be able to talk about it, show a passion for it, and be able to bring my kids along for the ride there as well, and let them be part of those special moments."

Brees also says a huge part of his "retirement' life will include philanthropy -- especially in the city of New Orleans where he spent 15 seasons of his NFL career.

"I'll be honest, I'm excited because [philanthropy is] where we can make the biggest impact and there's still so much need in this country and this city."

Drew and his wife, Brittany, donated $10 million to help various areas in need in Louisiana in 2020 -- money that earmarked to build healthcare facilities and to help feed the hung

He's also been involved in the special needs community -- opening a fully inclusive playground in New Orleans for kids of all abilities in 2017.

British Gymnastics Athletes Claim 'Physical and Psychological Abuse' ... From Coaches

More bombshell allegations in the world of international gymnastics -- with 17 British gymnasts alleging "systemic physical and psychological abuse" from British coaches.

The group of women -- which includes 3 Olympians -- issued a notice to the British Gymnastics association spelling out plans to take legal action.

The group -- whose ages range from 15 to 43 -- allege coaches grossly mistreated them while implementing an iron-fisted "winning at all costs" mentality ... which included the use of physical force against athletes as young as 6-years-old.

In the notice, the women claim the physical abuse included "inappropriate use of physical force by coaches against gymnasts constituting physical assault" -- as well as "abusive and harmful coaching techniques which have no justification in science or theory."

The women point to "consistent reports of coaches slapping, pushing, and using physical force to reprimand, punish, stretch, and/or 'correct' gymnasts during training."

All of the alleged victims claim the abuse took place at various training centers across the U.K., each affiliated with British Gymnastics.

As a result of the alleged abuse, the women say they are now physically and emotionally scarred -- dealing with issues from depression to anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

One of the accusers has identified herself publicly as Claire Heafford -- and issued a statement saying the action the group is taking is a "landmark moment in our campaign for justice."

"This is not and has never been about a few bad apples, this is about decades of systemic abuse, encouraged and covered up by those at the top."

She continued, "The hopes and dreams of countless children and young adults of competing as professional gymnasts have been destroyed and their love for the sport is now shrouded in fear and suffering."

"My heart goes out to everyone who has felt this pain and have not yet spoken out -- we want you to know that we are here, fighting on your side."

British Gymnastics has issued a statement saying they've received the notice -- but explaining, "It would not be appropriate or fair to all parties for us to make any comment until we have had the opportunity for it to be fully considered."

The news comes one day after former Team USA Gymnastics coach John Geddert took his own life ... hours after he was charged with multiple counts of human trafficking and sexual assault.

Geddert had a connection to Larry Nassar, the former Team USA Gymnastics doctor who sexually abused hundreds of young women under the guise of necessary medical examinations.

John Geddert Criminal Case Is Also Dead Can't Be Convicted After Death

The criminal case against ex-Team USA Gymnastics coach John Geddert is as good as dead -- because officials know there's no point in prosecuting a deceased person.

Geddert had just been hit with 24 criminal charges -- including 20 counts of human trafficking and 2 counts of sexual assault -- when he took his own life Thursday afternoon. State officials in Michigan say they believe it was a self-inflicted gunshot.

If convicted on all counts, Geddert was facing life in prison.

Prosecutors clearly felt they had enough evidence to get a conviction -- but the case can never get off the ground now that Geddert is dead.

The legal explanation comes down to 2 points. One, you have the right to defend yourself in a criminal trial, which is impossible once you're dead.

Second, most of the goals of punishing people in a criminal case -- to rehabilitate, to deter, etc. -- are pointless once the defendant is dead.

As to the notion that the case should play out so Geddert can go down in history as an officially convicted sexual predator ... most courts don't see it that way because we cherish the principle that people are innocent until PROVEN guilty.

Basically, Geddert robbed his victims of the opportunity to get justice through the criminal court system -- but they may not be out of options.

Victims can still sue Geddert's estate in civil court where the evidentiary bar is lower -- and there's a decent chance they can win a monetary judgment.

It's more difficult to win a civil case without a criminal conviction -- but not impossible ... just look at the O.J. Simpson case.

Ex-Team USA Gymnastics Coach John Geddert Dead By Suicide Hours After Sexual Assault Charges Filed

1:28 PM PT -- John Geddert is dead, according to state officials AND Geddert's attorney -- reportedly taking his own life after sexual assault charges were filed against him.

Geddert died from what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound Thursday afternoon.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a statement moments ago saying, "My office has been notified that the body of John Geddert was found late this afternoon after taking his own life."

"This is a tragic end to a tragic story for everyone involved."

John Geddert -- the coach of the legendary 2012 Team USA gymnastics team -- has been charged with multiple counts of human trafficking and sexual assault and faces up to life in prison.

... and there's a connection to disgraced Team USA doctor and convicted sexual predator Larry Nassar.

63-year-old Geddert was the head man in charge when the Fierce Five squad won gold at the 2012 Games in London. The team was comprised of superstars Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Kyla Ross and Jordyn Wieber.

But, law enforcement officials say Geddert shouldn't be celebrated as some great coach -- claiming he's a scumbag who sexually assaulted an unidentified person in 2012 who was between the age of 13 and 16.

The specifics of the allegations are still unclear -- but the charges he's facing are horrifying.

In total, Geddert is facing 20 counts of human trafficking, 2 counts of sexual assault, 1 count of racketeering and 1 count of lying to a peace officer.

As for the Larry Nassar connection ... Nassar was the team doctor for the 2012 gymnastics team. Nassar also treated gymnasts at the Michigan gym, Twistars, which was owned by Geddert and his wife until they sold it just a few weeks ago.

It's relevant because prosecutors say Geddert lied to investigators in 2016 when they were looking into Nassar's criminal conduct -- and Geddert allegedly said he never heard anyone complain about the doctor.

Geddert probably saw the criminal charges coming ... Michigan State Police raided his home in early 2020.

Team USA suspended Geddert when the Larry Nassar story broke several years back. Geddert told people in 2018 he was retiring from coaching.

Originally Published -- 9:54 AM PT

Olympic Medalist Scott Miller Arrested ... Accused Of Running 'Death & Misery' Drug Ring

Scott Miller -- a swimmer who won medals in the 1996 Summer Olympics -- was arrested in his home country of Australia this week ... after officials accused him of running a drug ring that was "intent on delivering death and misery."

Law enforcement made the announcement Down Under on Tuesday ... claiming Miller was a key cog in trying to spread over $1.5 million worth of methylamphetamine to regions in New South Wales.

Officials say the 45-year-old's drug dealings involved using candles to smuggle narcotics.

"For all intents and purposes, [they were] everyday candles," an investigator told media members.

"However they weren't laced with any fragrance, they were laced with half a kilo of methylamphetamine in each candle, and there were eight candles."

Officials said Miller was busted Tuesday ... claiming raids connected to the former star swimmer turned up "approximately one kilogram of heroin with a street value of $250,000, over $75,000 cash, mobile phones, documents, encrypted electronic devices and smaller amounts of prohibited drugs."

Officials added they arrested another man who they believe worked with Miller in the drug ring.

"They were well set up," an investigator said. "And they were intent on death and misery right throughout the state."

According to 9 News, Miller's attorney did NOT attempt to get bail for the ex-swimmer ... and it's now expected Miller will sit in jail until his next court hearing in April.

Miller -- an Australia native -- famously won a silver medal in the 100m butterfly at the '96 Summer Games. He also took home a bronze medal in the 4x100m medley that same year.

Tyreek Hill Still Eyeing Tokyo Olympics Run ... 'My Dream'

SOUL RUNNIN'
TMZSports.com

Super Bowl champ this weekend ... gold medalist in the summer?!

Tyreek Hill says that's the goal ... telling TMZ Sports he's still got his eye on qualifying for the Olympics after the Chiefs' Super Bowl run!!

"It is still an option 'cause it's always been my dream to do multiple sports at the highest level," the Kansas City star wide receiver said.

"It would be amazing. I just want to prove a point and also, like, I love competing."

26-year-old Hill had initially set the goal back in 2020 ... when he had desires to try to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after the Chiefs beat the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.

But, with the pandemic postponing the Games to this summer ... Hill says he still wants to make it all happen.

"Like I'm young so why not use everything that I got while I still have it," Hill said. "Because one day I'm going to be old and I'm not going to be as fast so just use everything I got."

Of course, qualifying for the Olympics without YEARS of training is going to be tough ... but Hill might just have enough speed to at least make it interesting.

Hill -- a world-class sprinter in high school -- has broken the 10-second mark in the 100-meter dash before (although it was reportedly wind-aided) ... and he's got a 20.14-second 200-meter sprint on his resume as well.

Tyreek says he'd have to drop some weight and muscle mass to get it all done ... but he added, "I love competing and I also love having fun, and why not?"

As for if the Olympic dreams don't pan out ... Hill -- who, by the way, has his own clothing brand that's actually called Soul Runner -- tells us there's still a chance people could see him on a racetrack soon.

Tyreek says a race with Bucs wideout Scott Miller is possible if it's for charity ... and, in fact, the Chiefs star said any other race is on the table too if the money's right!!!

Serena Williams Shows Off Insane Trophy Room 2nd Place Trophies Go In the Trash!

YOU GOTTA SEE THE MASSIVE TROPHY ROOM IN SERENA WILLIAMS' MIAMI MANSION!!!

Oh, and you also have to see when she discovers a 2nd place trophy on one of her shelves -- and says she's moving it to the TRASH!!!

"I see a 2nd place trophy but I’m gonna put that one in the trash -- shouldn’t be in here. We don't keep second place."

The tennis goddess opened up the doors to her Miami home for Architectural Digest ... showing off everything from her own private art gallery (!!!!!) to the bar, media room and more.

But, the highlight for us is the Trophy Room ... which contains hardware from her victories at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, Australian Open, French Open and more.

It's unreal.

Serena has so many trophies, she can barely keep track of what trophies she has and where some of them are located ... and if that's not the most baller thing ever, what the hell is?!

Of course, Serena has won 39 Grand Slam titles in her amazing career -- 23 in singles, 14 in women's doubles, and 2 in mixed doubles. She also has 4 Olympic gold medals.

#GOAT

Yoshiro Mori Tokyo Olympics President Refuses To Resign ... After Sexist Comments

The head of the organizing committee for the Tokyo Olympics, Yoshiro Mori, says he will NOT be stepping down ... just days after he made some super sexist comments about women.

The 83-year-old -- who's been trying to help keep the summer Games on schedule despite the pandemic -- was in a meeting earlier this week when he reportedly said he believes women talk too much.

Mori, according to the Japanese national newspaper, The Asahi Shimbun, said during the virtual meeting, "Women are very competitive. When one of them raises her hand, they probably think they have to say something, too. And then everyone says something."

He reportedly continued, "If we are going to have more women directors, someone has remarked, then meetings go on for a long time unless we restrict the comments. I'm not saying who that is."

The sexist comments were met with immediate backlash ... and the criticism grew so loud, Mori was later forced to apologize.

"The statement made at the Japan Olympic Committee was an inappropriate expression, contrary to the spirit of the Olympics and Paralympics," Mori said on Thursday.

"I am deeply remorseful. I would like to withdraw the statement. I would like to apologize for any unpleasant feelings."

Still, even with the mea culpa, there's been growing pressure on Mori to step down from his high-ranking role on the Olympics committee.

Mori, though, explained he will do no such thing ... saying, "I have been working hard and helped devotedly for seven years. I will not be stepping down."

The controversy is just the latest dark cloud surrounding the Tokyo Olympics ... the planned event has been marred by issues ever since the pandemic forced its postponement last year.

In fact, some believe the Games -- which are currently scheduled to kick off on July 23 -- will have to be canceled altogether due to COVID-19.

It's also been reported that all of the postponements and delays have cost over $25 BILLION.

Ex-Olympian Shawn Johnson Battling COVID While Pregnant ... 'Exhausted' and 'Nervous'

Shawn Johnson -- the 2008 Olympic gold medal gymnast -- is not only dealing with the normal challenges of pregnancy, but she's also tested positive for COVID-19.

The former Olympic star -- who's expecting her second child with husband, football player Andrew East -- revealed she has coronavirus Sunday evening, saying her results came back positive and, "Not going to lie... I'm nervous."

Shawn added ... "my body is just exhausted." She's especially concerned about the virus because she's had asthma her entire life -- plus, she says a very close family member fought off a serious case of COVID-19 just last month.

So far, she's dealing with a cough, severe sore throat and a headache. She's also super tired, but chalks a lot of that up to pregnancy.

Shawn's family already had a rough stretch, as she says their 15-month-old daughter, Drew Hazel, just got over having RSV -- a different respiratory virus that can be incredibly scary for little kids.

Her husband had previously tested positive for COVID ... something the couple revealed last month when they announced they were expecting baby #2.

Get well soon!

Tokyo Olympics Officials Call BS On Cancellation Report 'Fully Focused On Hosting'

The Tokyo Olympics will NOT need to be canceled -- at least not yet -- officials and organizers say the event is still set to go on despite a report indicating otherwise.

The Times of London reported on Thursday that the summer games, which had already been postponed from 2020 to 2021 due to the pandemic, are in serious jeopardy of having the plug completely pulled.

In fact, according to the report, a source close to the situation said the reality of a cancellation is already being discussed among event organizers and officials.

"No one wants to be the first to say so but the consensus is that it's too difficult," the source said in the report. "Personally, I don't think it's going to happen."

But, Tokyo Olympics reps called BS on the report a short time after its publishing ... saying they have absolutely ZERO plans to cancel the event at this time.

"All our delivery partners including the national government, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, the IOC and the IPC [International Paralympic Committee] are fully focused on hosting the games this summer," officials said in a statement.

"We hope that daily life can return to normal as soon as possible, and we will continue to make every effort to prepare for a safe and secure games."

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee echoed those sentminets in a statement of their own this week ... saying, "We have not received any information suggesting the Games will not happen as planned."

"And our focus remains on the health and preparedness of Team USA athletes ahead of the Games this summer."

The Games -- which will almost certainly have to be held in fan-less venues because of the threat of coronavirus -- are currently set to begin on July 23.

2x Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer Klete Keller Charged After Capitol Riot

AMONG THE CROWD
Storyful

1:23 PM PT -- Keller has been identified by an FBI investigator and is now facing multiple charges stemming from last week's riot ... TMZ Sports has confirmed.

According to the complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, Keller has been charged with obstructing law enforcement engaged in official duties, knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

The investigator points out the 38-year-old's height, wardrobe choice (Team USA jacket), and outlets like SwimSwam identifying the man as the Olympic swimmer as probable cause to hit him with the multiple charges.

U.S. Olympian Klete Keller -- a 2x gold medalist and former teammate of Michael Phelps -- was reportedly spotted inside the U.S. Capitol while pro-Trump supporters raided the building.

38-year-old Keller represented America as part of the U.S. Swim Team at the Olympic Games in '00, '04, '08. Keller was the anchor on the 4x200 meter freestyle relay team in 2004 ... and famously held off Australian superstar Ian Thorpe to narrowly secure the top spot on the podium.

A Townhall Media reporter shared footage from inside the Capitol Rotunda ... and according to the New York Times, people familiar with the 6'6" swimmer quickly recognized Keller.

(Keller is first visible around the :12 second mark)

Keller -- who has not yet addressed his presence at the raid -- is an outspoken Trump supporter, according to reports.

In the footage, Keller appears to be wearing a Team USA jacket with a U.S.A. Swimming logo.

Keller could be in trouble ... law enforcement officials have been actively tracking down people who breached the Capitol, and arresting and charging them with various crimes.

As a result of the raid, 5 people died ... including a police officer.

Originally published -- 2:42 PM PT

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