HEARD AT HALFTIME: Miller Time on the IOC and protests; World Ath gives $579,000 to athletes; Diack trial wraps; IFs ranked on governance

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

Miller Time ● In the continuing debate over athlete protests at the Olympic Games, veteran British columnist David Miller argues that “The priceless value of Rule 50 is exactly because it excludes protest: an immutable contract of respect among 10,000 or so athletes of every race, colour and creed.”

And while reviewing U.S. hammer thrower Gwen Berry’s 5 June open letter in favor of repealing the IOC’s current rule, he notes that “Berry proclaims athletes are silenced: for some 300-odd days a year, they can protest as often as they wish” and “Be sure, the potential platforms are extensive: ethnic cleansing in Myanmar or Congo, gay rights repression in Russia, French separatism in Quebec, repression in Hong Kong and Tibet, global corruption in 20 nations. You name it.”

Read his full comments here.

Athletics ● World Athletics completed an impressively-fast distribution of nearly $600,000 in athlete-support payments to 193 individuals from 58 nations.

The original announcement detailed $500,000 in funds, but additional contributions increased the pool to $600,000 in all, with $3,000 offered to each grantee. There were a total of 261 applicants.

Originally suggested by legendary middle-distance star Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR), the program was open to athletes “qualified for selection for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (by entry standard), [who] had to be able to demonstrate a justifiable welfare need through significant loss of income in 2020 compared to 2019, and must never have had an anti-doping violation.”

The trial of former IAAF President and IOC member Lamine Diack ended in Paris last week, with the verdict expected to be announced on 16 September.

Diack was tried along with former IAAF anti-doping director Gabriel Dolle (FRA), Diack’s attorney Habib Cisse (SEN) and three individuals who were not present: Papa Massata Diack (SEN), Diack’s son and alleged to be the mastermind of the skimming program of funds from IAAF sponsorships; and Russians Valentin Balakhnichev (former RusAF President) and national distance coach Alexei Melnikov.

Prosecutors have asked for a four-year prison term and a €500,000 fine (~$563,127) for Diack; one of his attorneys told the court that “sending him to the jails of the Republic can only be a death accelerator” for the 87-year-old.

Agence France Presse reported that Diack attorney “Simon Ndiaye called on the judges to ‘ignore appearances, be wary of purely moral judgments’ and ‘resist the temptation to make this case an exemplary case… and Lamine Diack a scapegoat to purify the IAAF’.” Ndiaye did admit that Diack’s conduct was not ethical; “but it is not criminal” and put most of the blame on the son.

A five-year sentence, €5000,000 fine and a lifetime ban from sport was requested for Papa Massata Diack, in absentia.

Athletics International noted that the absent Balakhnichev should receive a four-year prison sentence and confiscation of €1.83 million in a Monaco account. Melnikov and Dolle were requested to receive two-year sentences, with one year suspended.

Diack’s troubles aren’t over, either. There is another trial looming, this time concerning the buying of votes for the selection of sites for the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games, among other events.

The Russian Sports Ministry called the requirement for the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF) to pay $5 million in fines before any of its country’s track & field athletes can be allowed to compete as neutrals, unfair. The Associated Press reported:

“‘The Russian Sports Ministry considers it necessary to recall the unacceptable nature of restricting the rights of clean athletes to take part in competitions,’ the ministry said on Thursday.

“Suspending the neutral athlete status would be “a wrongful imposition of collective responsibility, which contradicts the spirit and principles of international law in the area of human rights.’”

The $5 million fine is due by 1 July.

The Athletics Integrity Unit handed down another stiff penalty, this time a 12-year suspension!

Ethiopia’s Etaferahu Temesgen was declared to have used testosterone and then tampering with the doping-control process, earning two suspensions of four years for the first and eight years for the second, to be served consecutively, from 20 November 2019.

Now 31, she ran a lifetime best of 2:27:21 to finish eighth at the 2019 Toronto Marathon; that result will be wiped out by the suspension and her best will revert to 2:28:44 in Ottawa (CAN) on 26 May of last year.

On the competition front, Sweden’s reigning World Champion in the discus, Daniel Stahl, got out to an impressive 70.25 m (230-5) in Helsingborg (SWE) on Sunday.

It’s his fifth-furthest throw ever and the world leader for 2020. Countryman Simon Pettersson finished second, with a lifetime best of 67.10 m (220-2).

Terribly sad news over the weekend of the passing of Norwegian Svein Arne Hansen, the long-time director of the Bislett Games and the President of the European Athletics Association since 2015.

Hansen died Saturday (20th) at age 74 from the effects of a stroke suffered in March.

It’s no stretch to credit Hansen as one of the most dynamic figures in the sport, especially in the development of what became the Diamond League. Along with the meet directors of Weltklasse im Zurich (SUI), the Memorial Van Damme in Brussels (BEL) and the Internationales Stadionfest in Berlin (GER), Hansen was a founding member of the “Golden Four” circuit that ran from 1993-97.

In 1998, the IAAF – led by Italy’s Primo Nebiolo – created the IAAF Golden League, which added more meets and ran through 2009. The IAAF’s Diamond League was formed in 2010.

World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe (GBR) was especially impacted by the news:

“Sven gave me my first big international break in athletics at the Bislett Games in Oslo and provided me with the platform for two of my three world records in 41 days back in 1979. He was in the vanguard of globalising our sport and, along with Andreas Brugger in Zurich and Wilfred Meert in Brussels, was one of the three game changers in our sport. He brought a professionalism to our one-day meetings that is still the template today and crucially he had the political savvy to be able to do that and navigate the sport from an amateur era into becoming an open sport and then a professional sport when there was a real risk that fault lines between East and west Europe could have split the sport apart. But his loss today, alongside his much loved family, will be felt most acutely by generations of athletes whose aspirations he helped fulfill.”

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has announced a 13 July 2020 date for the case of Blake Leeper vs. World Athletics. Leeper, who wears prostheses on both legs, ran a brilliant 44.38 to win his semifinal at the USA Track & Field Nationals in Des Moines last year and finished fifth in the final (44.48).

He could have been eligible for the World Championships on the U.S.’s 4×400 m relay pool, but the IAAF’s stance is that his prosthetics provide an advantage over the 400 m distance. The question will be considered starting next month.

Football ● Japan has withdrawn its candidature for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, leaving the joint Australia-New Zealand bid as the favorite over Colombia when the selection is made later this week.

According to Japan Football Association chair Kozo Tashima, “It was a difficult decision. Not getting support and losing will not lead to anything better in the future. We had thought about this for a couple of weeks, but this is the best decision considering all of the factors.”

FIFA ranked the Australia-New Zealand bid best in its recently-released evaluation report, scoring 4.1 points (5.0 total), with Japan at 3.9 and Colombia at 2.8. The Colombia football federation and South American confederation, CONMEBOL, complained last week about the report:

“FIFA’s administration draws some erroneous and discriminatory conclusions on three aspects of vital importance for the score of our candidacy.” These included commercial opportunities, medical services and doping control and two references to terrorism. The letter noted:

“The ‘terrorism’ alluded to with regrettable lightness by the technical report has not existed for a long time. Colombia today, lives in a time of stability and social peace, fruits of the efforts and maturity of its people.

“It denotes ignorance in relation to Colombia’s situation, and a lack of interest in carrying out, at least, minimal research of the situation in which this country finds itself currently.”

Mixed Martial Arts ● The application of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) for Observer status in the General Assembly of International Sports Federations (GAISF) was rejected:

“We regret to inform you that following a thorough discussion, the GAISF Council has resolved not to grant the GAISF’S Observer Status to IMMAF. Please be assured that we will continue to evaluate your application and reassess it in the future should you wish to request it.”

This was the third application to GAISF for the IMMAF over four years and chief executive Densign White (GBR) issued a statement noting:

“This treatment of IMMAF is as shocking as it is antiquated. International Sport would seem to be run effectively by a ‘Gentlemen’s Club’ with no requirement for accountability, transparency, representation or any other markers of good governance, despite the impact their decision making has on sports participants and communities worldwide. We urge GAISF to emerge from the era in which the modern Olympic Movement was born and become accountable, as is demanded of every other modern governance body in every other sector.

“For avoidance of doubt, we have advised GAISF that we wish our application to remain active and we will continue to campaign and fight for justice.”

Swimming ● Often, the first sign of trouble for a new sports organization is when it can’t or won’t pay its bills. It appears that the International Swimming League is having just such a problem with one of its vendors. Swimming World reported last week:

“LaPresse, a news agency that helped with media services throughout ISL Season 1, issued its ultimatum as part of efforts to seek a settlement before the matter reaches court.

“Marco Durante, owner of the news agency that supplies photographs and articles to the media on swimming and other sports on behalf of clients and event organisers, issued a warning last month to ISL founder and funder Konstantin Grigorishin: if the balance of what he says is owed to LaPresse was not paid by May 31, legal action would follow.”

ISL says the matter is being discussed between the parties. The amount involved is said to be about €200,000 (~$225,000).

Association of Summer International Federations ● The third ASOIF “Review of International Federation Governance” was issued last week and, as promised, it finally provided scores of individual IF performance on the 50-indicator test (four points per item for a 200-point total). The five performance tiers (listed in IF alphabetic order, not score order):

Group A1 (170-187 points): 6 IFs
Badminton, Equestrian, Football, Tennis, Cycling, Rugby

Group A2 (140-158 points): 8 IFs
Basketball, Fencing, Table Tennis, Triathlon, Wrestling, Athletics, Sailing. Taekwondo

Group B (120-137 points): 11 IFs
Gymnastics, Hockey, Rowing, Volleyball, Canoeing, Sport Climbing, Golf, Hockey, Shooting, Modern Pentathlon, Archery

Group C (84 to 119 points): 6 IFs
Aquatics, Judo, Surfing, Weightlifting, Baseball-Softball, Skateboarding

Two IFs were not included in the rankings: boxing (AIBA) and karate (WKF). Boxing is in a shambles and was rightly excluded. The WKF complained that answering the questionnaires were too much of a burden, but the compilers noted that 31 others managed it.

There was no further breakdown by IF of scores in any of the 50 indicators, so further analysis by IF is not possible. The report did note that those IFs which had more staff and/or more money tended to do better.

On staffing, “Based on the self-assessed responses, nine out of 31 IFs had at least 50 full-time equivalent staff and contractors, 11 had between 20 and 49 while the remaining 11 employed fewer than 20 staff. … [T]hree IFs had no more than nine members of staff – with one of those IFs being an Associate Member.”

At the BuZZer ● Olympic 800 m bronze medalist Clayton Murphy was a proud member of the Akron Zips and a two-time NCAA Champion. But he is furious with the announcement that the school’s men’s cross country program is being eliminated and the number of track scholarships for men is being reduced.

In a post on his Web site, Murphy noted that “I have posted and presented to them our analysis and evidence that refutes their assertions pertaining the need to cut cross country for either financial or Title IX reasons. We have raised money to cover the team’s budget for more than a decade, however during both conversations I was told we appreciate your passion but have nothing to discuss since the decision ‘fits into the athletic profile or ecosystem of the University’.”

The result?

“I can no longer stand with a university which continues to stand behind a publicity stunt and refuses to support a track and field/cross country program that has done nothing but continually produce successful men and women on and off the track: a program that just 4 years ago was used as a highlight of your public image. I will no longer allow the university to use my image and likeness for marketing or as a promotional asset.”

He won’t be the last one.