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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Swiss cautiously enter Winter Games discussion with IOC
2. World Taekwondo readmits Russians; IOC’s proposal called “provocation”
3. Swim England creates Open category, UK Athletics bans trans
4. AIU lauds Kenya’s $25 million commitment vs. doping
5. Now FIFA removes men’s U-17 World Cup from Peru
The Swiss Olympic Committee announced its entry – maybe – into the Olympic Winter Games hosting derby, but has not even identified a specific Games yet. World Taekwondo voted to readmit Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals for its World Championships in May. The head of the Russian fencing federation said the whole IOC concept for Russian re-entry is a “provocation.” Swim England issued a new transgender policy, maintaining the female category for those declared female at birth and everyone else into an “open” category, including men and transgenders. A Canadian Powerlifting Union regulation allowing anyone to register as female was used by a man – with a full beard and a men’s uniform – to set an Alberta provincial record. Brett Clothier, the chief executive of the Athletics Integrity Unit, welcomed the Kenyan government’s commitment of $25 million over five years to combat doping, and asked athletes, coaches and officials for their help. FIFA removed another tournament from its host on Monday, taking the 2023 FIFA men’s U-17 World Cup from Peru; a new host will be named as the tournament is scheduled for November.
● Panorama: Paralympic Games (ABC Australia reports classification scandal) = Athletics (Tyra Gittens disqualified for six months for doping) = Cycling (Women’s Tour in Britain canceled) = Diving (Louganis medals from 1976-84-88 still on sale) = Gymnastics (Suni Lee’s kidney ailment ends Auburn career) = Modern Pentathlon (LA28 fate to be voted on in October) = Taekwondo (China wins four golds at Grand Slam Champions Series) ●
Swiss cautiously enter Winter Games discussion with IOC
Last week’s announcement could not have been more tentative:
“Swiss Olympic is examining the general conditions for the Winter Games in Switzerland”
With the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee reiterating its preference for the 2034 Winter Games in order to allow some breathing room after the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the International Olympic Committee is looking for bidders for 2030. Sweden is doing a feasibility study, likely with Stockholm as the key site, and now the Swiss might be in. Maybe:
“[T]he Executive Council of Swiss Olympic decided to apply to the IOC as part of the ‘Future Host Process’ to move from ‘informal dialogue’ to ‘continuous dialogue.’ This makes Swiss Olympic the sole and sole point of contact for the IOC regarding a Swiss candidature and can thus bundle different projects and the forces behind them. This ongoing dialogue does not relate to a specific year. …
“For Swiss Olympic it is clear that a new Swiss application can only be considered after careful examination. An application concept only has a chance if it is sustainable and the staging of the Olympic and Paralympic Games leaves a legacy that goes beyond sport – to society, the economy and Switzerland as a location for innovation.”
There is good reason to go slow, as Switzerland has failed to land another Olympic Winter Games after hosting in St. Moritz in 1948. Swiss bids failed for the 1960, 1976, 2002 and 2006 Winter Games and possible bids for 2010 (Berne) and 2026 (Sion) were derailed by regional referenda. The Olympic capital of Lausanne did host a fiscally responsible 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, with a budget of about $40 million U.S.
The situation for Salt Lake City appears very positive for 2034, but the IOC’s Future Hosts Commission for the Winter Games needs to report back to the IOC Executive Board on questions of a possible rotation of permanent host cities for the Winter Games. It is possible that the 2034 Games could be the first in a rotation plan, with a third Salt Lake City Winter Games coming again, perhaps, in 2046?
World Taekwondo readmits Russians; IOC’s proposal called “provocation”
World Taekwondo announced Monday it would allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals, at least at the World Taekwondo Championships:
“[T]he Council decided to allow the participation of Individual Neutral Athletes and Support Personnel with Russian and Belarusian passport holders at the World Taekwondo-promoted Championships, starting from the Baku 2023 World Taekwondo Championships at the end of May.
“A decision on the participation of Individual Neutral Athletes and Support Personnel with Russian and Belarusian passports in other events not promoted by World Taekwondo will be made after the Baku 2023 World Taekwondo Championships.
“The Council also approved the establishment of a Review Committee and verification process to ensure strict neutrality of the participating Individual Neutral Athletes and Support Personnel.”
No problem for the Russians, with the national coach Vadim Ivanov telling the TASS news agency that his athletes meet the IOC’s criteria for not being associated with the military:
“I don’t know how this will be interpreted and by whom, but we are talking about the fact that we do not have contract soldiers. Our athletes have an agreement that they are athletes – instructors of CSKA.
“That is, among the Olympians who won medals, no one has a contract with the armed forces. Yes, we have several athletes – European champions and [European medalists] who have such contracts.”
Maybe, maybe not. The CSKA Sports Club has long been affiliated with the Russian military. World Taekwondo said its “review” would include a declaration by the national federation – already offered above – then a review by the European continental association and finally by a World Taekwondo committee.
Russia won four Olympic medals in the sport in Tokyo: two golds, a silver and a bronze.
Poland announced last week, in something of a surprise, that it would allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the women’s Foil World Cup in Poznan from 21-23 April if they sign a declaration that they “do not support military actions and stand against war crimes.”
Russian Fencing Federation head Ilgar Mammadov was not impressed:
“In Europe, they are trumpeting about human rights and freedom of speech, but where is it here? Speaking against your country is freedom of speech? All this is pure provocation, because they don’t want to see us, that’s why they come up with such provocative conditions.
“Five days ago we sent a letter about our admission to the International Fencing Federation [FIE], the decision is up to it. Articles and comments from the International Olympic Committee – all this is clear – but it is FIE that gives admission to the events.”
Russian State Duma member Vladimir Drachev, a four-time World Champion in biathlon between 1996-2000, ripped the IOC’s recommendations for Russian participation and told TASS:
“I think this is a provocation. They play on the athlete’s ambitions – they seem to give him the opportunity to perform and show results, but only in exchange for betraying the country, the people, and the parents.
“Definitely, in the current situation it will be a vile betrayal, then he no longer needs to return to the country. You can go to perform, but you will only have a one-way ticket.
“By offering such criteria, Western experts either show their stupidity, or simply disguise themselves. We have almost all athletes connected with law enforcement agencies, how will they isolate them from this list? It’s not serious. It is clear that all this is a game in which they pose as providing an opportunity to perform at international competitions. But a normal, sane person in response to such conditions will laugh and spit in the face of these comrades. Apparently, they believe there that they can just [have athletes] betray the country.”
Swim England creates Open category, UK Athletics bans trans
“All of Swim England’s disciplines – swimming, artistic swimming, diving and water polo – will see a new ‘open’ category introduced, which will be for athletes with a birth sex of male, trans or non-binary competitors.
“Only athletes who have declared a birth sex of female will compete in the ‘female’ category.
“This will apply for all licensed events, where times are submitted to official rankings or talent pathway competitions.”
Monday’s announcement by Swim England is the federation’s first update to its gender classification policy since 2015 and eliminates male-to-female trans athletes from competing in the women’s division.
The new rules will begin on 1 September. Mike Hawkes, the Swim England diversity and inclusion officer noted, “fair competition is considered the backbone of our aquatic sports and therefore must be prioritised.”
World Aquatics has introduced strict transgender regulations that prohibit males who have gone through puberty to compete in the female division and has begun examining the creation of an “open” category. The Swim England approach is simply to quality the women’s classification and have everyone else in the “open division.”
On Friday, UK Athletics published its statement on transgender eligibility, lining up behind the World Athletics position, which does not allow males who have gone through puberty to compete in the women’s division. It does allow transgenders competing under the 2021 UK Athletics policy to “remain eligible to compete in that event but may not accept any prize and their results will not count towards any record, qualifying time or mark, or team scoring.”
The new guidelines specifically noted that this change should not expose UK Athletics to legal liability, as “it has also received the required assurances from relevant bodies that the sporting exemption in the Equality Act 2010 applies to the Gender Recognition Act 2004.”
The federation also endorsed the World Athletics position on female athletes with Differences in Sex Development, setting a serum testosterone limit of 2.5 nmol/L for 24 months, across all events.
In situations where no regulations have been introduced, someone was eventually going to make a mockery of the transgender opportunity, and it happened in a powerlifting competition in Canada.
The New York Post (and many others) reported a 25 March incident at the Heroes Classic tournament in Lethbridge, Alberta, where bearded Avi Silverberg – the head coach of the Canadian Powerlifting team, and in a men’s competition singlet – registered to compete in the women’s division and
“He then casually bench-pressed nearly 370 pounds – beating the current Alberta women’s record by almost 100 pounds.”
The lift was recorded by the Independent Council on Women’s Sports (ICONS), which stated:
“[W]hat Avi so obviously points out is that policies allowing men access to women’s sports completely remove any integrity in women’s competitions.
“It doesn’t matter how Avi expresses himself or perceives himself. He clearly does not belong in women’s sport, and neither does any other male regardless of their motivation for wanting to participate.”
The Canadian Powerlifting Union regulations require only that an athlete “should be able to participate in the gender with which they identify.”
AIU lauds Kenya’s $25 million commitment vs. doping
Kenya’s Anti-Doping Steering Committee, tasked with cleaning up the torrent of doping positives among track & field athletes, gave its first report to the national government in Nairobi, joined by Athletics Integrity Unit chief executive Brett Clothier (AUS). In short:
“[T]he Committee has indicated it will draw upon the extensive expertise of a multiagency team to investigate and prosecute doping matters. It will also increase testing among Kenyan athletes as well as enhance educational and integrity programmes for athletes and athlete personnel.”
Clothier noted that if the process is successful, it will likely create a short-term increase in doping positives as the cheaters are rooted out.
Noting the Kenyan government’s commitment of $5 million per year for five years dedicated to anti-doping effort, he told groups in Kapsabet and Iten – that totaled more than 300 athletes, coaches and officials – that they must be involved:
“It’s good to uncover the doping cases but we also need to educate athletes on the do’s and don’ts as one way of making sure the sport is clean.
“If you see something suspicious, you just need to talk to law enforcement or the federation [Athletics Kenya] as one way of protecting the sport. We are asking for your help.
“As a regulatory body, we are advocating for clean sports and Kenya has shown support by bringing in the ministry of sports, the poisons and pharmacy board, law enforcement, the anti-doping agency, among other stakeholders and we are glad that this will help in reducing the numbers [of doping cases] witnessed in the past. It’s a long road. It’s not going to be easy, but we have got the right platform.”
Now FIFA removes men’s U-17 World Cup from Peru
Just days after the 2023 FIFA men’s U-20 World Cup was removed from Indonesia due to its unwillingness to host the already-qualified Israeli team, now FIFA has removed its 2023 men’s U-17 World Cup from Peru.
The tournament is scheduled for 10 November to 2 December 2023, but:
“The move was made given the inability of the host country to fulfil its commitments to completing the infrastructure required to stage the tournament. Despite a very positive working relationship between FIFA and the [Peru Football Federation], it has been determined that there is now not sufficient time to secure the required investment and complete the necessary work with the Peruvian government ahead of the tournament start date.”
FIFA awarded the tournament to Peru in 2019, with 24 teams from the six confederations scheduled to compete. Six stadia were expected to be used.
A new host for the tournament is expected to be announced in time for the event to take place as scheduled.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Paralympic Games ● The ABC Australia “Four Corners” news program called the Paralympic Games “in crisis,” reporting:
“Paralympic athletes are deliberately exaggerating their impairments in a bid to win medals, a Four Corners investigation has found.
“Speaking publicly for the first time about the scandal, the former head of the world governing body for Paralympic sport said it threatened the credibility of the Games.
“‘I cannot say that this doesn’t exist. It exists,’ said Xavier Gonzalez [ESP], who [was the chief executive of] the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) from 2004 to 2019.”
The classification of competitors into specific groups according to their disability is a complex, sometimes difficult-to-decipher program which is currently undergoing review by the International Paralympic Committee. Cheating on classification is an issue being discussed, with changes to the current not expected until after the Paris 2024 Games. But:
“Paralympians and senior classifiers from around the globe have told a current International Paralympic Committee (IPC) review how easy it is to exploit flaws in the current system and expressed their despair at the movement’s apparent impotence in the face of the cheating.”
As the Paralympic Games rises in popularity – and it is rising – there is grave concern that this problem will worsen, with calls now for an independent organization to be created to monitor classification in the same way that external groups for doping (World Anti-Doping Agency) and testing (International Testing Agency) have been formed.
● Athletics ● The Athletics Integrity Unit announced a six-month suspension of Tyra Gittens (TTO) – the 2021 NCAA heptathlon champ for Texas A&M – for the stimulant Methylphenidate, in a prescribed medication.
Gittens had a Therapeutic Use Exemption for the drug, but it had not been renewed when she failed a test on 26 June 2022. She admitted the fault and was assessed a six-month penalty from 26 September 2022 to 25 March 2023. Her results were nullified going back to 26 June 2022, including her results in the World Championships (19th in qualifying) and Commonwealth Games (11th). She returned to competition at the Texas Relays on 1 April, finishing fifth at 6.38 m (20-11 1/4).
● Cycling ● The ninth edition of the five-stage Women’s Tour, scheduled for 7-11 June and finishing in Birmingham (GBR) has been cancelled. The UCI Women’s World Tour event had been having financial difficulties and was short by £500,000 (~$620,373).
The organizer, England-based Sweetspot Group, noted:
“The Women’s Tour, the award-winning and trailblazing cycle race, will take a one-year hiatus in 2023. Owing to a combination of increased running costs (approximately 20% higher in comparison to the 2022 race), a reduced level of commercial support, and challenges in finding a vehicle partner to replace ŠKODA to help create a safe racing environment for riders and spectators alike, it has proved impossible to deliver the event that was proposed for June.”
● Diving ● Diving legend Greg Louganis ended up not selling the three medals he had up for auction and now has them for sale on his site, Still in the auction section, his 1976 Montreal 10 m Platform silver is available for bid at $750,000; his 1984 Los Angeles 3 m Springboard gold is offered at $1.5 million, as is his 1988 Seoul 10 m Platform gold.
● Gymnastics ● Tokyo Olympic All-Around gold medalist Suni Lee announced that she is ending her collegiate gymnastics career at Auburn early. She wrote on Twitter:
“I have been dealing with a non-gymnastics health related issue involving my kidneys. For my safety, the medical team did not clear me to train or compete over the last few weeks. … My focus at this time is my health and recovery.
“It’s been challenging to end my Auburn career early, but I am thankful for all the love & support. I will not stop pursuing my dreams for a bid to Paris in 2024. In fact, this experience has sharpened my vision for the future.”
Lee won the Tokyo All-Around, a team silver and a bronze on the Uneven Bars. At Auburn, she won the 2022 NCAA title on Beam and a silver in the All-Around.
● Modern Pentathlon ● In a commentary on the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne Web site, Secretary General Shiny Fang (CHN) wrote in pertinent part:
“Looking to the next stage of evolution that will determine our future, the International Olympic Committee finally announced the precise timeline of its decision-making around the Los Angeles 2028 sports programme.
“The decision will be made by the IOC session in October 2023 in Mumbai (IND). This means we have six more months to solidly and continuously demonstrate our improvement at multiple dimensions.”
Given that the Session will vote on items proposed by the IOC Executive Board, it has been expected that a recommendation on the Los Angeles 2028 program, including the future of boxing, modern pentathlon, weightlifting and any sports that the LA28 organizing committee wishes to add, will be made during the 20-22 June 2023 Executive Board meeting.
The UIPM probably has that long to influence its place in 2028.
● Taekwondo ● China dominated the World Taekwondo Grand Slam Champions Series in Wuxi (CHN) that concluded on Monday, winning eight medals (4-2-2), including all four golds in the women’s division.
World Championships runner-up Zuo Ju (CHN) won by 2-0 over Adriana Cerezo Iglesias (ESP) in the women’s 49 kg class; 2022 World Champion Zongshi Luo defeated Lijun Zhou, 2-0, in the all-China final at 57 kg; Jie Song won at 67 kg against Cecilia Castro Burgos (ESP), 2-0; and in another all-China final at +67 kg, Shunan Zhao scored a 2-0 win over Wenzhe Mu.
Uzbekistan won two of the four men’s classes, with Tokyo Olympic champ Ulugbek Rashitov taking a 2-1 decision against Iran’s Danial Bozorgishoob at 68 kg, and Jasurbek Jaysunov won at 80 kg over Mehran Barkhordari (IRI), 2-0.
Tokyo Olympic 80 kg winner Woo-hyeok Jung (KOR) defeated Tunisia’s Mohamed Jendoubi, 2-0, and Iran’s Arian Salimi defeated Turkey’s Emre Atesli, at +80 kg, 2-0.
For our updated, 651-event International Sports Calendar (no. 2) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!