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(For our review of last weekend’s competition highlights, click here.)
News, views and noise from the non-stop, worldwide circus of Olympic sport:
● Doping ● The German physician at the center of the cycling and Nordic skiing doping investigation known as “Operation Aderlass” was found guilty and sentenced last Friday (15th) to four years and 10 months in prison.
Dr. Mark Schmidt, 42, admitted that he had been operating a doping program in multiple sports since 2012. CyclingNews.com reported:
“In a Munich court, the 42-year-old was found guilty on 24 counts of using doping methods and a further two counts of prohibited use of drugs.
“He was also fined €158,000 [~$190,965 U.S.] and banned from practicing medicine for a further three years. Four of his helpers were also sanctioned – two with suspended prison sentences and two – including Schmidt’s father – with fines of between €5,000-10,000.”
The ring was broken during the 2019 FIS World Nordic Skiing Championships when Austrian police raided team hotels and German authorities later raided Schmidt’s office in Erfurt.
The World Anti-Doping Agency tweeted:
“Assisted by WADA, Operation Aderlass was a joint investigation led by the Austrian Criminal Police Office and German Prosecution Office, targeting a criminal group involved in a blood doping scheme in different sports across several European countries. …
“WADA encourages and supports Governments in using their legislative powers to strengthen the global anti-doping system as it relates to the athlete’s entourage and this is a clear example of strong, sensible legislation working for the protection of clean sport and athletes.”
As if the International Weightlifting Federation needed any more bad news, the International Testing Authority – which now runs the IWF anti-doping program under contract – announced on Monday that it was working through a staggering total of 146 new doping cases.
These are an outgrowth of the January 2020 documentary, “Lord of the Lifters” aired on the German ARD channel and the subsequent investigation led by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren.
The ITA announced specific actions in three cases. Thai lifter Rattikan (Siripuch) Gulnoi – the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist at 58 kg – charged with an anti-doping violation; she is already provisionally suspended. Lifters Dumitru Captari (ROM: European Champion at 77 kg in 2017) and Nijat Rahimov (KAZ: 2015 World 77 kg winner and 2016 Olympic 77 kg champ) have been charged with urine-swapping violations dating from 2016. Both of them are also under provisional suspension.
According to the statement, “The review of these 146 files discovered in the wake of the McLaren report is progressing and the ITA should be able to complete it and resolve the pending matters by spring 2021.”
The Swiss Federal Tribunal released details of its decision to vacate the Court of Arbitration for Sport judgement and eight-year suspension of Chinese swimmer Yang Sun on Friday, explaining:
“[T]he arbitrator had taken up the cause of animal protection in the contested tweets. In principle, an arbitrator can also defend his convictions on social networks, but with the restraint required of judges. The choice of words and the repeated use of violent expressions is problematic in the specific case. In his tweets, the arbitrator castigates a Chinese practice of dog slaughter and denounces the consumption of this meat at a local festival in China. Some expressions refer to the skin colour of certain Chinese people he targets. In addition, the arbitrator also made the said remarks in tweets after his appointment as president of the panel of arbitrators deciding in the Sun Yang case. In view of all the relevant circumstances, the Federal Supreme Court therefore considered that the doubts as to the impartiality of the arbitrator were objectively justified.”
The arbitrator in question was Italian Franco Frattini, and the Swiss Federal Tribunal ordered that “The CAS will therefore have to render a new award in a different composition of the panel in the doping case against Sun Yang.”
The watered-down sanctions against Russia ordered by the Court of Arbitration for Sport were further exploited last week as Reuters reported:
“Russian athletes on Thursday proposed playing patriotic folk song ‘Katyusha’ at international sporting events for the next two years, while Russia’s national anthem is banned over doping violations.
“’Katyusha’ is a song that gained huge popularity during World War Two and, according to some accounts, inspired the name of the Soviet Union’s Katyusha rocket launchers.”
Written in 1938, the Wikipedia entry about the song describes it as:
“The song is about a Russian woman called Katyusha. Standing on a steep riverbank, she sends her song to her beloved, a soldier serving far away. The theme of the song is that the soldier will protect the Motherland and its people while his grateful girl will keep and protect their love.”
So while the Russian anthem in banned, a possible substitute is a patriotic song from World War II. If the U.S. was in the same situation, would the “Battle Hymm of the Republic” be appropriate?
● Athletics ● U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials winner Aliphine Tuliamuk, 31, gave birth to a baby daughter Zoe Cherotich Gannon on 13 January.
She and fiancé Tim Gannon planned the pregnancy and she expects to race at the Tokyo Games.
● Bobsled ● Sunday’s third women’s World Cup Monobob race at Park City, Utah was won by Jamaica’s Carrie Russell (1:49.08), who had been second on Saturday. American Nicole Vogt was second, 19/100ths behind, after winning the first two races. Brazil’s Marina Silva was third (1:49.83), winning her third medal in three races, after a second and third.
● Figure Skating ● /Updated/ The U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada are continuing this week with junior competitions. Nathan Chen’s victory in the men’s Singles was his fifth in a row – at age 21! – and moves him into very elite company. Five straight wins had not been done since Dick Button won seven in a row from 1946-52. It had been done three times prior to World War II, by Sherwin Badger from 1920-24, by Roger Turner from 1928-34 and Robin Lee from 1935-39. Todd Eldredge won six titles, but not in a row, from 1990-91-95-97-98-2002.
Alexa Scimera Knierim won her fourth Pairs title; three with now-husband Chris Knierim and her first this year with new partner Brandon Frazier, who won his second title (with Haven Denny in 2017).
Four titles in Pairs has been done multiple times before; the most recent was by Kyoko Ina, who won five non-consecutive titles as recently as 1997-98 and 2000-01-02; the first two were with Jason Dungjen and the last three with John Zimmerman.
U.S. Figure Skating agreed to pay $1.45 million to settle a 2019 suit by former skater Adam Schmidt over sexual abuse from famed coach Richard Callaghan. This is in addition to the $1.75 million settlement that Schmidt received from the Onyx Ice Arena in Michigan, where he trained.
The federation and Callaghan were sued last July by former skater Craig Maurizi over abuse from the 1970s and 1980s.
Callaghan was suspended by U.S. Figure Skating in 2018, with further investigation now in the hands of the U.S. Center for SafeSport.
● Football ● The U.S. Women’s National Team opened its 2021 season with an easy win in a friendly with Covid-thinned Colombia in Orlando, Florida, by 4-0.
The American women took charge quickly, as Sam Mewis scored on a left-footed shot from the middle of the box in the fifth minute, off a cross from the left side from Megan Rapinoe. After numerous missed chances, Carli Lloyd took a left-side cross from Lindsay Horan in the middle of the box and headed the ball to Mewis – standing in front of the foal – who finished with a header of her own in the 33rd minute for a 2-0 edge.
The U.S. had 63% of the possession in the first half and an 11-0 advantage in shots.
Mewis got a hat trick with a penalty kick in the 46th minute after Lindsey Horan was brought down in the box following an aggressive charge into the Colombian half on the second-half kickoff. Kristie Mewis – Sam’s older sister – added a fourth goal in the 86th minute, left-footing an end-line laser from Carli Lloyd into the goal.
The U.S. ended with 64% possession time and a 22-0 shutout on shots. It was the 38th career shutout for American keeper Alyssa Naeher, and one of the easiest.
It was the first U.S. home game since March of 2020, and the U.S. women now have a 33-match unbeaten streak and 49-game home unbeaten streak, and a 6-0-1 all-time record against Colombia. U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski is now 12-0-0 to start his tenure, which began in October, 2019.
The U.S. will play Colombia again on Friday – also in Orlando – beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern time and televised on ESPN2.
CONCACAF announced on Thursday that the men’s Olympic qualifying tournament for Tokyo will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico from 18-30 March, with initial play in two groups:
● Group A: Mexico, United States, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic
● Group B: Honduras, Canada, El Salvador, Haiti
The top two in each group will advance to the semifinals, and the two semifinal winners will qualify for the Tokyo Games. These are U-23 teams, although with the delay of the Games for a year, players under 24 will be eligible for the Olympic Tournament, with three overage players also allowed.
This item was reported by the Russian News Agency TASS; it speaks for itself:
“The Russian Supreme Court has ruled that it is illegal to fire employees for attending a football match under condition that the employee agreed to take an unpaid day off, the court’s press service told TASS.
“‘The Supreme Court studied the case of a Yeisk resident who was dismissed for missing a working day for travelling to attend a football match. According to the court’s decision, if the employee warned the manager in advance and, even more so, agreed to take an unpaid day off, it should not count as a missed day of work. In this case, the planned and organized trip to a football match is a sound reason to leave the workplace before the end of working hours,’ the agency was told.”
Does this apply to other sports?
● Ice Hockey ● “Due to safety and security issues that are beyond the IIHF’s control, the IIHF Council confirmed today that the decision to move the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship from Minsk, Belarus is unavoidable. The decision was reached by Council following the conclusion of an extensive due diligence process.”
The International Ice Hockey Federation’s announcement on Monday removes the 2021 men’s Worlds from Belarus in view of the continuing unrest there after the controversial election of Alexander Lukashenko to a sixth term last August. The Latvian government notified the IIHF last September that it would not co-host the tournament with Belarus.
Pressure was also applied to the IIHF by at least three of its sponsors, including automobile maker Skoda, personal care products maker Nivea and car additive company Liqui Moly, said they would cancel their involvement if games were played in Belarus.
The change leaves the tournament in Riga (LAT) as planned and the federation could choose to hold the event there, or add co-hosts, possibly in Denmark (which hosted in 2018), Slovakia (host in 2019) or elsewhere. The event is scheduled for 21 May to 6 June.
● Swimming ● Twice Olympic gold medalist Klete Keller turned himself in to authorities last Thursday (14th) and was formally charged with one felony and two misdemeanors related to his presence during the riots at the U.S. Capitol on 6 January. He was reported to have been released without bond.
Errata: Reader – and FINA Bureau member – Dale Neuburger corrected our Thursday story which stated that Keller’s five Olympic medals were in relays. In fact, Keller won three relay medals (two gold) and scored bronze medals in 2000 and 2004 in the 400 m Freestyle.
● U.S. Collegiate Sport ● Lots of reporting last week on one of the early cases of a college athlete earning money from her name/image/likeness: freshman volleyball player Chloe Mitchell of Aquinas College of Grand Rapids, Michigan, an NAIA school.
The NAIA rules were changed in October to allow name/image/likeness payments and in Mitchell’s case, it had nothing to do with volleyball. She has 2.7 million followers on TikTok. She earned the huge following from videos during last Spring while she was renovating a shed in her backyard. The story noted that her father, Keith, “co-founded a company and mobile application with his daughter called PlayBooked that helps athletes connect with social media sponsors — a tool that his daughter says has been a big advantage.”
She got a first sponsor in the beverage packing reduction/printing company Smart Cups – for $3,000 – and with the new rules, is no longer worried about losing her volleyball eligibility. The story notes that:
“Mitchell exemplifies what may become a common trend among future college athletes: balancing school, sport and significant, but modest, social media side hustles — rather than the full-time scenarios athletic administrators have historically warned of.”
● XXII Commonwealth Games: Birmingham 2022 ● Ian Ward, the leader of the Birmingham (ENG) City Council said on Friday (15th):
”We can’t be certain what is going to happen going forward – indeed, the Olympic Games that were postponed to the summer of this year are now looking in some doubt again – so we can’t be certain.
“Who knows what will happen next? There may be another variant to the virus and we may all be back to square one.
“But I’m going to take an optimistic view and optimistically look to the future and the hosting of the Commonwealth Games, as a benefit not just for Birmingham but for the whole of the region.”
With the 2022 Games still a year and a half away, any decision on a cancellation or delay is a long ways off, but even 2022 events are now being considered for review. BirminghamLive reported that £218 million [~ $297 million U.S.] of public money is being spent on the 2022 Games.
● At the BuZZer ● The latest chuckle among the U.S. track & field cognoscenti is “Have you heard about Michigan’s Tom Brady?”
No, not the Super Bowl-winning quarterback who played at Michigan from 1996-99, but a sophomore in Ann Arbor, who debuted with a win at the Simmons-Harvey Invitational on Saturday with a lifetime best of 7:58.06 at 3,000 m.
So when you hear about Tom Brady and Michigan, be sure to ask about which one!
For our 709-event International Sports Calendar for 2021 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!