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● Plus: World Games: Aid for Ukraine and Bach to attend opening = PanAm Sports: Ilic to meet directly with all 41 NOCs in Miami = Aquatics: FINA reports $6.6 million in development activities during pandemic year = Athletics: Okagbare does not appeal 10-year ban = Basketball: U.S. Senator thinks Griner may be bargaining chip for Russia = Boxing: Is IBA going to allow Belarus boxers in women’s Worlds? = Football: World Cup draw coming up on 1 April = Swimming: ISL’s Energy Standard team suspends Russian swimmers and staff = Weightlifting: Another doping positive, another 2012 gold medal lost = SCOREBOARD: Athletics: Kerley 20.04 and Allman 223-6 discus world leads = Football: Final CONCACAF World Cup qualifying window starts Thursday = Gymnastics: Italy and Israel star in first FIG Rhythmic World Cup ●
News, views and noise from the non-stop, worldwide circus of Olympic sport:
≡ SPOTLIGHT ≡
Double Olympic gold medalist Sebastian Coe (GBR) is the head of World Athletics, which has been at the forefront of the debate about women in sport with naturally high levels of testosterone (hyperandrogenism). His federation has been deeply engaged in scientific research on the issue and created the current standard in regulations to apply testosterone limits to specific events – not all – in trying to ensure a level playing field between participants in a restricted sector.
Now, in swimming, the issue of transgender athletes has come to the fore as American Lia Thomas won the NCAA women’s 500-yard Freestyle title last week amid fierce controversy on whether she should be allowed to compete against biological females.
World Athletics has regulations on transgenders also, but the sport has not seen the furor – yet – but Coe knows it is coming. He told Britain’s Daily Mail:
“It is inevitable that as in any element of science you will go on understanding and learning, but there is no question to me that testosterone is the key determinant in performance.
“Look at the nature of 12 or 13-year-old girls. I remember my daughters would regularly outrun male counterparts in their class but as soon as puberty kicks in that gap opens and it remains. Gender cannot trump biology.
“I think that the integrity of women’s sport if we don’t get this right, and actually the future of women’s sport, is very fragile.”
USA Swimming’s new regulations on transgender participation are modeled on the World Athletics research and guidelines, but were deemed too strict by the NCAA, which is not a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code and does not adhere to it. If Thomas, who swam as a man at the University of Pennsylvania for three years, then transitioned during the pandemic – wishes to swim in international competitions, the USA Swimming rules will apply.
“Science is important. If I wasn’t satisfied with the science that we have and the experts that we have used and the in-house teams that have been working on this for a long time, if I wasn’t comfortable about that, this would be a very different landscape.”
≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
● XI World Games: Birmingham 2022 ● Ukraine has become an important element of July’s World Games, to be held in Birmingham, Alabama.
There are 103 Ukrainian athletes listed as qualified in 63 of 223 disciplines for the Games in July, but getting to the U.S. will be difficult. The head of the Ukrainian Sports Committee, Illia Shevliak wrote to International World Games Association chief Jose Perurena (ESP):
“Let me also inform you, Mr. President, that a lot of Ukrainian sportsmen, including those who are qualified for The World Games 2022, are either taking up arms and defending their country or volunteering to help the Armed Forces and people in need. With grief and pain, we note that some of them have been murdered because of military operations or brutal bombing of the civil population.”
Perurena asked for donations from the international sports federations which make up the IWGA and added:
“We are urging our colleagues on the Birmingham Organising Committee to do everything in their power to persuade the US State Department to facilitate visa issue to UKR participants in TWG 2022. The IWGA will do everything possible to help Ukrainian athletes and officials to participate, despite all the difficulties they are facing.”
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (GER) accepted Perurena’s invitation to attend the opening of the Birmingham Games on 7 July. Perurena is an IOC member and also the head of the International Canoe Federation.
The event is an important incubator for sports and events that want to be included in a future Olympic Games. About 3,600 athletes are expected in Birmingham from 100+ countries, contesting 34 sports, and the IOC will have observers at the event.
● PanAm Sports ● An engineer by trade, Chile’s Neven Ilic has been building support for international sport in the Western Hemisphere since his election – by a single vote – in 2017. He was quickly recruited into the International Olympic Committee in 2017, placed onto the Coordination Commission for the Los Angeles 2028 Games in 2019, and was unanimously re-elected as PanAm Sports President in 2020.
In a rare show of public diplomacy and support, Ilic announced Tuesday a series of meetings with 38 of the 41 member National Olympic Committees between 2 April and 20 May, to take place in Miami. Meetings with the U.S., Canada and Brazil will take place later. Said Ilic, 59:
“There is not always time to meet alone with the Presidents and Secretaries General of the NOCs and learn about their concerns and their real needs. All countries have different realities, and we, with our programs and our experience, are willing to help them. Panam Sports has always kept its doors open but this is an activity that is very necessary to begin this new Olympic cycle and the great number of challenges and competitions that lie ahead.”
Observed: The meetings are less interesting in and of themselves than for Ilic’s desire to meet with all of them in a short timeframe, and to confront their issues a year ahead of the 2023 Pan American Games coming to Santiago, Chile. The Pan American Games is facing dangerous issues of relevance, met so far by making the PAG a required qualifying competition for the next Olympic Games, but this has not yet raised its profile in a significant way.
And beyond the Pan American Games, his energy and insight has his name in the discussion about possible successors to Bach as IOC President in 2025. But he needs to solve the Pan American Games issues first.
● Aquatics ● FINA released its 2021 report on its development activities, including direct assistance to swimmers and federations. Among the highlights:
● Scholarship support of $1.8 million was provided to 75 swimmers and 12 divers across 61 countries, with 4 qualifying to compete at the Tokyo Games.
● Some 350 coaches received certification in swimming (three levels) and artistic swimming during the year, using online courses to replace in-person instruction due to the pandemic.
● Technical Officials training, an often-looked part of the sport, worked with 900 officials across 35 schools in all FINA disciplines and across all continents. There were 768 beginners in the program and 132 received certification as FINA officials.
● FINA provided $4.1 million to directly support 172 national federations, and it working with three federations to create new swimming facilities in smaller countries which do not have a regulation competition pool.
The total financial commitment was $6.6 million during a pandemic year.
● Athletics ● Nigerian sprint star Blessing Okagbare has not filed an appeal against the 10-year ban for doping violations by the 18 March deadline and will be ineligible through 30 July 2031.
Now 33, she was found to have used two prohibited substances – Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and recombinant erythropoietin (EPO) – and was pulled from the Tokyo Olympic 100 m semis on 31 July 2021 and then was charged with a refusal to cooperate with the investigation.
● Basketball ● American star Brittney Griner continues to be held in Russia and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) said on the syndicated “Full Court Press” show Sunday:
“I think there’s no doubt that her detention, and then this continuation of the imprisonment, is all to try to make her a hostage and a part of this chess game.
“And so, I think Vladimir Putin and the Russians want to use her as a negotiating chip and what a horrific thing to do to someone.”
Griner was arrested on 17 February for possession of a vape cartridge that apparently contained hashish oil and has been imprisoned since then. A Moscow court extended her detention until at least 19 May.
● Boxing ● The FrancsJeux site reports that while Russian and Belarusian boxers were excluded from International Boxing Association competitions on 4 March, there is a move within its Board of Directors to allow Belarusian boxers to compete as neutrals in May’s Women’s World Championships in Istanbul.
This could be in contravention of the IOC’s recommendation to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competitions and will certainly be noted by the IOC, which is considering whether to allow the sport onto the 2028 Olympic program in Los Angeles.
At the same time, the IOC expressed significant unhappiness that it was not able to see the agreement between the IBA and the Russian energy giant Gazprom, which was used to wipe away millions in debt. Now, multiple national boxing federations are pushing for public disclosure of the agreement and a termination of the agreement in view of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
It’s worth remembering that the IBA President is Russian Umar Kremlev, formerly the Secretary General of the Russian Boxing Federation.
● Football ● The draw for the 2022 FIFA World Cup Final will take place in Doha, Qatar on 1 April, with 29 of the 32 teams identified.
The ceremony will start at 7 p.m. local time, which is noon Eastern time and draw teams into eight groups. The only missing teams will be the winners of playoff matches in Europe, between CONCACAF and Oceania and between Asia and South America.
● Swimming ● France-based Energy Standard, one of the highest-profile teams in the International Swimming League, suspended its contractual agreements with its Russian swimmers and other Russian staff on Tuesday. Its statement included:
“In recent days we have seen high profile Russian athletes demonstrating very public support for the invasion of Ukraine. We acknowledge that, due to the propaganda War, these athletes may not understand the magnitude of the true atrocities being committed by the Russian military. However, their actions have caused considerable harm and this cannot go without consequence.
“In line with other major international sporting codes and with immediate effect the Energy Standard International swimming club has suspended all agreements with Russian athletes & support staff.”
Energy Standard had five Russian swimmers on its 2021-22 team.
● Weightlifting ● Another doping positive, another gold medal disqualification, this time of Kazakh lifter Nijat Rahimov, now 28, who won the Rio 2016 77 kg class at 379 kg, including a record Clean & Jerk lift of 214 kg.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport’s Anti-Doping Division released its decision Tuesday, including:
“The Sole Arbitrator found Nihat Rahimov to be responsible for four urine substitutions which constitute ADRVs of ‘Use of a Prohibited Method’ under Article 2.2 of the IWF Anti-Doping Rules and for which the Sole Arbitrator determined that the appropriate sanction would be an eight-year period of ineligibility and the disqualification of all competitive results from 15 March 2016 (date of the first disputed sample) to 18 January 2021 (start of the provisional suspension), including the Olympic Games 2016 in Rio de Janeiro (gold medal in Men’s 77kg).”
The suspension is to run from 18 January 2021, but can be appealed.
Rahimov’s disqualification will move China’s Xiaojun Lu into the gold medal spot, giving him three consecutive Olympic golds in 2012-16 (at 77 kg) and 2020 at 81 kg.
≡ SCOREBOARD ≡
● Athletics ● With the World Indoor Championships completed, there were some weekend outdoor marks of note, including a 20.04 200 m by American 100-200-400 star Fred Kerley (USA) in Tempe, Arizona and fellow American Cooper Teare running a world-leading 13:06.73 in the 5,000 m at the Stanford Invitational.
Women’s world leader includes a 22.27 for the 200 m by Tokyo 100 m hurdles winner Jasmine Camacho-Quinn (PUR) in Carolina, P.R., and a 68.13 m (223-6) discus throw for U.S. gold medalist Valarie Allman, in San Antonio, Texas.
● Football ● The FIFA World Cup qualifying race on CONCACAF is at the final stage, with three matches remaining for all of the teams, with games on the 24th, 27th and 30th.
The top three teams advance to Qatar 2022 and a fourth will be in a play-off against an Oceanian team. At present:
1. 25 points: Canada (7-0-4)
2. 21 points: United States (6-3-2)
3. 21 points: Mexico (6-3-2)
4. 17 points: Panama (5-4-2)
5. 16 points: Costa Rica (4-3-4)
Canada has games remaining at Costa Rica, vs. Jamaica and at Panama, with two of the three teams in contention and needing wins badly. The U.S. will face Mexico at the legendary Estadio Azteca on Thursday, host Panama on the 27th and travel to Costa Rica on the 30th. Mexico’s final two games will be at Honduras and at home to El Salvador.
Thursday’s U.S.-Mexico match will kick off at 10 p.m. Eastern time and shown on the CBS Sports Network, Univision and TUDN.
● Gymnastics ● One more weekend result, from the FIG Rhythmic Gymnastics World Cup in Athens (GRE). Italy’s Sofia Raffaeli won the All-Around at 122.650, ahead of Israelis Daria Atamanov (120.650) and Michelle Segal (116.650).
Atamanov won the individual Hoop final (32.700) and Ribbon (31.300), while Raffaeli took honors on Ball (33.150) and Clubs (32.450).
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