The day after Venus Williams signed a $40-million endorsement contract, her father on Friday responded to a published report that police suspected his wife of being physically abused.
A Palm Beach County sheriff's deputy suspected Richard Williams or another family member may have abused her last year, Fort Lauderdale's Sun-Sentinel reported Friday. Neither he nor anyone else was arrested or charged in the Feb. 7, 1999, incident.
Williams, the mentor and coach of Venus and her sister Serena, said he never hit his wife, Oracene: "So far, I have only proven to be a good husband, I have a good wife and I am a good father."
He said his wife hurt herself jet skiing while he was in Chicago. "God knows my intention," he said. "God knows everything. I'm going to heaven."
Officials at Columbia Hospital suspected abuse and called deputies after Oracene Williams was treated for three broken ribs.
Initially, she denied being abused and told a deputy she ran into a door handle. She later said, "I know you know what happened, but I am fearful for my daughters' careers," according to the deputy's report. She signed a form saying she did not want to prosecute anyone for the injuries.
Venus and Serena Williams accompanied their mother to the hospital. Serena told the deputy that if she had seen someone injure her mother she would have told him. Venus was "adamant" it was not her mother's wish to say anything and remained silent, the deputy wrote in his report.
AUTO RACING: President Clinton granted a pardon to Rick Hendrick, the NASCAR team owner who was banished from the sport for a year after pleading guilty to mail fraud. He was fined $250,000, ordered to stay in his Charlotte home, and avoid the car business and his race team for a year. At the time he was sentenced in December 1997, Hendrick, who fields the cars driven by Jeff Gordon, was battling leukemia. Doctors said two years later that Hendrick no longer needed chemotherapy and that the disease was in full remission.
BOXING: Ray Oliveira won the vacant NABF super-lightweight title, outpointing Vince Phillips in Mashantucket, Conn. Judge George Smith scored it 117-111 and Crystal White had it 117-113, both for Oliveira. Glenn Feldman scored it 114-114.
COLLEGES: Florida's Abby Wambach was named to the second team and Keisha Bell earned honorable mention on SoccerBuzz magazine's All-America team. Connecticut College said its hockey team will forfeit three games because of violations of the school's honor code. The violations include alcohol use and curfew violations, spokeswoman Trish Brink said, but she would not elaborate. "Connecticut College takes its honor code very seriously," dean Frances Hoffman said. The team will forfeit games Jan. 5 at Hamilton College, Jan. 6 at Skidmore and Jan. 9 game at Salve Regina. It resumes practice Jan. 8 and will compete against Salem State on Jan. 12.
CYCLING: Richard Virenque was acquitted of helping to supply performance-enhancing drugs to his former team before the 1998 Tour de France. But a judge convicted two team officials. Former trainer Bruno Roussel was sentenced to a one-year suspended prison term and fined $7,000. Physiotherapist Willy Voet was given a 10-month suspended sentence and a $4,200 fine. Virenque still faces sanctions at the demand of the International Cycling Union.
_ Compiled from Times wires.