Armstrong says he'll ride in 2009 Tour de France



Lance Armstrong will ride in the 2009 Tour de France, marking the first time he will compete in that race and the Giro d'Italia in the same year. "I'm committed to riding for the best guy," Armstrong said yesterday, acknowledging the taxing schedule could leave him riding in a supporting role in France. The Giro runs May 9-31, and the Tour begins July 4. With such a quick turnaround between two grueling races, the seven-time Tour champion acknowledged his body might not perform at the same level it did when he won his last Tour in 2005. But in a telephone interview with the Associated Press from Tenerife in the Canary Islands, where the Astana team is training, Armstrong added: "I can tell you I feel better than ever, I feel stronger than ever on Dec. 1. ... Mentally, in terms of motivation, this feels like 1998-1999 to me." Armstrong's decision to ride gives powerhouse Astana a superstar lineup in France, including 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador. He missed last year's race because Astana was barred from riding for previous doping violations. Astana is considered by far the strongest multistage team. Armstrong, 37, stunned the cycling world in September, when he announced he was ending his three-year retirement. He's scheduled to return to elite racing Jan. 20 for the Tour Down Under in Australia. That's also when the drug-testing program he's arranging with Don Catlin, America's top anti-doping expert, will be in place.

Comets to disband, league president says



The Houston Comets, winners of the WNBA's first four championships, are disbanding. WNBA president Donna Orender said in a television interview that the league-owned Comets would be shut down because new owners couldn't be found. Leslie Alexander, owner of the NBA's Houston Rockets and the original Comets owner, sold the team to Houston businessman Hilton Koch last year. The WNBA took over the franchise this year and began a search for a new owner. Orender told Houston station KRIV that a dispersal draft for Houston players would be held next week. The Comets won the first four WNBA titles from 1997 to 2000. Orender said there is no indication that any of the league's other 13 franchises are in any trouble.

Ky. judge throws out proposed sale of Curlin

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A judge in Frankfort, Ky., has rejected a proposed sale of the minority interest in reigning Horse of the Year Curlin. Circuit Judge Roger Crittenden made his ruling during a hearing intended to sort out a complicated ownership dispute over the richest North American racehorse in history. Primary owner Jess Jackson had offered $4 million to buy out the 20 percent minority interest from two disbarred attorneys. They are under a court order to repay $42 million to former clients they represented in a settlement over the diet drug fen-phen. Angela Ford, who represents the fen-phen clients in their civil case against the disbarred attorneys, told the judge she doesn't believe $4 million is a fair price. That's when Crittenden ended the court proceeding, keeping the horse's ownership divided.

Jurisprudence: : A former Wisconsin football player was charged in Madison, Wis., with threatening athletic director Barry Alvarez, tennis star Maria Sharapova and their families. Leonard Taylor Jr., 32, of Indianapolis, faces one felony stalking count and one misdemeanor count of telephone harassment. Taylor's father told police Taylor has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and hasn't taken his medication for three months, according to the criminal complaint filed in Dane County Circuit Court.

NHL: : Pekka Rinne made 30 saves for his first career shutout, Jason Arnott broke a tie in the third period and the visiting Predators beat the Sabres, 2-0, lifting them to their third victory in five games. ... Kristian Huselius scored off a pass from Rick Nash with 4:44 left and the host Blue Jackets got their first win this season after allowing the first goal, 3-2. Columbus had gone 0-6-3 when its opponent scored first. ... Paul Stastny had two goals and an assist, and the Avalanche, the second-lowest-scoring team in the Western Conference, broke out for a 6-5 win over the host Wild. ... Hubert "Pit" Martin, a four-time NHL All-Star in the 1960s and 1970s, has died after his snowmobile plunged into an icy lake in northwestern Quebec, police said. He was 64.

Soccer: : Cristiano Ronaldo won the Golden Ball awarded to Europe's top player. He became the fourth Manchester United player to take the honor and first since fellow winger George Best in 1968.


Sailing: : Ericsson 4, skippered by five-time Olympic medalist Torben Grael of Brazil, made it two wins in a row by taking the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Cape Town, South Africa, to Cochin, India, opening a seven-point lead over its nearest rival, Telefonica Blue. Ericsson 4 has an overall score of 26 points and Telefonica Blue has 19 points, followed by PUMA Ocean Racing with 18. In one of the closest conclusions to a Volvo Ocean Race leg, four boats crossed the finish line in Cochin within a matter of minutes yesterday afternoon, having raced some 4,450 nautical miles from Cape Town.

Tennis: : Surprise, Ariz., will host the 2009 Fed Cup quarterfinal between the United States and Argentina on Feb. 7-8. The U.S. leads Argentina 2-1. The Americans have won a record 17 Fed Cup titles, though none since 2000.