HEARD AT HALFTIME: WADA-U.S. war of words continues; Bach visits Tokyo; Dressel and Shields claim records in ISL semi

Another world record for U.S. sprint superstar Caeleb Dressel!

News, views and noise from the non-stop, worldwide circus of Olympic sport:

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach (GER) met separately with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike in Tokyo, confirming the mutual desire to make the Tokyo Games a reality:

“In this meeting [with Suga], we were totally aligned in the full determination and confidence to make the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and the Paralympic Games a great success next summer here in Tokyo. Together we can make these Olympics Games and the Olympic flame the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Said Suga:

“I explained that we are making various considerations on the premise of having spectators and agreed with President Bach to work closely together toward realizing a safe and secure Olympics.”

During a news conference, Bach explained “We will undertake every effort so that as many participants as possible accept a vaccine for Tokyo 2020. This is the first endeavor. It is not about making it obligatory or a requirement. We want to convince as many foreign participants as possible.”

Bach made a special presentation to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who steadfastly supported the Games effort, of the Olympic Order in Gold, the highest honor bestowed by the IOC. Bach plans to visit the new Olympic Stadium and the Athlete’s Village during the remainder of his trip.

Anti-Doping ● Reuters reported a continuation of the flare-up between the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy and the World Anti-Doping Agency over possible reactions if the U.S. does not pay its $2.9 million in promised dues to the agency. ONDCP Acting General Counsel Anthony Jones told the WADA Foundation Board during its meeting last week:

“The United States strongly opposes any attempt to amend the Code to penalize public authorities that decide to withdraw funds from WADA.

“We see it as a personal attack on the United States and it would be contrary to WADA’s stated desire to improve relationships with the United States government.

“The WADA 2021 Code has not even come into effect yet, yet WADA is seeking to revise the Code to single out the United States government.

“We view this as an affront to the sovereignty of the law of public authorities and it would undermine the legitimate authority of governments to independently evaluate whether to spend public funds.”

All of this is a reaction to a discussion about amending the World Anti-Doping Code in case an agreed-upon dues payment is not made from one of the governmental contributors to WADA. The current code carries no penalties.

WADA’s chief financial officer indicated that the agency had prepared two budgets, with and without the U.S. contribution; the full-year budget for 2021 is expected to be $43.4 million.

A posting on the Play The Game Web site on 12 November “makes a number of new allegations concerning the former President of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), Tamas Ajan. In particular, the article alleges to have uncovered letters from 2013, which WADA saw for the first time today, indicating that Mr. Ajan intervened to delay the results management process of adverse analytical findings involving weightlifters from Azerbaijan.”

WADA President Witold Banka (POL) replied on a statement last Thursday:

“These latest allegations of wrongdoing by the former IWF President are infuriating. According to WADA [Intelligence & Investigations], which was the first to initiate an investigation, as well as media reports and Prof. McLaren’s findings, there was a culture of doping in weightlifting that was tolerated, facilitated and hidden for a long time. Clearly, this is unacceptable to WADA and all those around the world who care about clean sport. WADA will continue to do all it can to help the athletes of this sport to compete on a level playing field in a safe and healthy environment.”

Comment: This is the latest in a continuing wave of allegations against the IWF, which is now skating on very thin ice to keep its place on the Olympic program for Paris 2024. Although the federation’s anti-doping activities have now been out-sourced to the International Testing Agency, the IOC has indicated great concern over the continued governance problems within the IWF, with the federation losing credibility by the day.

From the Play the Game story:

“What we have read confirms: Cleaning up of the IWF is hardly the target for the majority of the current Executive Board. If there ever was a sigh of relief after Aján’s departure, it had nothing to do with a wish for a new culture at his court.”

Athletics ● The Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU) filed an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport of the arbitration decision in favor of World 400 m champ Salwa Eid Naser (BRN).

The AIU had charged Naser with an anti-doping violation due to a combination of three missed tests or “whereabouts” failures over a 12-month period. The arbitrators in the case decided that one of the missed tests was due to a “comedy of errors” over an improper address given by Naser that the Doping Control Officer guessed almost correctly, but knocked on the wrong door and was unable to find the athlete.

Comment: The arbitrators in the first appeal were quite generous to Naser. It is not at all clear that the CAS panel will be as forgiving to an athlete who provided clearly incorrect information for the Doping Control Officer to follow.

On 10 November, the AIU suspended Elijah Manangoi, 30, Kenya’s 1,500 World Champion in 2017, for two years due to whereabouts failures. He missed tests on 3 July, 12 November and 22 December of 2019 due to a missed flight connection, a traffic jam for the second test and another bad flight connection for the third test (in which his location was supposed to have been updated by a third party). The decision can be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Associated Press reported that 2016 Olympic Steeple champion Conseslus Kipruto “has been charged with having sexual intercourse with a 15-year-old girl and was released on bail Monday after pleading not guilty.”

Kipruto made headlines after going missing after the girl’s parents registered the complaint, but he was arrested on 11 November. According to the AP story:

“Kipruto was charged with what is referred to as ‘defilement’ in Kenyan law — sexual intercourse with a minor under the age of 18. Because the girl is under 16, Kipruto faces at least 20 years in prison if convicted, according to Kenya’s sexual offenses laws.”

Boxing ● The first comprehensive manifesto for the December election for AIBA President has been issued by Azerbaijani candidate Suleyman Mikayilov.

Among the major points made are a “100 Days” promise of an independent review of AIBA’s governance structure in order to satisfy the IOC’s requirements for restoring AIBA as the governing body for boxing, create a “Boxing Integrity Unit” a la the World Athletics model, more anti-doping education for boxers (especially younger fighters), and clear AIBA’s $16 million-plus debt.

Mikayilov says that the debt will be eliminated through the formation of a “United Boxing Alliance” as the marketing arm of AIBA, and that the UBA “will secure 25 million CHF from identified sponsors and partners from Azerbaijan and other European countries to create a sustainable AIBA operation for the future.”

Comment: This sounds a lot like the promises from Russian candidate Umar Kremlev, the general secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation, who has provided no public indication where this money would come from. Mikayilov is a former boxer who was a member of the National Junior team in the USSR in the 1970s; according to his biography: “Mikayilov became a government official in 1995, working in various ministries and serving as governor of several regions in Azerbaijan. Since 2010, he has been the Governor of the Garadagh Region near Baku, the Azeri capital.”

That would indicate that he has considerable access to the Azerbaijan business community at a minimum, but does that compromise his position as a regional governor? Mikayilov has been a member of the existing AIBA Executive Committee for three terms. But his manifesto is a lot more information than anyone else is making publicly available, at least to this point.

The AIBA election is slated for 12 December by video conference.

Cycling ● The horrific crash that sent Denmark’s Fabio Jakobsen crashing into the street barriers at the finish line of the opening stage of the Tour de Pologne on 5 August has resulted in a nine-month ban for Dutch rider Dylan Groenewegen.

Groenewegen’s aggressive finishing push sent Jakobsen into the barricades and caused the crash of several other riders on the downhill finish in Katowice. Jakobsen’s injuries were severe and he has undergone multiple surgeries for facial injuries, especially to the jaw and teeth.

The UCI statement noted Groenewegen “acknowledged that he deviated from his line and committed a violation of the UCI Regulations.”

Football ● The U.S. Men’s National Team got three first-half goals from Giovanni Reyna and two from Nicholas Gioacchini to take a commanding 3-1 halftime lead over Panama on the way to a 6-2 victory in a friendly at the Wiener Neustadt Stadion in Austria.

These were the first international goals from Reyna (free kick in the 18th minute) and Gioacchini (22nd minute on a rebound and a 26th-minute header), after Jose Fajardo’s header gave the Panamanians a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute. Fajardo scored again in the 79th minute to close to 3-2, but then the Americans got quick goals from Sebastian Soto in the 83rd minute (his first international score), then Sebastian Lleget in the 87th minute and then Soto again at 90+1.

The U.S. dominated possession, 61-39% and had 15 shots to eight for Panama, including an 8-3 edge in shots on the goal. It was the fourth straight win for the U.S. since October 2017, now by a combined score of 14-2; Fajardo’s early goal was the first for Panama against the U.S. since July of 2017 (a 1-1 draw).

U.S. Coach Gregg Berhalter indicated he would like to score one more match in 2020, but the details are yet to be determined.

Swimming ● While the official International Swimming League line is that times don’t matter, the record books were rewritten during the league’s second semifinal that finished on Monday in the short-course (25 m) pool of the Duna Arena in Budapest, Hungary.

The man of the meet was American sprint superstar Caeleb Dressel, who set a world (short-course) record in the 100 m Medley, after edging his own American Record in the 100 m Free.

Swimming for the Cali Condors, Dressel became the first swimmer in history to complete the 100 m Medley in less than 50 seconds, finishing in 49.88. That smashed the 50.26 standard set by Russia’s Vladimir Morozov twice in 2018 and raises questions about his program for the Olympic Trials in 2021.

Dressel had already improved his American Record in the 100 m Free, finishing in 45.20 – the no. 7 performance in history – clipping 0.02 off of his winning time from the ISL final in Las Vegas in 2019. Wow!

Not to be left out was U.S. butterfly star Tom Shields, who won the 200 m Fly in 1:49.02, improving his five-year old American Record of 1:49.05. He remains no. 5 on the all-time performers list.

In the team race, the Cali Condors won as expected (605.5 points), with L.A. Current second (462.0) and both will advance to the ISL finals this coming weekend. Iron and the Toronto Titans finished third (340.5) and fourth (303.0).

There were nine swimmers who won two or more individual events:

● Caeleb Dressel (USA): Men’s 50-100 m Free, 100 m Fly, 100 m Medley
● Ryan Murphy (USA): Men’s 50-200 m Back, 50 m Back Skins
● Emre Sakci (TUR): 50-100 m Breast
● Townley Haas (USA): 200-400 m Free
● Leonardo Santos (BRA): 200-400 m Medley

● Beryl Gastaldello (FRA): 100 m Free, 100 m Fly, 100 m Medley
● Lilly King (USA): 100-200 m Breast, 50 m Breast Skins
● Olivia Smoliga (USA): 50-100 m Back
● Hali Flickinger (USA): 400 m Free, 200 m Fly, 400 m Medley

The final will take place on 21-22 November, also in Budapest, with the Cali Condors and defending champion Energy Standard expected to battle for the title.

SportBusiness.com reported that two ISL executives have left the league over claims of non-payment:

“Managing director and head of commercial operations Hubert Montcoudiol and Jean-François Salessy, general manager of the Energy Standard Paris team and agent of French swimmer Florent Manaudou, both quit the league over the course of this weekend, citing a lack of payment among other issues.”

Salessy sent an open letter to ISL founder and funder Konstantin Grigorishin (UKR), noting (per SwimmingWorld Magazine.com):

“The creation of a professional league in a sclerotic and dusty sport was attractive. I was convinced that you would ask me to choose between my role as swimmer’s agent and management’s role of elite swimmers, which delighted me with the human and sporting perspectives. The salary conditions that you clearly offer me that day also suited my expectation. I still believe in a sense of honour and the face of the word. …

“This is illustrating the fact that ISL is an icebergs with an attractive visible part and an immersed dark side.

“I must admit that you put a lot of energy into building a competition format, an attractive audiovisual product, and only taking care of the main actors of the film with prize money: the swimmers and their coaches who were underpaid until then.

“The swimmers’ agents, GMs, service providers, technicians and support staff are just extras in this movie, replaceable at will, therefore malleable at will. Therefore picky agents and too overly curious journalists are not welcome. You don’t pay the GMs, the administrative staff and the suppliers who can in any case be replaced in a perpetual turnover. …

“Your Billionaire’s status prevents the candid and passionate to ask you for guarantees, for legal contracts (my case among others), and from worrying about a minimum of formalism. …

“ISL is boat without governance but with only one shareholder and generals without powers.

“You can argue that I have not found any sponsors (I have found some for others in the meantime by the way). No one has found any for you, could be in France, Europe, USA or elsewhere. It is therefore easier to incriminate sellers than the product itself. An age-old process.”

This isn’t the first time allegations of missed payments have arisen; the LaPresse news agency claimed unpaid bills of about $225,000 from season one, back in June.

Australian sprint star Shayna Jack was found guilty of an unintentional doping positive by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, acting as a first arbitrator, and suspended from competition for two years.

Jack’s suspension dates from 12 July 2019, which will end prior to the start of the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021, but she would be ineligible to compete in the Australian Trials, essentially prohibiting her from making the team. She was found to have the prohibited substance Ligandrol in her system during an out-of-competition test on 26 June 2019.

Jack, 22, won four relay medals at the 2017 World Aquatics Championships, including silvers in the 4×100 m Free and 4×100 m Mixed Medley.

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