Tagovailoa looking forward to going full speed in March

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Tua Tagovailoa climbed up a couple stairs, then walked to the podium without a hitch Tuesday.

It was a promising start to a critical week.

Eventually, the former Alabama quarterback revealed what NFL scouts eagerly awaited: He should be cleared to resume all football activities March 9 and will hold his pro day workout April 9 — exactly two weeks before the NFL draft.

“It’s been a process,” Tagovailoa said. “We went to the hospital for medical checks yesterday at 10 in the morning and I was the last person to leave. I got back about 7:49 last night, so right in time for the informal and formal (team) interviews.”

It’s been a grueling process ever since the man with the multi-million dollar arm injured his hip Nov. 15. Two days later, he had season-ending surgery.

Tagovailoa spent the next three months working his way back, rehearsing answers to all those nagging questions he expected at the league’s annual scouting combine.

Here, in Indianapolis, the 6-foot, 217-pound college star is one of roughly 300 draft prospects getting poked and prodded, measured and tested this week.

But the continual queries about his health are a stark reminder how tough the comeback journey has been.

“I think the lowest point was just at that moment when I got hurt,” he said. “I didn’t feel bad for myself when I was on the helicopter going to Birmingham, when I was in the hospital. The lowest point was when I got hurt.”

No, he’s not quite 100% yet, though it is clear Tagovailoa feels a lot more like himself these days.

Inside the interview room, he stood behind the microphone, smiling repeatedly as he fielded reporters’ questions for nearly 30 minutes.

At times, he sounded like a polished pro, even brushing aside a question about how uncomfortable he felt talking about himself.

He explained that he’d been throwing a little, nothing crazy, and that he’s been training with former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer and former NFL head coach and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt to prepare for this week.

“I think the quarterback position is the hardest position to play in any sport,” Oakland Raiders general manager Mike Mayock said. “There are a hundred things you can point to, but the traits I think you need are leadership, accuracy and pocket awareness. They need to be a leader of men and when you get in the huddle you have to be an alpha male.”

There seems to be little doubt Tagavoila possesses those characteristics.

He’s been on the radar of NFL scouts since replacing Jalen Hurts in January 2018 and rallying Alabama to a victory over Georgia in the national championship game. He won the starting job that fall, beating out Hurts, then led Alabama back to another title game before losing to Clemson.

His 2018 honors read like a cheat sheet to a college football awards show: Heisman Trophy runner-up; Maxwell Award and Walter Camp player of the year recipient; SEC offensive player of the year; and consensus All-American while setting single-season school records for yards passing (3,966) and TD passes (43).

Tagovailoa was playing well again this season, too, until spraining his right ankle in mid-October. That injury forced him to miss one game but he returned against LSU and then suffered a dislocated and fractured hip in mid-November. Yet he still led the FBS with an efficiency rating of 206.93

Injuries have been a problem during his career The left-handed quarterback had surgery for a broken index finger on his throwing hand, played through a sprained knee, an injured left quad, a sprained left ankle that led to surgery, and a sprained right ankle that also led to surgery.

“Mentally it’s been a grind, but it’s not something that’s new to me,” he said. “I’ve dealt with a hand injury, my left ankle, my right ankle. So I sort of knew what to expect going through this process, but it’s definitely been a grind.”

And if Tagovailoa proves he’s healthy by draft day, he could be a top-five pick in Las Vegas and an instant millionaire.

He knows it. His family knows it. The scouts know it.

“I’m hoping to do everything. I don’t think there’s much to wait on,” Tagovailoa said. “Once March 9 hits, (I hope to be cleared) to go out there, run, drop back, work on a lot of those things again.”


Tokyo organizers, IOC going ahead as planned with Olympics

TOKYO (AP) — A spokesman for the Japanese government on Wednesday said the International Olympic Committee and local organizers are going as planned with the Tokyo Olympics despite the threat of the spreading coronavirus.

The comments from spokesman Yoshihide Suga follow the assertion by IOC veteran member Richard Pound that organizers face a three-month window to decide the fate of the games.

The Olympics are set to open on July 24 with 11,000 athletes. The Paralympics open Aug. 25 with 4,400.

Pound told the Associated Press that the fast-spreading virus could cancel the Olympics. Suga says Pound’s opinion does not reflect the official view of the IOC, which has repeatedly said there are no plans to cancel or postpone the Tokyo Games.

The viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700 globally. China has reported 2,715 deaths among 78,064 cases on the mainland. Five deaths in Japan have been attributed to the virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes.

“With regard to this member’s comment, the IOC has responded that this is not their official position, and that the IOC is proceeding with preparations toward the games as scheduled,” Suga said, speaking in Japanese at his daily news conference.

Pound is a former IOC vice-president and a member since 1978, and was the founding president of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

He also represented Canada as a swimmer at the Olympics.

In a telephone interview from Montreal, Pound said the IOC has a three-month window to decide, and suggested other options like moving events of postponing seemed less likely.

“In and around that time,” he said, “I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or now?’”

If the IOC decides the games cannot go forward as scheduled in Tokyo, “you’re probably looking at a cancellation,” said Pound, who repeated the IOC’s stance that as of now the games are on.

The three-month window also goes for sponsors and television broadcasters who need to firm up planning. Not to mention travelers, athletes and fans with 7.8 million tickets available for the Olympics and 2.3 million for the Paralympics.

As the games draw near, Pound said, “a lot of things have to start happening You’ve got to start ramping up your security, your food, the Olympic Village, the hotels. The media folks will be in their building their studios.”

The threat of the virus seems to be growing.

At a government task force meeting Wednesday on the virus outbreak, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he was asking organizers to cancel or postpone major sports or cultural events over the next two weeks.

“The next one to two weeks is extremely important for the prevention of the escalation of the infection,” Abe said. “We ask organizers to cancel, postpone or scale down the size of such events.”

He did not name specific events but said he was speaking about nationwide events that attract large crowds.

Olympics Minister Seiko Hashimoto, speaking in parliament, said “we believe it is necessary to make a worst case scenario in order to improve our operation to achieve success.” She added plans were being made “so that we can safely hold the Tokyo Olympics.”

Also Wednesday, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported that that Colombian Olympic Committee has decided not to participate in pre-Olympic training camps in southern Japan.


Yanks’ Severino needs Tommy John surgery, out for year

DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) — Luis Severino will miss the season with an elbow injury that requires Tommy John surgery, and the New York Yankees’ rotation no longer looks all that imposing.

New York announced Tuesday that the 26-year-old right-hander has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament, a development that means the two-time All-Star will miss all of 2020 after being sidelined for nearly all of 2019.

Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek will operate Thursday in New York.

“I am extremely disappointed that I will not be able to put on a Yankees uniform and compete with my teammates this year,” Severino said in a statement posted on Twitter. “but I promise that I will be working tirelessly during this process to come back stronger than ever.”

Left-hander James Paxton already was projected to miss the first two months of the season following back surgery on Feb. 5. Domingo Germán must serve the final 63 games of an 81-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy. He is eligible to return June 5, barring any postponements.

Severino’s injury leaves the AL East favorites with a rotation of newly signed ace Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and two openings. The usual recovery time for Tommy John surgery is a year or more.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat the fact that being without Sevy, that’s a blow, but it doesn’t change our expectations and what we’re truly capable of,” manager Aaron Boone said. “So, no, nothing changes.”

Lefty Jordan Montgomery, who came back in September from Tommy John surgery, has been throwing at up to 94 mph and is the leading candidate for one slot. Jonathan Loaisiga and rookies Deivi Garcia and Michael King are possibilities along with Luis Cessa.

“We’re always constantly looking for upgrades anyway,” general manager Brian Cashman said. “But this time of year you always look from within and see and give opportunities for what you have and typically that’s how it shakes out, especially until after the June draft regardless, so you keep relying on depth. So wouldn’t say expect any domino effect or cause and effect in terms of us being able to go to marketplace where a marketplace this time of year typically doesn’t exist.”

New York won the AL East with a 103-59 record last year, its best in a decade, and lost to Houston in the AL Championship Series.

Severino went 19-8 with a 3.39 ERA in 2018 and was given a $40 million, four-year contract. He was scratched from his first scheduled spring training appearance on March 5 because of rotator cuff inflammation in his right shoulder. The Yankees said April 9 he had strained his latissimus dorsi muscle. He did not make a minor league injury rehabilitation appearance until Sept. 1 and did not make his first appearance for the Yankees until Sept. 17.

Severino was 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA over 12 innings in three regular-season starts for New York, then was 0-1 with a 2.16 ERA over 8 1/3 innings in a pair of postseason outings.

Boone said Severino first felt the soreness in the days after his Game 3 start in the ALCS.

Severino had an MRI in New York in early December and was cleared to start his throwing program. He experienced discomfort while throwing his changeup on flat ground during January in the Dominican Republic. Severino returned to New York, and another MRI and CT scan were negative.

“My gut is it’s something that dates back to when he started feeling something,” Cashman said. “In terms of the declaration of the injury, with the physical testing upon the MRIs and where his complaints were, it didn’t reveal itself. But now as of yesterday for the first time, the physical testing points to the area on the MRI arthogram that shows a problem. The prior MRIs had no problem and the point of injury was not around the ligament. ”

Notes: RF Aaron Judge could be ready to play in his first spring training game next week after being limited by right shoulder soreness. “I would say no playing for sure this week,” Boone said. Judge has increased his throwing to 120 feet and is hitting off a tee and taking soft toss in an indoor cage. Judge first experienced the shoulder soreness during early workouts at the Yankees minor complex and was shut down from hitting a week spring training started. … SS Gleyber Torres agreed to a one-year contract that pays $675,600 while in the major leagues and $302,500 in the unlikely event he is sent to the minors.


LeBron’s 40 bests Zion, sends Lakers past Pelicans 118-109

LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James had 40 points and eight rebounds in his first career meeting with Zion Williamson while leading the Los Angeles Lakers to their sixth straight victory, 118-109 over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night.

Anthony Davis had 21 points and 14 rebounds to remain unbeaten in his three meetings with his former team this season.

In the Lakers’ first game after an emotional memorial service for Kobe Bryant at Staples Center on Monday, James opened up a close contest with back-to-back buckets at the rim with about three minutes left. Danny Green sealed it for Los Angeles with his fifth 3-pointer with 51 seconds to play.

Williamson had 29 points and six rebounds in his first career showdown with James and Davis, his predecessor as the Pelicans’ centerpiece. In his 13th NBA game, Williamson scored at least 20 points for the ninth consecutive time, but managed only one field goal in the fourth quarter.

Brandon Ingram had 34 points against his former team, but just six in the final period as New Orleans lost for only the second time in seven games.

Williamson was still injured for the Pelicans’ first two meetings of the season with the Lakers, but the No. 1 overall pick’s delayed debut in Hollywood was as entertaining as everyone hoped. Williamson had several impressive dunks in his usual fearsome floor game, and only six missed free throws kept him from surpassing his career high of 32 points.

Davis is the leading scorer and rebounder in New Orleans franchise history, making six All-Star teams during his tenure. He went just 6 for 21 from the field in this meeting, failing to score 40 points against the Pelicans for the first time.

Lonzo Ball had 10 points, eight assists and eight rebounds, and Josh Hart scored three points in their second return to face the Lakers, who traded them to New Orleans along with Ingram last July for Davis.

The Pelicans also got three first-round draft picks in their princely haul for Davis, who had requested a trade. Davis has been just as good as the Lakers hoped in propelling them back to NBA championship contention, while the Pelicans are getting an All-Star season from Ingram alongside Williamson in an increasingly potent core.

James scored 11 points in less than two minutes early in the third quarter to stretch the Lakers’ lead to 14 points, but Ingram scored 10 in the period to keep it close.

Alex Caruso provided the Lakers with his usual injection of energy in the fourth quarter, particularly with a stunning block of Ball’s shot at the rim that left Ball flat on his back. Caruso finished with eight points and eight assists.


Pelicans: These teams will complete their four-game season series Sunday in New Orleans. … UCLA product Jrue Holiday had 11 points and nine assists, but went 5 for 19 from the field.

Lakers: Davis gave the Lakers a scare midway through the fourth quarter when he hit his left hand on the glass while blocking Nicolo Melli’s shot. The oft-hobbling superstar stayed in the game after getting treatment during a timeout. … Markieff Morris made his Lakers debut with four points and three fouls in 15 minutes. Los Angeles signed the veteran on Sunday for the playoff push after Detroit bought him out. Coach Frank Vogel plans to ease Morris into the rotation, which he says is already stacked with more quality players than he can use extensively. Morris is expected to see regular time as a backup power forward who can rebound and play solid defense.


Review of soccer offside law to give advantage to attackers

HOLYWOOD, Northern Ireland (AP) — Changes to the offside law are coming to soccer that will aim to give the benefit of the doubt to attacking players when goal decisions are reviewed by video replays.

A law designed to stop goal-hanging will be subject to a global consultation that was approved Saturday by the International Football Association Board with the intention of giving an edge to attackers.

“The offside rule has evolved over time and we felt that now was really the right time to look into that, to see whether we can do something positive for attacking football,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said. “We can now look to see if we can provide strikers with more scoring opportunities.”

The introduction of video assistant referees has seen the benefit of the doubt being taken away from the attacking players.

“Ideas about how you judge offside, in one sense, won’t change because you will always have the question of, ‘Where do you draw the line?’” IFAB technical director David Elleray said. “Football is saying to us that we don’t think that your toe being two centimeters in front of the end of a defender is a significant enough advantage to be penalized.

“It is not going to change the accuracy, it is saying, philosophically, how do we want offside? Is it appropriate for us to say, can we change the law to restore more benefit to attacking football?”

Some of the most forensic analysis of video replays has come in England where multiple camera angles allow lines and dots drawn across footage with precision geometry that the offside law was never intended to be subjected to.

It has led to criticism of VAR in the Premier League, which irritates Infantino.

“There is only one league in the world where this seems to be a big problem,” Infantino said.

The annual general meeting of IFAB also agreed to progress with concussion substitute trials. Protocols will be designed to allow them to be tested at the Tokyo Olympics in five months.

IFAB has been assessing studies into the prevalence of former footballers suffering from dementia and how the sport can address concerns about the long-term impact of head injuries.


David Ortiz selling baseball mementos, household items

WESTON, Mass. (AP) — Former Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz is cleaning house, and you might be surprised by what he’s selling.

The man known to Red Sox fans as Big Papi is, of course, selling tons of memorabilia from his baseball career at an estate sale scheduled for Saturday at his home in the affluent Boston suburb of Weston. But he is also selling other odds and sundry, including a neon Rolls Royce sign, a backyard composter and a stone owl sculpture.

“In addition to some exceptional sports memorabilia, you’ll find beautiful furniture and decor, designer ladies clothing and accessories, gym equipment, game room tables and more,” the company running the sale said on its website.

The baseball-related items for sale include framed jerseys; David Ortiz bobbleheads; Big Papi commemorative Coca-Cola bottles; signed Red Sox photographs; and a Boston Bruins jersey with the name Ortiz and his No. 34 on the back.

The three-time World Series champion and his wife put the six-bedroom, 8,100-square-foot home on the market last year for $6.3 million, but it is not currently listed.


Black voters shifting toward Bloomberg, away from Biden

New York billionaire Michael Bloomberg is chipping away at former vice-president Joe Biden’s strong support among black voters, a new Quinnipiac University Poll suggests. The poll found black support for Bloomberg rising to 22%, while Biden’s support is now down to 27%.

Black voters are considered a key base for the Democratic primaries in general and for Biden’s campaign in particular. Bloomberg’s rising numbers is therefore an ominous sign for the Biden campaign.

“This spells trouble for the VP,” said one Democratic strategist who is unaffiliated with any of the presidential campaigns.

Black voters will be a dominant bloc in the South Carolina primary, which takes place later this month. The Biden campaign cancelled some planned events in New Hampshire on Tuesday to head to South Carolina, in a sign that Biden sees reason to worry.

Biden finished fifth in New Hampshire’s primary Wednesday, which Senator Bernie Sanders won with 26% of the vote; and was the fourth-place candidate in Iowa. Democratic strategist Joel Payne said that these weak performances by Biden may be causing some black voters to peel away from him and toward other candidates who seem more likely to win.

Bloomberg has spent hundred of millions on ads in states that will host their primaries on Super Tuesday while completely foregoing New Hampshire and the other early primary states. Payne said that while Biden falters, Bloomberg’s message may look like “more of a sure thing.”

Bloomberg has faced questions about his record as mayor, in particular the city police’s disproportionate use of “stop-and-frisk” against residents of color. He defended himself in a statement Friday in which he said that he only “inherited” the practice and that he cut it back by 95% but regrets not having acted against it sooner.


Newly discovered secret chambers in King Tut’s tomb may hold Queen Nefertiti

King Tut’s tomb continues to surprise us. Nearly 80 years after its discovery, archaeologists have uncovered evidence of never-before-seen hidden chambers that may house the long-sought remains of Egyptian Queen Nefertiti.

The researchers, led by former Egyptian Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty, were scanning the walls of Tut’s tomb using radar technology that can reveal what lies behind opaque objects. According to the findings they shared with Nature Magazine, their scans indicated an unidentified space behind the burial chamber. This space appears to measure 33 feet long and 7 feet high, they said.

Eldamaty’s team speculates that this space, if it exists, may be part of a larger network of hidden chambers deep in the tomb. Some Egyptologists have speculated these chambers’ existence for years but never had the means to prove it.

The team said that within these chambers might lie the burial site of Nefertiti, Tut’s stepmother—she was the wife of Tut’s father, King Akhenaten. Her remains have never been found.

Some researchers have reached opposite conclusions. Italian physicist Francesco Porcelli, for example, examined the tomb in 2017 and concluded that there was no evidence of hidden chambers.

But Ray Johnson, an Egypt-based University of Chicago Egyptologist who was not involved in the research, said that he finds Eldamaty and colleagues’ results convincing and “tremendously exciting.” He told Nature that “Clearly there is something on the other side of the north wall of the burial chamber.”

Tut—short for Tutankhamen—became ruler of Egypt circa 1332 BCE as a chile but only reigned nine years before dying at the age of 19. British archaeologist Howard Carter first unearthed his tomb in 1922.


Whiff: Nats closer Doolittle calmed by lavender oil on glove

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Washington Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle moves a glove out of the way as he reaches into a shelf in his spring training locker and grabs a different one, which he then hands over with a simple, if unusual, instruction:

“Smell it.”

So, of course, you do — getting a sweet whiff of lavender, the sort you might get from a candle or bowl of potpourri. And now you know what Doolittle sniffed each time he jutted his right elbow toward home plate and tucked his glove under his chin to get his catcher’s signs during last season’s World Series.

At the suggestion of Washington’s director of mental conditioning, Mark Campbell, Doolittle put lavender oil on the leather laces around the webbing of his glove for the postseason. It helped the lefty relax on the mound after a rocky regular season, much the way the bullpen as a whole morphed from disaster to asset in 2019, a trend of improvement the club figures will continue in 2020.

“I was so nervous during the playoffs. I was just a big ball of stress. Lavender has a lot of calming and soothing to it,” Doolittle explained last week. “When I came set, I could smell it. It worked, man.”

In October, he produced two saves and three holds, a 1.74 ERA and a .167 opponents’ batting average as the Nationals went 8-1 in his appearances along the way to a championship.

“When you’re a reliever and pitching in high-leverage situations in must-win games, and you’re on-call every night for like a month, it starts to take its toll on you. And it’s a challenge to stay even-keeled and to really manage that energy. That’s the hardest part,” Doolittle said. “(Campbell) helped me out a lot. My regular season did not go the way I wanted it to go, but I was very proud of the way I was able to get myself together and be really effective in the playoffs.”

The same could be said about Washington’s entire relief corps.

Doolittle wound up with his most appearances (63) since 2013, a career-worst ERA of 4.05, a 6-5 record and six blown chances — twice as many as in 2017 and 2018 combined — to go with a career-high 29 saves.

He was part of unit that had an ERA above 5.50, but got help at the trade deadline. Acquiring Daniel Hudson from Toronto, in particular, was key, even if additions Roenis Elías and Hunter Strickland dealt with injuries.

“On paper,” pitching coach Paul Menhart said, “we are a lot stronger.”

General manager Mike Rizzo brought back Hudson ($11 million, two years) and brought aboard Will Harris, a free agent from Houston ($24 million, three years).

Both can take on some of the late-inning responsibilities that Doolittle bore so often, getting worn out before heading to the injured list in August with a knee issue.

Elías (14 saves for Seattle in 2019) and Strickland (14 saves for San Francisco in 2018) have closer experience. Tanner Rainey can throw 100 mph and owns a tough slider.

So Rizzo should be able to forgo his usual in-season ’pen padding.

“Definitely is a good feeling knowing that we started spring training with a bunch of guys that have competed in the back end of the bullpen,” manager Dave Martinez said. “If one of the guys needs a day off — or two — you have another guy that can cover. To have those guys here, whew, it was definitely on our list of ‘to-dos.’ I’m going to like looking down at that sheet of paper, going, ‘Oh we’ve got Harris. We’ve got Hudson. We’ve got a healthy Strickland. And ‘Doo’ to close it out.”

Like Doolittle’s special, scented postseason glove, several teammates have some sort of 2019 memento they’ve held onto.

In a closet at home, Hudson keeps the glove he chucked after recording the last out against the Astros in Game 7 — the initials of his wife and two oldest daughters are stitched on there; he used a marker to write the initials of his third daughter, who was born during the NL Championship Series against the Cardinals. Yellow-tinted sunglasses worn in the dugout for good luck sit in starter Aníbal Sánchez’s locker. Outfielder Michael A. Taylor stored for safekeeping the baseball he dove to catch, with Doolittle on the mound, to end the NL Division Series against the Dodgers (Taylor says a teammate unsuccessfully tried to take that ball during the on-field scrum, but wouldn’t reveal who).

When Doolittle heads out for the ninth inning this year, he’ll have to do so with a new piece of leather: He switched glove companies in the offseason.

Might replicate that lavender treatment, though.

“I now associate that smell with having success in high-leverage situations. And managing myself. There’s really positive energy associated with that: We won the World Series. I got to contribute. And I pitched pretty well,” he said. “So there’s definitely a connection there for me. It’s definitely been ingrained, so we’ll probably stick with it.”

Notes: Harris has “a little tweak” in an abdominal muscle and won’t throw for three or four days, Martinez said, calling it “a little setback.” … RHPs Stephen Strasburg (Friday) and Patrick Corbin (Saturday) are scheduled to make their spring training debuts this week. … 1B Ryan Zimmerman was slated to make his first exhibition appearance Thursday night against Houston, earlier than he usually plays. “He feels like he’s ready,” Martinez said.


39 states investigating Juul’s marketing of vaping products

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Investigators from 39 states will look into the marketing and sales of vaping products by Juul Labs, including whether the company targeted youths and made misleading claims about nicotine content in its devices, officials announced Tuesday.

Attorneys general from Connecticut, Florida, Nevada, Oregon and Texas said they will be leading the multi-state investigation into San Francisco-based Juul, which also is facing lawsuits by teenagers and others who say they became addicted to the company’s vaping products.

The state officials said they also will be investigating the company’s claims about the risk, safety and effectiveness of its vaping products as smoking cessation devices.

“I will not prejudge where this investigation will lead,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement, “but we will follow every fact and are prepared to take strong action in conjunction with states across the nation to protect public health.”

Juul released a statement saying it has halted television, print and digital advertising and eliminated most flavors in response to concerns by government officials and others.

“We will continue to reset the vapor category in the U.S. and seek to earn the trust of society by working cooperatively with attorneys general, regulators, public health officials, and other stakeholders to combat underage use and transition adult smokers from combustible cigarettes,” the statement said.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said underage vaping has become an epidemic across the country.

“I cannot sit on the sidelines while this public health epidemic grows, and our next generation becomes addicted to nicotine,” Moody said.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford added, “Preying on children and those looking for help to quit smoking is the one of the most despicable examples of risking people’s lives for corporate profit.”

The brainchild of two Stanford University design students, Juul launched in 2015 and quickly rocketed to the top of the multibillion-dollar vaping market.

The company initially sold its high-nicotine pods in fruit and dessert flavors, including mango, mint and creme. The products have become a scourge in U.S. high schools, with one in four teenagers reportedly vaping in the past month, according to the latest federal figures. Juul is the most popular brand, preferred by 60% of high schoolers.

Juul’s meteoric rise has been followed by a hasty retreat in recent months, amid a nationwide political backlash over vaping. Although Juul remains the dominant player in the U.S. vaping market, the company has made several concessions, including halting its advertising and pulling all its flavors except menthol and tobacco from the market. The Food and Drug Administration recently put in place flavor restrictions designed to curb use of small, pod-based e-cigarettes like Juul.

The FDA and a congressional panel have ongoing investigations into whether the company’s early marketing efforts — which included online influencers and product giveaways — deliberately targeted minors.

Nine attorneys general have previously announced lawsuits against the company, most alleging that the company adopted the playbook of Big Tobacco by luring teens with youth-oriented marketing while failing to stop underage sales.

Earlier this month Massachusetts’ Maura Healey sued the company, citing company records to allege that Juul bought advertisements on websites designed for teens and children, including, and