French cyclist Nans Peters has sounded a warning that drug cheats could try to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic by juicing up in lockdown.

Peters made a major breakthrough with a maiden grand tour stage win on last year's Giro d'Italia, as well as finishing third in a Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games test event.

The 26-year-old rides for the AG2R La Mondiale team and says his last test stemming from the World Anti-Doping Agency's (WADA) ADAMS whereabouts system took place on October 7 last year.

He reported having a cortisolemia check carried out by the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) union in March at the Paris-Nice race, but pointed out only certain teams belong and submit to testing by that body.

Like most sports, professional cycling has shut down during the COVID-19 crisis, with the Tour de France shunted back by two months to an August 29 start.

"What does it mean? Two options," wrote Peters on his personal website, considering the few doping checks he has been required to take.

"Either I have a profile that is not at all suspicious, which means I'm rarely tested, this is in effect the case since starting as a professional, where I was only checked three to four times a year.

"Or, and I'm very afraid of this, in this period of confinement there is no control!!!!!

"Let's not be naive, there is still doping, fortunately much less than in the years 1995 - 2005, but there will always be!

"Are cheaters free at the moment? It is as if we were told, 'Do you want to cheat? Well go for it! It's time, do what you want, take what you want, train like crazy at home now, you have until May 11 to get your engine going and crush everything when you return to competition'."

The Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation, which carries out testing in professional cycling, said in March it intended to be "continuing activities to protect clean cycling".

It said it would be following advice of WADA, which has said testing during the coronavirus period "will continue only where appropriate and possible".

Peters added: "I'm afraid for my sport, for my passion and for my end of the season facing mules!"

Maximilian Schachmann believes it is vitally important for the rescheduled Tour de France to go ahead, as long as it is safe for the athletes.

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the postponement or cancellation of events across the sporting calendar.

An extension of the ban on large gatherings in France until mid-July meant cycling's biggest Grand Tour event would have to be pushed back or scrapped and, on Wednesday, the UCI confirmed new dates had been set.

Le Tour will now take place between August 29 and September 20, a decision welcomed by Schachmann, who won his first stage race at the shortened Paris-Nice event last month.

"I am happy that the decision was made earlier than it had been planned," Schachmann told Stats Perform.

"The decision was [not] about to be made until 15th of May. Now it was made about one month earlier than expected, which is really good for all athletes.

"We all have a better plan for our future now. I also think the decision was quite reasonable, because it was quite utopian to believe that the Tour de France could start at the end of June. In my opinion, this plan is the most realistic one.

"It would be a heavy hit for professional sports, if the tour was cancelled. Cycling is a commercial sport like football or tennis.

"I am a professional sportsman as well, so I want to do my job if it is possible. As I already said, I am always happy if the Tour is about to take place, but only if all aspects like the health of the athletes, have been clarified.

"If this can't be guaranteed you would have to think about cancelling the Tour because you can't postpone it any further. If we have reached a level by the end of August, where events like the tour can take place again, I am really happy to take part in this event."

Schachmann also acknowledged that the famous event may have to take place without spectators present if coronavirus infection rates across Europe rise again in the coming months.

"To be honest, I did not think about this possibility by now," the German added.

"Within the last weeks we have seen how fast things can change. The infections are declining in almost every country. Now we have to see if the numbers of infections are about to rise again if the actions of containment are relaxed.

"This development will be decisive for if the Tour will take place with spectators or without."

Geraint Thomas is "super-excited" about the prospect of the Tour de France taking place this year - even if it means other major races may take a hit.

Britain's 2018 winner of Le Tour said Wednesday's announcement of the new August 29 to September 20 dates would help riders who were unsure about when they might return to action.

Thomas, who finished second to Egan Bernal last year, suggested every effort must be made to ensure the Tour de France goes ahead, above all other events.

The race was originally scheduled to take place between June 27 and July 19, but that became unrealistic because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Restrictions on movement may have been lifted by August, allowing sport to return to some degree of normality.

"Hopefully those dates can go ahead, and I'm super-excited about that. The Tour is the pinnacle of the sport," Thomas told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"If that went ahead, it'd be great for the riders and the teams, and for the fans as well - something for everybody to look forward to.

"I've missed sport a lot - it's a good way to switch off from the real world. If it goes ahead, it'd also show we're through such a horrible, terrible time for everyone.

"The biggest thing is having a date we can work towards. Before, we just didn't know, obviously nobody knew.

"[I was] trying to maintain a bit of fitness and not put on too much weight, but in the bad of your mind you're [thinking], 'What am I doing this for?'.

"It's so much easier now you have a fixed target and a fixed goal to build towards."

The Road World Championships in Aigle-Martigny, Switzerland, are still scheduled to take place between September 20 and 27, and world governing body the UCI plans to fit in the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana after that.

It means there will be a hectic spell of activity for the world's top road cyclists, and Thomas suggested some level of compromise might be required to accommodate everything.

One possibility may be cutting down the Giro and Vuelta to shorter events, although there may be reluctance to make such a move with the Grand Tour events.

Thomas said: "Once we officially know we can go racing again, I think talks can really start between UCI and the race organisers and the teams and we can come up with a decent plan.

"The Tour, in my eyes, needs to take priority because that's the main event in cycling, and then hopefully we can fit in some other races around it.

"If they are compromised slightly, I don't think they would mind too much if they still go ahead."

Thomas was taking part in a charity ride at home on Wednesday, raising money for the NHS Charities Together organisation by pedalling on a static bike for 12 hours, which he will repeat on Thursday and Friday.

The Tour de France has been postponed and will take place between August 29 and September 20 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the UCI has confirmed.

The status of cycling's most famous Grand Tour race had been unclear as the outbreak of COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc to the sporting calendar.

An extension of a ban on large-scale events in France until mid-July led to a postponement of the Tour, which was originally scheduled for between June 27 and July 19.

New dates have now been set and the original route will remain the same.

A statement on the Tour's official website read: "Following the president's address on Monday evening, where large-scale events were banned in France until mid-July as a part of the fight against the spread of COVID-19, the organisers of the Tour de France, in agreement with the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), have decided to postpone the Tour de France to Saturday August 29 to Sunday September 20, 2020.

"Initially scheduled to take place from June 27 to July 19, the Tour de France will follow the same route, with no changes, from Nice to Paris. Over the last few weeks, there has been constant communication between riders, teams, the organisers as well as other relevant third parties all with the support of the UCI, who are responsible for arranging a new global cycling schedule, in which the Tour de France takes pride of place.

"The organisers of the Tour de France are in regular contact with and have reached agreement with all of the different parties involved, from the local communities to the public authorities."

The UCI posted a "broad lines of the revised 2020 UCI International Road Calendar" on its official website.

It outlined the 2020 UCI Road World Championships in Aigle-Martigny (Switzerland) are still scheduled to take place between September 20 and 27, with no changes to the programme.

The Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana will take place after the UCI Worlds, the UCI said.

The statement added: "The most prestigious one-day road races (the Monuments), ie Milano-Sanremo (Italy), the Tour des Flandres (Belgium), Paris-Roubaix (France), Liege-Bastogne-Liege (Belgium) and Il Lombardia (Italy), will all take place this season, at dates still to be defined."

UCI president David Lappartient said: "I would like to pay tribute to the representatives of the organisers, teams and riders for their collaboration and their commitment in these difficult times. We still have work to do to finalise the establishment of an entirely revised 2020 UCI International Calendar given the coronavirus pandemic that has shaken the world, but a first very important step has been taken.

"Likewise, we have established a framework that will allow the fundamental rights of teams' riders and staff to be preserved, while enabling the measures necessary for the survival of these teams to be taken. Together, we will manage to get through this crisis and rebuild cycling post-COVID-19."

Fabian Cancellara has questioned whether the Tour de France will be able to start a month later than scheduled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Tour organisers are reportedly considering moving the beginning of the most prestigious Grand Tour race back from June 27 to July 25.

Staging the event without crowds had been talked of, but that option is said to have been ruled out.

Retired four-time world time trial champion Cancellara believes putting the Grand Depart in Nice back by just a month may be unrealistic.

Asked about a Tour with no spectators, the Swiss told Stats Perform: "For sure, the riders want to race and people at home want to watch a bike race.

"But you still have people there that want to see the riders on the road. I think the Tour de France is the last big sporting event that hasn't been cancelled or postponed, but they've been having a lot of discussion.

"What will come? They have potential possibilities – I think the start of end of July and then finish off August 16. But in the end, no one knows what is in two months and what is good that day.

"They said they will wait until the middle of May, which is still a month to go. In one month, a lot of things can happen, a lot of new regulations might come."

He added: "But even if they say they can do it, what's with the other bike riders? They are home. They have certain regulations. Can people travel? Do they allow them to travel?

"Cycling is not just a French race of French people on the Tour de France. Cycling is a global sport. So, people from Spain, Portugal, people from Italy, from Austria, Germany, from Belgium, from Switzerland, Holland...

"From Denmark, from Norway, cycling is from everywhere. That's why I'm quite curious how this is going to be managed."

It remains to be seen if the Giro d'Italia will take place this year after it was postponed last month, but Cancellara thinks it is too early to make a decision on the Vuelta a Espana, which is due to get under way on August 14.

The double Olympic gold medallist said: "To cancel it, I honestly think it's too early. I think they have to work on some solutions with a Plan A and B or C.

"And the Giro, of course, if you look at the calendar, if from August things will go on slightly, then I don't know where is the space. Who will make the space? So, what will be is we have the regulation routes, the political aspect.

"And we have to see the economy situation towards all those races because there is a calendar and you just can't cancel or [make] too many changes off the calendar because all the other events that are being held in August, September, October, they have fixed dates.

"They've been working for it. And just the big one comes and want to have space. It's not so easy. That's why there are a lot of discussions for sure at the UCI in Switzerland with the organisers of the Giro.

"And like every cycling event, everyone tries to find the best possibilities to go on. So, it's a quite complex situation."

Mitchelton-Scott sport director Matt White believes it could be viable for the Tour de France to go ahead as scheduled without spectators, though he thinks putting the race back may be the best option.

The most prestigious Grand Tour event on the calendar is due to be staged from June 27 to July 19, but this year's race is in doubt due to the coronavirus crisis.

French minister for youth and sport Roxana Maracineanu last week talked of the possibility that the Tour could be given the green light to be held with no fans along the route, depending on the situation at the time.

White, who revealed that approximately 85 to 90 per cent of his team are currently in lockdown, said racing without crowds is not out of the question – but the safety of those involved is paramount.

He said: "The Tour de France without crowds would be weird. But, a lot of our early season races and smaller races don't have big crowds. It would feel strange for the riders, to be competing at our showcase event with minimal people, but it would work.

"Even if there was only the 2,000 people travelling, it would be a positive for the French economy, and obviously the TV audience would be huge because people are looking for things to watch and once sport does recommence, I am sure it would rate highly.

"It's viable and we could do it, but the bigger question is how do we move that circus around France in a safe way. At the end of the day it has to be safe for the French public, safe for everyone in that travelling group and achievable for the French resources."

White also feels there must be competitive cycling prior to the Tour de France, as returning to action and going straight into such a huge race "doesn't work for the riders".

"The team and all teams support what is best for the general population,” White added.

“I am pretty sure by the month of July things might have calmed down a considerable amount, but will they have calmed down enough to safely support a couple of thousand people, coming together from different parts of Europe and the world, for the Tour de France?

"We're not talking about four or five venues; we are a travelling circus. We're talking about 2,000 people; teams, media, logistics and movement between 20 hotels over 25 days. Safety has to remain the priority.

"By May, I think we're going to have to see the virus nearly out in most of Europe for ASO [Amaury Sport Organisation] to consider it running on the dates that it is currently set for. By then you hope athletes are also on the road. If athletes aren't on the road by May, there's no way you can run competition in June.

"We have to have some competition before the Tour de France.  You can't have the Tour de France as the first race. That doesn't work for the riders, simple as that.

"The next four or five weeks is crucial, that the virus infections come down to a very low level in Europe. At the moment we're not seeing that, and I would think that as it stands at the moment, it would be pretty hard to run the Tour de France at the current dates starting at the end of June.

"But now with the Olympics off the cards, it does leave a window for later in July and even early August. Maybe that's the most viable option to run the Tour de France in full, and I'm sure that's what the ASO want to do – they want to run a three-week Tour de France."

Olympics-bound Trinidadian Kwesi Browne is recovering well after he was diagnosed with the Coronavirus Covid-19 on Monday, an official of the Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation confirmed on Friday.

Trinidadian cycling coach Robert Ferrier is hoping to get his athletes back on track soon as they continue to prepare for the Pan American Championships in May and hopefully, the Olympics in July.

Michael Jordan stunned the world with two simple words 25 years ago.

In an era before innovative social media announcements were the norm, Jordan released a statement through his management company "in response to questions about his future career plans" on March 18, 1995.

His response of "I'm back" signalled the return to basketball of one of the all-time greats.

Here, to mark the anniversary of that press release being issued, we look at Jordan and other greats who performed retirement U-turns.

 

MICHAEL JORDAN

Whether you are an ardent NBA fan or have simply seen Space Jam, you know the story. Chicago Bulls star Jordan retired in 1993 after his team three-peated and shortly after his father's death, stating that "the desire is just not there any more".

For the next year, Jordan turned to baseball as a minor league player as he pursued a dream his father had of his son making it in the MLB. Then, amid rumours he was heading back to the NBA, came that Jordan utterance: "I'm back". 

The Bulls, led by perhaps the greatest ever, would win three successive championships again between 1996 and 1998 at which point Jordan retired once more. He then came back for a two-year stint with the Washington Wizards before finally calling it a day once and for all in 2003.

 

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER

Seven-time Formula One champion Schumacher was 37 when he announced the 2006 season - when he was pipped to the title by Fernando Alonso - would be his last.

However, he remained around F1 as an advisor for Ferrari and returned for Mercedes to race in 2010 saying: "I have the energy back."

He would appear on the podium just once across three seasons, though, and he retired again in 2012, a year before he suffered severe head injuries in a skiing accident.

 

KIM CLIJSTERS

A former world number one and the 2005 US Open champion, Clijsters retired at the age of 23 due to a series of punishing injuries.

Clijsters got married and gave birth in her time away from sport, and then after appearing in an exhibition match held at Wimbledon in 2009, the Belgian returned to the WTA Tour. In just her third tournament back, Clijsters won the US Open, becoming the first unseeded woman to win the tournament in the Open era and the first mother to win a grand slam since 1980.

She triumphed at Flushing Meadows again in 2010 and won the Australian Open in 2011, recently returning to tennis for a third time after a seven-year hiatus.

LANCE ARMSTRONG

American Armstrong retired as a seven-time Tour de France champion in 2005. But the story, of course, didn't end there.

Dogged by doping allegations during his career, Armstrong faced questions again when he returned, aged 37, in 2009 and finished third in that year's Tour.

Armstrong retired once more in 2011 while he was the subject of a federal investigation into doping allegations. Another probe from the United States Anti-Doping Agency led to charges which resulted in Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour titles in 2012, with the cyclist publicly coming clean on his doping the following year.

 

GEORGE FOREMAN

There was a full decade between Foreman's 47th and 48th fights.

He lost on points to Jimmy Young in 1977, falling ill in the dressing room after the bout and suffering what he said was a near-death experience, leading him to find God.

A born-again Christian, Foreman returned at 38. Despite defeats to Evander Holyfield and Tommy Morrison in title bouts, Foreman would become heavyweight champion of the world again in 1994 - at the grand old age of 45 - by stopping Michael Moorer.

BRETT FAVRE

Long-time Green Bay Packers quarterback Favre, the king of indecision, bowed out from the NFL in March 2008, passing the baton to a certain Aaron Rodgers. However, he had a change of heart four months later. The Packers, who wanted to move on with Rodgers, traded Favre to the New York Jets.

After one season with Gang Green, Favre retired again. And then he performed another U-turn, paving the way for him to join the Minnesota Vikings, one of Green Bay's arch-rivals.

He enjoyed by far the best year of his career with the Vikings in terms of quarterback rating (107.2) but Minnesota lost the NFC Championship Game. More indecision followed after that, though 2010 would prove to be the final year of a Hall of Fame career.

All road cycling events until at least the end of April have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Union Cycliste International (UCI) announced on Wednesday.

Just three days after announcing a suspension on all events until April 3, the UCI extended the hiatus in the calendar following a meeting with race organisers, teams and riders.

The resumption date will be reviewed during the intervening period, with events on the calendar at that point, the three Grand Tours and the sport's Monuments to be given priority in any rescheduling procedure.

The Giro d'Italia, which was due to start on May 9, has already been postponed, while the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege - three of the five Monuments - will no longer take place as planned.

A UCI statement read: "With this decision, cycling wishes to be able to guarantee the visibility of our sport, which will find itself in competition with other major international sports events, while ensuring the best possible exposure for the most-viewed races.

"Moreover, the UCI would like to make clear that the men and women's road season may be extended until November 1, 2020.

"The principle of flexibility could also be envisaged when it comes to the number of cyclists entered by teams at events.

"These decisions will be submitted to the UCI management committee and the Professional Cycling Council (PCC) for approval.

"Finally, the UCI proposed that cycling's stakeholders hold regular meetings to better anticipate the resumption when the time comes.

"For disciplines other than road, the UCI will make a detailed announcement at a later date."

Mitchelton-Scott, Movistar, Astana and Jumbo-Visma were among a host of teams to pull out of races at the start of March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The world's leading sporting competitions have been halted amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With almost 160,000 confirmed cases of the virus and close to 6,000 deaths, athletes across the globe are waiting to learn when they will return to work.

We take a look at the provisional return dates set out so far.
 

BASKETBALL

The NBA came to a sudden stop when a Utah Jazz player - later revealed to be Rudy Gobert - tested positive on Wednesday, and league commissioner Adam Silver warned the hiatus would "be most likely at least 30 days".

CRICKET

International cricket has been pushed back, but there are no firm dates as things stand for rescheduled matches. England's two-match Test tour of Sri Lanka was called off midway through a warm-up match, while the ODI series between India and South Africa was postponed after the first of three matches was washed out. Australia won an opening ODI against New Zealand behind closed doors, but the remaining two 50-over matches were delayed, along with a three-match Twenty20 series. There is at least a provisional date for the Indian Premier League to belatedly start: April 15, pushed back from March 29.

FOOTBALL

European football is at a standstill, with the Champions League among the elite-level competitions suspended. UEFA is set to meet to discuss the future of that tournament and Euro 2020 this week, while FIFA has advised postponements of upcoming international fixtures, for which clubs are no longer required to release their players. The Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A are all paused at least until April 3 although the Bundesliga has only called off one matchweek as things stand, while Ligue 1 is off "until further notice".

GOLF

The PGA Tour initially announced a three-week suspension, with The Players Championship stopped after its opening round. The Masters - won in 2019 by Tiger Woods - was therefore set to mark the Tour's return on April 9, but organisers soon announced the first major of the year would also be postponed. The RBC Heritage on April 16 is the next scheduled tournament. Organisers are planning "regular status updates in the coming weeks" amid "a very fluid situation that requires constant review, communication, and transparency".

MOTORSPORT

The Formula One season is still to start after races in Australia, Bahrain, Vietnam and China were postponed or cancelled. The Dutch Grand Prix on May 3 remains on at this stage, however, while managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn has suggested the calendar could be reshuffled, with races held in August. NASCAR has postponed events in Atlanta and Miami this and next weekend, and all IndyCar Series races through April have been cancelled.

RUGBY

Rugby league has largely been able to continue both in England and in Australia, but the same is not true of rugby union. Six Nations matches were among the first to fall by the wayside amid the crisis in Italy, with the Azzurri seeing matches against both Ireland and England postponed until later in the year. France versus Ireland was off, too, while Scotland's trip to Wales belatedly followed suit. Club action has ground to a halt, with Super Rugby finally paused this weekend and no return imminent.

TENNIS

After Indian Wells and then the Miami Open were cancelled, the ATP Tour announced its suspension up to and including the week of April 20. The WTA Tour preferred to call off individual events, but the schedule is now clear for five weeks. It was still to make a decision on the European clay-court season. The Fed Cup finals and play-offs - set for mid-April - have been pushed back, meanwhile, with the ITF vowing to address any impact the postponement may have on players' eligibility for Tokyo 2020.

OTHERS

Despite chaos surrounding various sports across the globe, Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe says the country is still planning for the Olympic Games in Tokyo to go ahead as scheduled in July. The London Marathon and the Boston Marathon will both still go ahead this year, but with revised dates of October 4 and September 14, respectively. The Giro d'Italia will be postponed and a new date for the race will not be announced until at least April 3 when a decree in Italy banning sport ends. The NBA is not the only American competition to be disrupted, meanwhile, with the 2020 MLB season moved back "at least two weeks" from March 26, and the NHL campaign paused indefinitely.

Nairo Quintana has set his next target as returning to Colombia to be with his family after he won the final stage of the shortened Paris-Nice race.

Arkea-Samsic rider Quintana launched a late attack in the closing four kilometres, crossing the line 47 seconds ahead of Tiesj Benoot.

It means Quintana – who crashed in stage two – finished sixth in the general classification, with Max Schachmann having maintained his overnight lead to claim the overall triumph.

With Sunday's stage cancelled due to the spread of coronavirus, French rider Romain Bardet criticised race organisers, claiming he could not understand why Saturday's event was going ahead.

After the race's completion, Quintana also referenced his concerns over the ongoing pandemic, acknowledging his main focus was now on being with his family.

"Now we'll try to return to Colombia, spend time with the family while this important problem for the world is resolved," the 30-year-old told reporters.

"We are aware of what is happening, we've finally finished and we will also be quarantined so that this virus does not continue to spread.

"We have to listen to the authorities so that this does not get out of hand and we can all return to work soon."

Despite a difficult start to the event, Quintana was thrilled to have finished on a high with a third stage win of the season.

"I always try to win like this, with elegance and a good attitude," he added. "We were highly motivated to do things well and have been working hard.

"The team worked hard to catch the break and then I did what I had to do. There was nothing I could do for the GC, so I knew I had to attack today, because I wanted to bring joy to the team, because of the effort that everyone has made. It is a gift for all of them. I always demand a lot, but here are the results."

While the stage belonged to Quintana, it was Schachmann who claimed the general classification victory.

Team Sunweb's Benoot started the day 36 seconds behind Schachmann, who also had to deal with challenges from Vincenzo Nibali, Thibaut Pinot and Sergio Higuita.

With Quintana already far up ahead, Benoot rolled the dice with just over 1,000m to go, and although he established a gap, Schachmann piggie-backed onto Higuita's chase to ensure an 18-second winning margin.

"It was a really hard finish, in the last three kilometres I worked through hell and a world of pain," Schachmann said.

"But now it's like being in heaven. Every little bit of pain in my legs was worth it. This is one of the biggest wins of my career and one of the most important steps."

The sporting calendar over the next few weeks looks extremely bare as events continue to be postponed or cancelled as a result of the threat of the coronavirus.

All of Europe's top five leagues have now been suspended, as the Bundesliga followed Serie A, LaLiga, Ligue 1 and the Premier League in calling a halt to proceedings just hours before its latest round of fixtures was due to kick off.

Golf's first major, the Masters, will not take place on April 9 as initially scheduled, while the Giro d'Italia, the final Six Nations match between Wales and Scotland, and marathons in London and Boston have all been affected by COVID-19, too.

With the number of confirmed cases worldwide now totalling over 140,000, we take a look at the latest round of postponements.

 

After the PGA Tour cancelled all events leading up the Masters, all eyes were on whether the prestigious event at Augusta National Golf Club would be called off until further notice. That news arrived on Friday, with organisers saying it was "appropriate under these unique circumstances".

With around four hours to go before the first Bundesliga game of matchday 26, the league was finally suspended due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Germany.

Defender Timo Hubers, who plays for 2. Bundesliga side Hannover, was one of the first players across Europe to test positive for the virus, and Paderborn, who had been due to Fortuna Dusseldorf on Friday night, were waiting on tests results for their players when news came down from the league.

Clubs will meet again on Monday, with the league advising a suspension until April 2.

World Cup qualifiers in Africa were suspended, while European clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona have stopped their players from training at their facilities for the time being.

As Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba encouraged people to "dab to beat coronavirus" and Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp backed the decision to postpone the Premier League, Serie A clubs Sampdoria and Fiorentina reported positive cases involving their players in Italy, one of the worst-affected countries.

The country's major cycling race, the Giro d'Italia, will not begin as scheduled on May 9 as Hungary said it was unwilling to host the first three stages. The whole race was subsequently postponed.

Six Nations contest between Italy and England in Rome, originally slated for Saturday, had already been called off, and the only fixture of the tournament not to be postponed was put back indefinitely on Friday. Wales' clash with Scotland in Cardiff was finally called off the day before it was set to take place, while Sunday's Premiership Rugby Cup final between Sale Sharks and Harlequins has also been postponed.

South Africa's ODI tour of India will be rescheduled for another time, the first match having been washed out on Thursday, while the Boston Marathon will now take place on September 14. The new date for the London Marathon is October 4.

Elsewhere, NASCAR has postponed races in Atlanta and Miami over the next two weekends. Those races were initially going to be held without fans. All IndyCar Series races through April have been cancelled.

The Giro d'Italia has been postponed after Hungary said it was no longer prepared to host the first three stages.

Organisers RSC Sport confirmed the race would not begin as scheduled on May 9.

Friday's announcement has long seemed inevitable, with Italy having been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis. As of Friday, the country has seen 15,113 confirmed cases and 1,016 deaths.

A statement from RSC Sport said: "Due to the spread of the coronavirus, the Hungarian government has declared a state of emergency which prohibits the organisation of mass events and makes it impossible to organise international events.

"Consequently, the organising committee of the Hungarian stages of the Giro d'Italia declared the impossibility of hosting the start of the 'race for pink' in Hungary on the dates initially scheduled.

"The two sides reiterated their determination to work together to allow the Giro d'Italia to depart from Hungary at a later date.

"Given the national and international situation, RCS Sport announces that the start of the 2020 Giro d'Italia is postponed.

"The new date will be announced no earlier than April 3 when the provisions of the prime ministerial decree of March 4 2020 end, and after the organisation has dealt with the government, local and territorial authorities and Italian and international sport institutions."

The race had been due to begin in Budapest and end on May 31 in Milan.

Hungarian politician Mariusz Revesz, a government commissioner, revealed earlier on Facebook the news that the country would not be taking up its chance to host the early stages of the prestigious race.

He wrote: "Due to the serious epidemic situation in Europe, it will not be possible to organise the first three phases of the Giro d'Italia in Hungary in May 2020, the Grande Partenza.

"Over the past three weeks, there have been several meetings between Hungarian and Italian organizers, and the Hungarian organising committee has repeatedly stated that competition should not endanger the safety and health of Hungarian people.

"Unfortunately, in Italy, the epidemic has become more severe day by day, and the number of illnesses and casualties has continued to rise, with the result that the Italian government has announced a nationwide quarantine.

"Meanwhile, the virus has reached Hungary, and in order to curb the epidemic, the Hungarian government has declared a state of emergency, which prohibits the organisation of more popular sports events and makes it impossible to organise international events."

All sporting activity in Italy has been suspended until April 3 by the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) due to the coronavirus spread, with football set to be the most-impacted sport.

The CONI announcement on Monday confirmed a suspension, subject to government ratification, that many had expected.

Serie A and the Coppa Italia had already been heavily affected by postponements and matches being played behind closed doors, with Sunday's Derby d'Italia played in front of an eerily empty stadium.

A government decree had already confirmed there were to be no spectators at any sporting events until April 3, but the latest announcement followed a significant increase in coronavirus cases, with 7,375 Italians having been infected.

Many wider sporting events in Italy had already been postponed, but the suspension is arguably set to have the biggest knock-on effect in football, as it throws the Serie A title race – and relegation tussle – into chaos due to an ever-growing fixture pile-up.

Following Monday's news, here are the biggest clubs' Serie A and Coppa Italia matches set to be affected:

Juventus:

Bologna v Juventus, March 13

Juventus v Lecce, March 21

Juventus v Milan (Coppa Italia semi-final second leg), TBC

Lazio:

Atalanta v Lazio, March 15

Lazio v Fiorentina, March 20

Inter:

Inter v Sassuolo, March 15

Parma v Inter, March 22

Napoli v Inter (Coppa Italia semi-final second leg), TBC

Milan:

Lecce v Milan, March 15

Milan v Roma, March 22

Juventus v Milan (Coppa Italia semi-final second leg), TBC

With no matches set to take place until April 3, a deadline that could feasibly be pushed back even further, teams will resume the Serie A season with between 12 and 14 matches still to play.

With Euro 2020 set to begin on June 12, it leaves just 70 days between the two key dates, though facilities will have to be handed over to UEFA well before the tournament's kick-off.

If Champions League and Europa League matches continue to go ahead as planned, some Italian teams could have many as 20 matches across all competitions to cram into their schedules.

Juventus lead the way in Serie A on 63 points, and look set to be pushed the distance by Lazio. The Rome-based club are just a point shy, while Inter have fallen adrift of the top by nine.

Among the wider sporting events previously postponed through March and early April were: 

CYCLING

Tirreno-Adriatico, March 11-17

Milan-San Remo, March 21

Giro di Sicilia, April 1-4

SKIING

Alpine Skiing World Cup finals, March 18-22

RUGBY UNION

Italy v England, March 14

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