Sports briefs 3/12/05

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Baseball

The Justice Department is considering Jose Canseco's request for immunity when he testifies at a congressional hearing on steroids next week, according to the former AL MVP's lawyer.

Robert Saunooke, who represents Canseco, said he spoke Friday at length with a staff lawyer of the House Government Reform Committee about the immunity request. Saunooke said Canseco would be able to answer more questions if he is given immunity for the March 17 hearing.

Golf

* Isao Aoki shot a 3-under 69 in difficult scoring conditions to take a one-stroke lead over Mike Reid and Champions Tour rookie Mark Johnson after the first round of the SBC Classic.

Aoki, the 62-year-old Japanese star who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame last year, had five birdies and two bogeys on the Valencia Country Club course as wind, thick rough and fast greens sent scores soaring.

Raymond Floyd, Des Smyth, Bob Gilder and D.A. Weibring opened with 71s, and Craig Stadler, Jerry Pate, Mark McNulty, Tom Purtzer, Don Pooley, Keith Fergus and Don Reese shot 72s. Hale Irwin had a 73, ending his string of under-par rounds at 11.

* Australia's Richard Green shot a 4-under 68 to take a one-stroke lead over Swedes Pierre Fulke and Robert Karlsson in the Qatar Masters.

Green had a 9-under 135 total. Fulke shot a 70, and Karlsson had a 67. South Africa's Ernie Els, the only top-50 player in the field, was seven strokes back at 69.

Gymnastics

Gymnastics' governing body extended the suspensions Friday of three judges involved in a scoring error that called into question Paul Hamm's victory in the all-around competition at the Athens Olympics.

American George Beckstead and Benjamin Bango of Spain were banned until the end of the year, and Columbia's Oscar Buitrago Reyes is suspended until August 2005 for "serious mistakes in judging at the parallel bars."

Miscellaneous

* Bode Miller needed a top finish. He needed his Austrian rivals to have a bad day. He got both Friday -- and now stands on the verge of becoming the first American to win the overall World Cup title in 22 years.

Miller won the super giant slalom by tying fellow American Daron Rahlves, capturing the season title in the discipline and opening an almost insurmountable lead over Austria's Benjamin Raich in the overall standings.

"Things worked out perfectly," Miller said after becoming the first American to win the super-G World Cup crown since the discipline was introduced in 1986.

The victory stretched Miller's overall World Cup lead to 184 points over Raich, who finished 11th Friday. The American now leads 1,528 points to 1,344.

The only way Miller can lose the overall title is if Raich wins the remaining two races -- Saturday's giant slalom and Sunday's slalom -- and the American finishes outside the top 15 both days.

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