HEARD AT HALFTIME: Final athlete’s Playbook includes sanctions; LA28 events list in December; U.S. 15/5 star Houlihan suspended for bad burritos

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(For coverage of Monday’s Australian and U.S. swimming trials, click here.)

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

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● The third edition of the International Olympic Committee’s “playbook” for athletes and team officials was published on Tuesday, with expanded details on the procedures for Tokyo, and the penalties for non-compliance.

The basic tenet of the 70-page document is expressed in its “Principles” statement on page 5:

“The COVID-19 countermeasures described in the Playbook are designed to create a safe
Games environment for all Games participants. Equally, they offer an additional layer of
protection for our hosts, the residents of Japan. You must fully adhere to the Playbook in the 14 days before you travel, throughout your journey and throughout your time in Japan – keeping your interaction with non-Games participants to a minimum.”

In terms of instructions:

● “Wear a face mask at all times to protect you and everyone around you. … By wearing a face mask at all times – except when eating, drinking, training, competing or sleeping – you’ll help keep the Games safe for everyone.”

● Remember this acronym: CLO. It stands for “Covid-19 Liaison Officer” and will be part of every delegation and at every Olympic venue. It’s not much of a stretch to say that the CLOs are in charge of the Tokyo Games.

● The pre-departure protocols have not changed: health must be monitored for 14 days prior to leaving for Japan, two Covid tests are required within 96 hours of leaving for Japan, a quantitative saliva antigen COVID-19 test will be taken on arrival, and quarantine for three days, with access allowed during that time – under Tokyo 2020 supervision – for access to training and team facilities.

● During the Games, a daily temperature check will be required and most be reported on a smartphone app, saliva testing will be required daily, and if you test positive, you will be moved to a hotel for quarantine according to Japanese health regulations.

Making new friends over a leisurely meal in the Olympic Village? Forget it: “Diners should keep mealtimes as short as possible and leave as soon as they have finished eating.”

A new section, “Compliance and Consequences” has been added. An IOC Disciplinary Commission will be formed and will issue notifications of charges of violating the Playbook rules, will conduct a hearing and determine whether sanctions are merited. The sanctions menu includes five levels: (1) warning; (2) withdrawal of accreditation; (3) temporary or permanent ineligibility or exclusion from the Games; (4) disqualification; (5) financial sanctions.

The decision of this Disciplinary Commission “shall constitute the decision of the IOC,” except where the IOC Executive Board has retained jurisdiction and then the Disciplinary Commission report will be a recommendation only. Decisions may be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Further Playbooks for other groups will be issued shortly. But the motto for Tokyo 2020 can be summarized as “Come, compete and leave.”

The debate within Japan and especially Tokyo, about whether spectators will be allowed at the Games continues unabated. The issue is, of course, political as well as safety-related.

There is a Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election on 4 July and the Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites First party) – currently holding the largest delegation – has asked for a no-spectator Games as part of its platform.

Kyodo News reported last Friday (11th) that the Tokyo organizers have sold tickets to the Games for up to 42% of each venue’s capacity, meaning about 225,000 domestic spectators could attend the Games daily. About 70% of the tickets have been sold to people living in the same prefecture as the venue, indicating reduced local travel for attendees. Shigeru Omi, Japan’s primary Covid-19 adviser, said the spectator question was still under study.

Worth noting: Attendance at recent Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) games included 8,588 at Hiroshima on Monday; 9,960 in Chiba on Saurday; 9,914 in Sapporo on Saturday and 13,060 in Tokorozawa – near Tokyo – for Seibu’s 4-3 win over the Chunichi Dragons.

On Tuesday, the Japanese government agreed to receive a total of 40,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, allowing vaccination – if they desire it – of athletes, officials, volunteers in the Olympic Village, Tokyo 2020 staff and domestic news media.

There was a small protest in front of the Japanese Olympic Committee office on Monday against the Games, with about 30 people standing in the rain, chanting and showing off anti-Games banners.

NBCUniversal chief executive Jeff Shell told attendees at the online Credit Suisse Communications Conference on Monday that he sees Tokyo 2020 as a success in the making, including making a profit on the event.

“I think we’re pretty optimistic about both the ratings and the economics of the Olympics and advertisers have embraced it.

“I lived in London: everybody was worried about the traffic. And last time [2016] it was Zika, and then once the Opening Ceremony happens, everybody forgets all that and enjoys the 17 days. And I think this is going to be the same thing.”

NBCUniversal reported selling $1.25 billion in advertising for the Games in 2020, but has not reported an updated figure for the postponed event.

Games of the XXXIII Olympiad: Paris 2024 ● Barely noticed alongside last week’s announcement that Brisbane, Australia will be offered for confirmation as the site of the 2032 Olympic Games were some important announcement concerning the Paris event program.

In Athletics, the men’s 50 km Walk – part of the Games since 1932 – will be dropped in Paris in favor of a mixed-gender team walking event. The 50 km race has been for men only in the Games and the mixed team event will provide better gender equity in the sport, an obsession of the IOC. The format will be determined in December.

In Sailing, the revolutionary (and expensive) mixed offshore event was dropped in favor of a Kiteboard event for men and women. This leaves the sport with its existing total of 10 events.

Games of the XXXIV Olympiad: Los Angeles 2028 ● It’s not too early to consider the Los Angeles event program as well, as the IOC also announced:

“The IOC EB today decided that the LA28 initial sports programme will be determined at the IOC Session in February 2022. The IOC EB will carry on its discussions around the sports programme at its next meeting in December 2021 upon the sport-specific recommendations of the [Olympic Program Commission].”

The City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department submitted a revised plan for fiscal year 2021-22 for use of funds from the LA28 organizing committee in view of the relaxed Covid-19 restrictions in force as of today (15th) in the State of California.

The new plan will use $7,708,922 from LA28 – part of its commitment to youth sports in the City through 2028 – in addition to $1,925,992 left over from the prior fiscal year for recreational leagues and classes at 81 sites, aquatics swim classes at up to 53 sites, track & field programs at 15 sites, a new judo program conceived in cooperation with USA Judo and smaller programs in golf, tennis, marathon training adaptive sports and $500,000 for the U.S. Center for SafeSport “to provide training and tools to ensure the safety of all youth participants in RAP sports and fitness programs.”

The goals remain “to remove barriers to youth sports and fitness participation and grow enrollment in programs Citywide … specifically in low-income communities of color.”

The Recreation & Parks Department had 92,938 registrants in affiliated programs in 2018-19; this receded during the pandemic and now forecasts 83,426 in these programs for 2021-22, a decrease of 10.2% overall. The report notes “The decreased forecast is due to RAP slowly transitioning back into sports leagues and programming that meets post pandemic health and safety guidelines.”

International Olympic Committee ● The IOC Executive Board also added six International Federation to its list of “recognized” affiliates. These are sports have “a minimum of 50 affiliated national federations for summer IFs and 25 affiliated national federations for winter IFs, from at least three continents, that exercise a specific, tangible and ongoing sports activity in the one or several sports (or disciplines) the IF administers.” The newly recognized federations include:

● International Cheerleading Union (ICU)
● International Federation of Muaythai Associations (IFMA)
● International Sambo Federation (FIAS)
● International Federation Icestocksport (IFI)
● World Association of Kickboxing Organisations (WAKO)
● World Lacrosse (WL)

This step does not mean that any of the sports will be added to the Olympic program any time soon, but it is helpful in demonstrating a willingness to comply with the IOC’s requirements when the discussions for Los Angeles 2028 and beyond come up.

Athletics ● A complete shock to the U.S. distance community came Monday afternoon, as Shelby Houlihan, the American Record holder in the 1,500 m and 5,000 m – announced that she has been suspended for four years by the Athletics Integrity Unit, and confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Her Instagram post included in part:

“On January 14th, 2021, I received an email from the Athletics Integrity Unit (AIU), informing me a drug testing sample that I provided on December 15th, 2020 has returned as an Adverse Analytical Finding for an anabolic steroid called Nandrolone and that I am therefore subject to an immediate Provisional Suspension. When I got that email, I had to read it over about ten times and google what it was that I had just tested positive for. I had never even heard of nandrolone. I have since learned that it has long been understood by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) that eating pork can lead to a false positive for nandrolone, since certain types of pigs produce it naturally in high amounts. Pig organ meat (offal) has the highest levels of nandrolone.

“In the following 5 days after being notified, I put together a food log of everything that I consumed the week of that December 15th test. We concluded that the most likely explanation was a burrito purchased and consumed approximately 10 hours before that drug test from an authentic Mexican food truck that serves pig offal near my house in Beaverton, Oregon. I notified the AIU that I believed this was the source.”

The AIU posted her on its disciplinary list only on Tuesday, and Houlihan, now 28, also noted that she was informed only last Friday (11th) that the Court of Arbitration for Sport “did not accept my explanation of what had occurred and has subsequently banned me from the sport for four years.”

Houlihan’s appeal options are only to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, where her chances of success are extremely low. CAS posted a news release today, including:

“The CAS Panel (by majority) found that the athlete neither rebutted the presumption that the [adverse finding] was properly reported pursuant to the ISL, nor rebutted the presumption that the [doping violation] was properly managed, asserted and notified pursuant to the International Standard for Results Management (ISRM).

“Finally, the CAS Panel unanimously determined that Shelby Houlihan had failed, on the balance of probability, to establish the source of the prohibited substance.”

The penalty is four years ineligibility from 14 January 2021 and a nullification of results from 15 December 2020. This will eliminate her from both the Tokyo and Paris Olympic Games, the 2022 World Championships to be held in Eugene as well as 2023 in Budapest (HUN).

U.S. Anti-Doping Agency head Travis Tygart has campaigned against these kinds of circumstances. He told ABC News Australia last March in the wake of swimmer Shayna Jack being sanctioned for four years after a low level of ligandrol indicated inadvertent ingestion rather than a planned doping program:

“We’ve had dozens of cases where athletes are dealing with low-level positives caused by meat contamination or intimacy with a partner, multivitamin, mineral or supplement contamination. The rules then demand that an athlete who has a positive is automatically assumed to be an intentional cheater that deserves a four-year sanction.

“The only question is going to be how many innocent athletes are railroaded before the rules finally change?”

Injuries have caused Olympic Trials withdrawals by Molly Huddle, the American Record holder in the women’s 10,000 m, Shannon Rowbury, the former American Record holder in the women’s 1,500 m and men’s Steeple American Record holder Evan Jager.

Huddle reported left ankle and hip trouble since the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and Rowbury noted a stress fracture which will keep her from running until July. Huddle was a U.S. Olympian in 2012 (5,000 m 11th) and 2016 (10,000 m: 6th) and Rowbury was trying for her fourth Games after making the 1,500 m final in 2008 (7th), 2012 (4th) and 2016 (4th).

Jager, 32, sixth in the 2012 Olympic Steeple and the Olympic silver medalist in Rio in 2016, is still having problems with muscle tears and cannot compete. He tried to race, but did not finish in a Steeple on 9 May in Walnut, California.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport also handed down a decision last Friday (11th) against Paralympic star Blake Leeper, dismissing his appeal from the holding by the World Athletics Mechanical Aids Review Board that he cannot use a new set of Running Specific Prostheses in open competition.

Leeper was disallowed from using his original set of prostheses and now a revised set on the basis of the International Paralympic Committee’s “Maximum Allowable Standing Height” regulations. Adopted in 2018, the “MASH” rules allow an athlete to use prosthetics that make him no taller than he would be if had biological legs.

In October 2020, Leeper’s application to use prosthetics that gave him a standing height of 189.20 cm (6-2 1/4) was rejected, so he had a new set made with a standing height of 185.42 cm (6-1), and this was also rejected in April of this year.

The CAS news release noted that the MASH calculation “is based on an equation that adds
together the lengths of his/her thigh, upper arm, forearm, and sitting height, after weighting each metric by an empirically determined coefficient. MASH also includes a pure error factor of 1.91 cm to account for normal variation. Thus, the MASH formula adds 1.91 cm to the predicted height.”

World Athletics calculated that Leeper’s allowable height in prosthetics should be 174.44 cm (5-8 1/2). Leeper’s counsel argued that the MASH equation is racist, since it was calculated using Caucasian athletes and not Blacks. The CAS release noted:

“Before being adopted by the IPC, the MASH formula was validated through studies of small groups in Japan and Australia. This validation was on the explicit scientific premise that geographic distance, not race, is the main driver of differences in relative bodily proportions from one population to another. The scientific validity of this premise has not been challenged by affirmative evidence in these proceedings. Further, there is some evidence in the record which lends a degree of support to the proposition that the MASH methodology accurately predicts the lower-leg length of Black athletes of African descent. This evidence is however limited. In the Panel’s view, the key point about this body of evidence, limited as it is, is that it does not cast doubt on the MASH methodology, especially given the pure error factor of 1.91 cm.”

The CAS panel advised that it would be helpful for research on MASH be undertaken with Black athletes as soon as practical, “[i]n the interest of avoiding future disputes.”

Basketball“It is alleged that the FIBA President knew or should have known about the sexual abuses in the Mali Basketball Federation particularly during his time at the helm of that Federation from 1999 until 2007. The FIBA President, who strongly denies the allegations, has taken the decision to temporarily step aside while the investigation is conducted. He has also offered his full collaboration to the investigation.”

The International Basketball Federation announced on Monday that federation chief Hamane Niang of Mali – elected in 2019 after a long career in corporate and governmental financial posts – has stepped down during the investigation, created in response to a story in The New York Times. The federation also noted:

“The following Malian individuals have been suspended from all FIBA activities while the investigation is conducted: coach Amadou Bamba, coach Oumar Sissoko and official Hario Maiga.”

The allegations have been turned over to the federation’s independent Integrity Officer, Canadian law professor Richard McLaren, well-known from his work on the Russian doping scandal and International Weightlifting Federation. His reported is expected shortly after the Tokyo Games conclude.

The FIBA women’s AmeriCup is ongoing in Puerto Rico, with the U.S. fielding an all-collegiate team that is 3-0 in its group stage games and headed to the quarterfinals. It opened with a 102-39 won over the Dominican Republic on 12 June, then defeated Puerto Rico, 87-65, and hammered Venezuela, 102-53 on Monday. Forward Aliyah Boston (South Carolina) leads the U.S. in scoring at 13.3 a game.

Canada is 3-0 in the five-team Group A and plays Columbia (2-1) today in its final group game. The quarters, semis and finals will be played on the 17th, 18th and 19th.

Boxing ● In the latest in a long line of inquiries into horrifying refereeing and judging, the International Boxing Federation (AIBA) has engaged McLaren Global Sport Solutions – headed by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren – “to conduct a two-phase independent investigation, starting with the refereeing and judging of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games boxing tournament.”

This report is due at the end of August 2021, when a second phase will begin:

“Upon completing the first phase of the mandate, Professor McLaren together with his team will work to identify the presence of any acts of corruption carried out by the individuals involved in past administrations of AIBA. A number of loans and questionable business decisions were previously entered into. While AIBA’s financial integrity and continued solvency have now been addressed, here too there may be lessons to be learned.”

This is all part of the AIBA’s effort to try and regain the support of the IOC to manage boxing at future Olympic Games, if the sport is maintained on the program. McLaren’s group is the current gold standard and its findings will be critical to AIBA’s Olympic future (or not).

AIBA is supposed to be out of the Olympic boxing business, but it announced on Monday that it is organizing a pre-Tokyo training camp from 3-23 July.

“AIBA received several requests from various National Federations from Africa, the Americas and Asia with a plea to organize a training camp for their athletes, as they prepare for competitions, in the light of the impossibility of arranging such an event in their countries due to multiple restrictions caused by the pandemic. The training camp will be held in Khabarovsk, Russia.”

National federations had one day to apply to attend the camp (due today); this is another step in AIBA’s charm offensive from new President Umar Kremlev (RUS), the former Secretary-General of the Russian Boxing Federation.

Football ● The 47th Copa America is indeed under way in Brazil after the Brazilian Supreme Court dismissed three suits asking that the tournament not be held in the country, citing danger from the Covid-19 virus.

The tournament was originally to be held in 2020 and was postponed to 2021, but both Colombia and Argentina resigned in late May as hosts due to Covid problems in their own countries. Brazil agreed to host, holding the matches in four stadiums, all without spectators.

The virus has not left the tournament alone, however. At least eight Venezuelan players and four coaches tested positive on Friday, a day before the tournament’s opening match with Brazil (a 3-0 loss) and were being quarantined. Three Bolivian players and a staff member tested positive on Saturday, ahead of its 3-1 loss to Paraguay on Monday.

Two member of the Colombian delegation tested positive on Sunday and were quarantined. Colombia defeated Ecuador, 1-0, on Sunday in its opening game.

On Tuesday, Brazilian officials announced that 52 virus cases had been identified: 33 players or team officials and 19 tournament workers. The elimination round begins on 2 July, if the tournament makes it that far.

Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen, who collapsed on the field last Saturday during a Euro 2020 game with Finland due to a cardiac arrest, shared a positive comment on the team’s Twitter account on Tuesday:

“Big thanks for your sweet and amazing greetings and messages from all around the world. It means a lot to me and my family. I’m fine – under the circumstances. I still have to go through some examinations at the hospital, but I feel okay. Now, I will cheer on the boys on the Denmark team in the next matches.”

Gymnastics ● USA Gymnastics announced its 2021 Hall of Fame class last Friday, with four athletes and two coaches to be inducted on 26 June.

The athletes includes Dianne Durham, the 1983 U.S. All-Around Champion and the first Black gymnast to win at the nationals (she passed away in February 2021); Rebecca Bross, a six-time World Championships medalist, including Team silvers, an All-Around silver in 2009 and bronze in 2010; four-time national Trampoline champion and 2008 Olympian, Chris Estrada, and the 2004 U.S. Olympic men’s team, which won a silver in Athens, the first medal by a U.S. men’s team since 1984, and included Jason Gatson, Morgan Hamm, Paul Hamm, Brett McClure, Blaine Wilson and Guard Young.

Coaches included Jim Aamodt in Trampoline and Tumbling, and Gene Watson in Artistic Gymnastics, who passed away in April.

Swimming ● Please check TheSportsExaminer.com daily for ongoing coverage of the U.S. Olympic Trials and the Australian Olympic Trials; these posts are not send to our e-mail subscribers, but are announced on our Twitter feed.

Rio Olympic medal winner Maddie Groves (AUS) pulled out of the Australian Trials for Tokyo last Thursday, announcing on Twitter:

“Let this be a lesson to all misogynistic perverts in sport and their boot lickers – You can no longer exploit young women and girls, body shame or medically gaslight them and then expect them to represent you so you can earn your annual bonus. Time’s UP.”

Swimming Australia President Alex Baumann has created a panel to look into the sport’s “culture” issues, and has asked for more information from Groves, who has not responded to him. She won silvers in Rio in the women’s 200 m Fly and 4×100 m Medley.

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