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FIFA chief: Doping "mirror of society'

FIFA president Sepp Blatter says athletes are forced to take drugs by the huge pressure to perform put upon them.

Interviewed in the weekly SonntagsBlick of Zurich, Switzerland, the head of the governing body of world soccer said top class sport is "a circus in which athletes have to perform every day."

"Do you believe, for instance, that a circus artiste can ride a bicycle on a high wire 20 times a day with only the help of Ovaltine? Those times have gone," Blatter said.

He added that the "wasps' nest" stirred up by the recent doping scandals of the Tour de France was a good thing.

"The performances demanded of the athletes there are superhuman," he said, adding that he believed the problem of doping in sport was "a mirror of our society" and that there was less drug-taking in a team sport such as soccer.

Blatter is due to meet with International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch this week to discuss their positions on the drugs issue.

RUNNING: In a tuneup for this weekend's Disney World Marathon, Jeff Delie of Palm Harbor won the Max Bayne Half-Marathon at Fort De Soto Park in 1 hour, 16 minutes and 48 seconds. Forerunners Club teammate David Joyce was second in 1:17:55. In the women's division, Christy Phillips of St. Petersburg won in 1:25:59, finishing 12th overall out of 237. Mary Hanlon of St. Petersburg was runner-up in 1:28:32.

TENNIS: Wayne Ferreira beat U.S. Open finalist Mark Philippoussis 6-2, 6-3 to lead South Africa to a 2-1 victory over Australia in the Hopman Cup at Perth, Australia. Amanda Coetzer took 47 minutes to get past 15-year-old Jelena Dokic 6-1, 6-0. Australia claimed the mixed doubles 6-2, 6-3.

BASEBALL: Catcher Terry Steinbach reached an agreement with the Minnesota Twins on a one-year contract worth about $1-million, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported.

SKIING: Former U.S. champion Chip Knight survived a traffic accident and tricky weather to win a Super Series slalom at Lake Placid, N.Y. Knight's truck skidded off the road as he drove through sleet to reach Whiteface Mountain, but he was not injured. Noriaki Kasai won the third event of the Four Hills Tour ski-jumping tournament at Innsbruck, Austria. Germany's Martin Schmitt, who won the first two events in Germany, faded to 13th. Sweden's Pernilla Wiberg, ninth after the first run, won the women's World Cup slalom at Maribor, Slovenia.

HORSES: A record opening day crowd of 31,831 saw Texas Glitter and Behaviour win the two features at Gulfstream Park in Miami.

SKATING: American record holder Casey FitzRandolph and Christine Witty once again won the men's and women's 500-meter races at the U.S. Sprint Championships in Roseville, Minn.

_ DAVE THEALL, TIMES WIRES.

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