HEARD AT HALFTIME: Crouser awesome again in Zagreb; Lake Placid loses IBSF 2021 Worlds; WADA still concerned by U.S. noise & Rodchenkov Act

Shot Put superstar Ryan Crouser (USA)

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

Athletics ● There was a time not so long ago when a throw of 72-2 1/4 – 22.00 m for those of you on the metric system – in the men’s shot put was looked at with awe.

Ryan Crouser has made it absolutely commonplace, once again at the 70th Hanzekovic Memorial in Zagreb (CRO), part of the World Athletics Continental Tour.

On Monday evening, he crushed an excellent field in a special competition in the downtown City Fountains Park, throwing four times beyond 22 m, topped by his third toss of 22.74 m (74-7 1/4)! That was well better than 2019 World Champion Joe Kovacs of the U.S. (21.30 m/69-10 3/4) and 2011-13 world champ David Storl (GER: 21.20 m/69-6 3/4).

Crouser’s series included 21.03 m (69-0), 22.10 m (72-6 1/4), 22.74 m (74-7 1/4), four, 22.59 m (74-1 1/2) and 22.31 m (73-2 1/2). He spun so hard on his winning throw that his baseball cap came off!

He’s competed nine times this year and won them all, reaching 22.00 m or better in eight of nine and has a staggering total of 31 throws beyond 22 m in 2020 alone. He is simply amazing.

Tuesday’s meet on the track featured a 1:44.09 explosion in the men’s 800 m by Great Britain’s Daniel Rowden, who sprinted down the home straight to run away with the win, with Elliot Giles (GBR: 1:44.75) and Jake Wightman (GBR: 1:44.85) making it a British sweep. American Bryce Hoppel faded to fourth in 1:44.95. Australia’s Stewart McSweyn, at 25 a rising star, scored his fourth-fastest time ever with an excellent 3:32.17 in the men’s 1,500 m.

Arthur Cisse (CIV) got another strong start in the men’s 100 m, but American Michael Rodgers came on strongest and got to the line first, 10.16-10.19. French champion Wilhem Belocian won a tight 110 m hurdles fight with American Freddie Crittenden, 13.32-13.34.

Sweden’s reigning World Champion, Daniel Stahl, rebounded from his disappointing showing in Berlin with a 68.87 m (225-11) win in the men’s discus. This time it was former world champ Andrius Gudzius (LTU) who finished second, at 68.22 m (223-10). Croatian discus superstar Sandra Perkovic won the women’s disc at 64.67 m (212-2).

Next up is the Golden Gala Pietro Mennea in the Wanda Diamond League in Rome (ITA) on Thursday (17th).

Other recent world-leading marks of note include an 8.36 m (27-5 1/4) men’s long jump from China’s Changzhou Wang in Shaoxing on Tuesday (15th), a world-leading-tying 19.53 m (64-1) from Chinese star Lijiao Gong on 4 September and a stunning 80.72 m (264-10) bomb from American Rudy Winkler at a meet in Middleton, New York on 13 September.

Winkler, 25, who won the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials in the event while a collegian at Cornell, already had the world lead at 80.70 m (264-9) with his lifetime best from July, but showed that was no fluke last Sunday. His best prior to this year was 77.06 m (252-10) in 2019!

Cycling ● The Tour de France began its final week with another climbing stage in the French Alps, with three major rises and an uphill finish at Villard-de-Lans. German Lennard Kamna earned his second career win – and first in the Tour de France – by 1:12 over Richard Carapaz (ECU) and 1:56 over Swiss Sebastien Reichenbach.

Among the overall contenders, Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic (leader) and Tadej Pocagar (second) finished Stage 16 together some 16:48 behind the winner and remained 40 seconds apart. The top eight places did not change at all; Colombians Rigoberto Uran (-1:34) and Miguel Angel Lopez (-1:45) remained third and fourth and Adam Yates (GBR: -2:03) is fifth.

Tomorrow’s 170 km stage from Grenoble to Meribel features two enormous climbs, with an uphill finish to the Col de la Loze. If Roglic is to be dislodged, this is the stage where it could happen, although Thursday’s 18th stage, with six climbs and a downhill finish, is no picnic.

The 55th Tirreno-Adriatico finished on Monday, and the win by Britain’s Simon Yates on the climbing stage last Friday (11th) proved decisive.

Yates took the overall lead after Stage 5 and held off countryman Geraint Thomas for the overall win by 17 seconds. During Monday’s Individual Time Trial, Italy’s Filippo Ganna was fastest, beating Victor Campanaerts (BEL) by 18 seconds and Thomas by 26. But with Rafal Majka (POL) fading to 35th, Thomas was able to move up from third to second overall.

The biggest women’s race of the season, the Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile, completed the fifth stage of nine on Tuesday, with a 110 km course in and around Terracina.

Dutch star Marianne Vos won her second stage of the race, finishing just ahead of Lotte Kopecky (BEL) and Lizzie Deignan (GBR) in 2:47:27 on the flat finishing route. The overall leader remains Annemiek van Vleuten (NED), who holds a huge, 1:56 lead over Poland’s Kasia Niewiadoma and countrywoman Anna van der Breggen (-2:03).

Barring a crash, van Vleuten will win her third straight Giro Rosa title, the most since Itaky’s Fabiana Luperini won four in a row from 1995-98.

Gymnastics ● USA Gymnastics formally announced its new mission statements and organizational values last week, including:

“[The] shared vision is set forth in a deliberately crafted mission statement: To build a community and culture of health, safety and excellence, where athletes can thrive in sport and in life.

“USA Gymnastics also introduced five foundational values that further demonstrate the organization’s commitment to creating meaningful change within the sport: safety, accountability, integrity, transparency and listening.”

The statement importantly noted:

“As part of its larger organizational transformation, USA Gymnastics seated an entirely new Board of Directors in the summer of 2018, and CEO Li Li Leung joined the organization in March 2019. Since that time, USA Gymnastics has established a completely new executive leadership team, which includes a Chief of Athlete Wellness position.”

This is important. Once a resolution is made – someday – to the federation’s bankruptcy filing and either a settlement or a series of trials with the Nassar abuse survivors, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee will resume its de-certification process with USA Gymnastics. Even if the USOPC decides to remove USA Gymnastics as the National Governing Body for the sport, the ultimate determination will be in arbitration, which the Ted Stevens Olympic & Amateur Sports Act grants as an appeal. The current USA Gymnastics leadership can say it has no relationship to the “old” USAG, with a new Board and new staff replacing those in place and responsible at the time of the Nassar scandal.

USAG has another problem on its hands, however, with the closing of multiple NCAA men’s gymnastics programs:

“We currently find ourselves having lost three major NCAA programs, and the potential for more losses to come. So, the question becomes ‘what do we do?’

“Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that question and no simple fix to this complex, global problem. However, we can assure you all that we are not throwing in the towel. We care far too much about these NCAA programs to give up. We will continue to develop short-term initiatives to provide support, while reimagining how we can create a sustainable model for remaining a top program in the world, despite the new reality we are all facing.”

USAG’s statement noted that the federation, the USOPC and the Collegiate Gymnastics Federation are working together “trying to formulate an action plan to preserve the remaining NCAA programs. And while USAG and the USOPC are not able to provide the financial assistance needed to make a dent in the deficits facing collegiate athletic departments, the CGA has presented a number of cost-saving measures to be taken back to school Athletic Directors.”

On Monday, the Collegiate Gymnastics Federation debuted its “Stronger Together Campaign,” a fund-raising program to help NCAA programs survive. Just 16 collegiate programs were listed.

Wrestling ● Athleten Deutschland, the German athlete organization issued a statement on Tuesday (15th) calling for the expulsion of Iran from international sport in the wake of the execution of Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari. From its statement:

“His execution is the appalling culmination of repeated attacks on the values that form the foundation of the international sports community. The actions of the Iranian regime are fundamentally irreconcilable with Iran’s continued membership in this group.

Maximilian Klein, Representative for International Sports Policy at Athleten Deutschland: ‘The International Olympic Committee and the International Sports Federations must exclude the Iranian regime from the international sports system with immediate effect. The inaction of the IOC is unacceptable. Iranian athletes should continue to be allowed to compete under a neutral flag and should be protected. Sanctions must be directed against the regime and the political leadership. The Iranian Olympic Committee must also be suspended by the IOC.’

“Considering the events, the rules of the [Olympic Charter] provide sufficient grounds to justify the expulsion of the Iranian NOC. Expelling a NOC has happened before and would not set a precedent.

“Other mandatory sanctions include the suspension of Iranian federations by the respective international federations and a ban of hosting any international sporting events in Iran. The Iranian regime and its representatives must not be allowed to gain positive public attention from international sports. The sponsors of the Olympic Movement must clearly distance themselves from the Iranian regime.

“The elevated position of sport can make such atrocities, which are inflicted on countless people every day, visible worldwide.”

Bobsled & Skeleton + Luge ● The coronavirus pandemic continues to rip through the worldwide sports calendar, with the two sliding-sport World Championships for 2021 both moved out of North America.

The International Bobsleigh & Skeleton Federation (IBSF) announced Tuesday (15th) that the 2021 World Championships would be moved from Lake Placid, New York (USA) to Altenberg (GER):

“We have discussed this decision extensively within the Executive Committee and have coordinated it closely with the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA), as well as USA Bobsled and Skeleton” said IBSF Secretary General Heike Groesswang.

“The decision wasn’t easy as you can imagine, the bulk of athletes competing in the championships are based in Europe, so our strategy was to have less time spent in quarantine. The Organizing Committee has already done incredible work showing their unique passion to set the best stage for our athletes in Lake Placid, the birthplace of our sports in North America.”

The IBSF indicated that the 2025 World Championships would be held in Lake Placid, conveniently following the 2023 Winter World University Games there.

The Federation Internationale de Luge (FIL) announced on Monday that “Due to the worldwide corona pandemic, the FIL Executive Board had to relocate the 50th Luge World Championships from Whistler in Canada to Berchtesgaden/Koenigssee in Germany. The new date for the 2021 FIL World Championships is set for January 29 to 31, 2021.”

Both federations listed their 2020-21 World Cup season, with no bob & skeleton events in North America, but with the possibility of one luge event … if the pandemic permits.

Anti-Doping ● The World Anti-Doping Agency Executive Committee concluded a two-day meeting by videoconference on Tuesday (15th), with governance reforms among the top priorities.

WADA has been criticized for not having enough athletes in the middle of its decision-making processes – ironic, since the new President, Pole Witold Banka, is a former 400 m runner of distinction – and for not having enough money to do enough testing and investigations.

On governance, a four-member working group to closely monitor the reform programs and progress is to be formed, with “one independent expert as chairperson, two experts nominated from each of the Sports Movement and the Governments, and one athlete,” hopefully by November of this year. Discussions with athletes are continuing on “how to ensure athlete perspectives can best be represented within WADA and how linkages might be improved between these athlete members and their WADA Athlete Committee colleagues, and ultimately all athletes affected by anti-doping.”

There was also discussion of the ongoing rift between WADA and the U.S., especially the White House Office of National Drug Policy Control and the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act of 2019 (S. 259):

● Regarding U.S. funding: “There was overwhelming support among ExCo members to maintain the model of equal partnership between the Sports Movement and Governments and, on that basis, for dialogue between WADA and the U.S to be restored.”

● On the Rodchenkov Act: “The meeting also received an update on the status of the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act that is currently before the U.S. Senate for consideration. There remain widely held concerns among other governments, the Sports Movement, and other anti-doping stakeholders over the Act’s extra-territoriality, its negative unintended consequences and the fact that it was amended specifically to exclude the American professional leagues and college sports, which account for more than half a million athletes within the U.S.”

And what about Russia?

“While RUSADA’s appeal of WADA’s assertion of non-compliance and related consequences will be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in early November, WADA is communicating with the authorities in Russia to ensure it has all of the information needed to assess the latest situation. WADA continues to monitor closely RUSADA’s programs and activities, including testing, to ensure its operational independence is maintained, and will continue to provide regular updates to the Agency’s independent Compliance Review Committee.”

If you’ve ever wanted to know what an athlete faces in terms of testing, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has posted an excellent summary here. If you think about everything an athlete is doing to get ready for competitions and training, and possibly school and family life, it isn’t easy.

At the BuZZer ● Tomorrow (16th) promises to be a lively day in the courtrooms. The verdict in the first trial of former IAAF President Lamine Diack (SEN) and others is expected in Paris, while the Court of Arbitration for Sport will hear two appeals of sanctions by the Iranian Judo Federation against the International Judo Federation.