HEARD AT HALFTIME: Russia anti-doping in turmoil as Ganus dismissed; Duplantis clears 19-11 (really 21 feet!) in Lausanne; Yates new Tour leader

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

Anti-Doping ● The anti-doping world is in tumult with the dismissal of Yuriy Ganus as the head of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency and the resignation of second-in-charge Margarita Pakhnotskaya last Friday (28th).

Ganus had been under fire for “financial irregularities” and was dismissed by the “founders” of RUSADA, which are the Russian Olympic Committee and Russian Paralympic Committee. But his dismissal is seen as a bad sign for the anti-doping efforts in Russia, for which Ganus had been praised. Said Pakhnotskaya, “I do not like the current situation and, yes, I have resigned voluntarily as I see no sense in continuing.”

Mikhail Bukhanov, who formerly worked for RUSADA as an attorney, will serve as the acting director general of RUSADA until an election is held.

The World Anti-Doping Agency’s statement noted “These developments reinforce the concerns expressed by WADA in its statement of 5 August in relation to the manner in which the Founders reached the decision regarding Mr. Ganus following a recommendation by RUSADA’s Supervisory Board; and, re-emphasize the critical importance for RUSADA to maintain its operational independence going forward.”

Further, WADA emphasized that its Compliance Review Committee, “when it issued its recommendation to declare RUSADA non-compliant with the [World Anti-Doping] Code that was unanimously endorsed by the Agency’s Executive Committee on 9 December 2019, made it a condition of RUSADA’s reinstatement that WADA remains satisfied that RUSADA’s independence is being respected and there is no improper outside interference with its operations. The current situation will be monitored in light of this condition.”

The Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations (iNADO) issued its own statement, noting that it is “deeply concerned by the control that the Russian Olympic and Paralympic Committee exercise over the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA). This was made evident today in the dismissal of Yuriy Ganus as Director General by these two organisations.

“The clean sport movement’s effectiveness rests on anti-doping organisations’ ability to maintain full independence, with no interference from sport. It is, therefore, a clear conflict of interest when sport organisations have the power to remove the head of a national anti-doping agency unopposed.”

The appeal to the WADA sanctions against the RUSADA will be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in November, but these developments do not help the Russian situation.

In the meantime, the required “roadmap” for anti-doping compliance for the Russian Athletics Federation was submitted by the Russian federation to World Athletics well in advance of the deadline:

“World Athletics can confirm that the Independent Taskforce has received a draft Reinstatement Plan from the Russian Athletic Federation (RusAF), as required under the conditions imposed by the World Athletics Council on 30 July 2020. The Taskforce will now review the plan and advise RusAF of any improvements it requires, which must be incorporated to the Taskforce’s satisfaction by 30 September 2020.”

Athletics ● Perhaps the greatest vault of all time was made on the streets of Switzerland as Sweden’s Mondo Duplantis cleared 6.07 m (19-11) to win the Lausanne Diamond League pole vault on Wednesday.

The setting was absolute fun, held in downtown Lausanne at the Place de l’Europe, with side-by-side runways and pits for men and women. There were lots of masks, but no social distancing, with fans placed into pens of about 250 people each. Plenty of music and hyped-up announcing made for an engaging competition.

The serious vaulting started at 5.82 m (19-1), with Duplantis and American Sam Kendricks both clearing easily and continuing on, one-on-one. The 2016 and 2012 Olympic champs. Thiago Braz (BRA) and France’s Renaud Lavillenie went 3-4 at 5.72 m (18-9 1/4).

Duplantis’ clearance at 5.82 m (19-1) was so good, the crowd gasped, seeing him clear by perhaps two feet, so this was in fact a 21-foot vault! He did the same at the next height of 5.87 m (19-3), with even the announcers speculating that he could have cleared 6.30 m (20-8)!

But Kendricks matched him at 5.87 m, 5.92 m, 5.97 m (19-7) and then both cleared 6.02 m (19-9), with Kendricks snaking over and Duplantis again sailing clear.

At 6.07 m (19-11), the issue was decided, with Duplantis brushing the bar on his first try, but still clearing for his seventh try without a miss on the evening. Kendricks had two good tries at what would have been an American Record, but missed all three times and had to settle for second.

Duplantis tried for an outdoor world best of 6.15 m (20-2) and missed once, then retiring as evening took hold. His clearance of 6.07 m is the equal-8th performance all-time and the highest vault outdoor since 1994 (Sergey Bubka)!

Kendricks finished at 6.02 m (19-9), his second-best vault ever. This was the sixth time that a vaulter had cleared 6.00 m and lost (four times outdoors, once indoors), and is the highest “losing” height ever. Wow!

The women’s vault was won by Swede Angelica Bengtsson, who cleared 4.72 m (15-5 3/4) on her third try. Holly Bradshaw (GBR), Anjelica Moser (SUI) and Michaela Meijer (SWE) finished 2-3-4, all clearing 4.64 m (15-2 3/4).

Cycling ● The Tour de France has a new leader, but not because France’s Julian Alaphilippe was out-raced in Wednesday’s stage.

Alaphilippe maintained the grip on the yellow jersey through Tuesday’s mountain stage, won by Slovenian star Primoz Roglic, one of the top contenders for the overall title. But during Wednesday’s stage, Alaphilippe cruised in with the main pack, earning the same time as winner Wout van Aert (BEL), but was penalized for taking food during the last 20 km of the 183 km route from Gap to Privas and suffered a 20-second penalty.

Thus, he fell to 16th overall and Britain’s Adam Yates has the lead, with Roglic three seconds behind, countryman Tadej Pogacar seven seconds back and Guillaume Martin (FRA) nine seconds behind. Defending champ Egan Bernal (COL) sits in fifth, 13 seconds back. There are 22 riders within a minute of the lead.

Stage 6 is a misery-inducing 191 km climb, with the finish uphill on the Mont Aigoul and the race finishing at 1,559 m … after starting at 136 m elevation! This will be another test for Roglic, Bernal and the other climbers in the race and an early indication of fitness.

Even with the virus pandemic, the appetite for major events has not subsided, at least in Italy, where Imola and the Emilia-Romagna region have stepped forward to host the 2020 World Road Championships on short notice from 24-27 September.

The event was moved from Switzerland due to the pandemic, and the events this year will not include junior and U-23 racers due to travel restrictions into Europe. However, with almost all of the world’s elite cyclists already competing in Europe, attendance at the Worlds will be possible.

Skiing ● One of the stars of the Giant Slalom, German Viktoria Rebensburg, 30, announced her retirement from the FIS Alpine World Cup on Tuesday (1st):

“I have decided to end my career with immediate effect after 13 years. I made this decision with a heavy heart & after much consideration over the last few weeks. After my injury in spring & the past two months of snow training, I realised that I would no longer be able to reach my absolute top level.”

Three times the seasonal World Cup champ in the Giant Slalom, she won Olympic gold in the event in Vancouver in 2010 and bronze in PyeongChang in 2018. She scored 19 World Cup wins in her career (14 in Giant Slalom) and won 49 medals. She fractured a tibia in February and then another injury in the spring and decided to retire.

U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee ● The “Team USA Council on Racial and Social Justice” was announced last Friday, comprising 44 individuals who will work in four main groups:

(1) The right to protest and demonstrations, to assess current policies and alternate options.

(2) Athlete voice and advocacy, to empower athlete voices on Team USA platforms.

(3) Institutional awareness and cultural change, to review USOPC and NGB diversity and hiring policies.

(4) Racism and acts of discrimination, to enhance reporting and dispute resolution processes.

According to the announcement:

“The 44-member council consists of 23 Team USA athletes, five Team USA alumni representatives, five NGB representatives, five USOPC liaisons and six external consultants and thought leaders – all serving in voluntary roles. Thirty-six individuals will sit on one of four subject-specific steering committees dedicated to addressing four areas of focus. Overseeing each of the four steering committees will be an eight-member leadership team, with the assistance of a distinguished team of outside experts.”

The Protests and Demonstrations Steering Committee includes Olympic protest icon John Carlos from the 1968 Mexico City Games and Pan American Games fencing gold medalist Race Imboden, who took a knee during the victory ceremony in Lima (PER) last year.

The Racism and Acts of Discrimination Steering Committee includes three-time Olympic gold medalist Tianna Bartoletta, who has written brilliantly about her challenges in life, as an athlete and the racism challenges she has faced and that she sees elsewhere.

A set of recommendations is expected to lead to an action plan “by early 2021.”

World University Games ● Apparently the memo about containing costs for major events has not been received in Russia.

The organizers of the 2023 World University Games, to be held in Yekaterinburg (RUS) announced that budget for the 11-day event has been increased by 6 billion rubles, or about $80.8 million U.S. Per the TASS news agency:

“According to the Sverdlovsk Region authorities’ decree published on the website, ‘the total amount of finances envisaged for the implementation of the program currently stands at 64.721 billion rubles [over $871.791 million].’

“Earlier reported budget figures for the organization of the 2023 FISU Summer Universiade in Yekaterinburg stipulated an overall sum of 58.6 billion rubles, which included 28.5 billion allocated by the authorities of the Sverdlovsk Region, 13.8 billion rubles allocated by the federal budget and 16.2 billion rubles expected to come from private sponsors.”

An athletes’ village and several new sports venues are scheduled to be built as part of the Games program. But $872 million for a University Games? Really?

The coronavirus pandemic has struck the 2021 Winter World University Games, scheduled to held in Lucerne (SUI). On Monday, the organizers noted the strict requirements of the Swiss government and indicated “A potential later date will be discussed over the next two months in consultation with all involved parties, including the international winter sports federations.”

The event was slated for 21-31 January 2021; new dates are hoped to confirmed by the end of October.

Pan American Games ● PanAm Sports confirmed that the first Junior Pan American Games will be held in and around Cali, Colombia from 9-19 September 2021, coronavirus permitting.

The event will be for athletes from 14-22 years of age, depending on the sport; about 3,500 athletes are expected, competing in 27 sports. Each of the winners will be automatically qualified to compete in the 2023 Pan American Games in Santiago (CHI).

Cali is suddenly a hotspot for sport, as World Athletics announced that its 2022 World U-20 Championships will take place there. About 1,200 athletes from 143 countries are expected to compete in the Estadio Olímpico Pascual Guerrero.

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● Last Friday’s announcement that two-term Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will retire due to illness brought many expressions of concern and thanks from throughout the Olympic Movement. IOC President Thomas Bach stated:

“His engagement was crucial to making the Tokyo Organising Committee the best prepared ever. Throughout these years, Prime Minister Abe was a strong partner who always stood up for the interests of Japan, and who at the same time could always be trusted. In this way, we were able to find solutions, even in the most difficult circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, which allow his vision for Japan to still come true, even if with one year’s delay.”

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga appears to be the frontrunner to succeed Abe, with the election within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to be held by 14 September. The formal election by the Diet will be held on 16 September.

Vox Populi ● Reader Franco Fava, the esteemed Italian journalist who was a two-time Olympian in the steeple, 5000 m and marathon, chimed in:

“In your report of last 12 August ‘Why is World Athletics so timid about grabbing an opportunity to dominate the 2024 Paris Olympics?,’ you touched a very concrete and sensitive question. But I think the real question to ask is: ‘Why is the International Olympic Committee doing everything to curb the visibility of its major sport at the Games?’

“I agree with you that the re-introduction of Cross Country at the Games 100 years after its last appearance at the Games right in Paris in 1924 should have taken place with a different formula from that announced by World Athletics. I understand that two factors so dear to the IOC have prevailed: 1) To limit the number of athletes (1,900); 2) Encourage female participation.

“You mentioned the fact that FINA proposed the introduction to Paris 2024 of additional 10 events (or more). FINA is also asking for more participants in open-water swimming and water polo.


“Since the 70s, Athletics is not only Track & Field any more. But it includes a large scale of Road, Country and Mountain, Elite and Mass Events. Many of which have become very popular in the past few decades all around the world and in every country.

“So, again: ‘Why is the IOC holding back the presence of Athletics, the main stakeholder at the Games?’ The re-introduction of X-C at the Games is a good news, but it would have been better to have in Paris 2024 a real X-C event, with Individual and Team competitions. Instead of a relay with very limited participation.

“There is still time until the end of this year to rethink which formula to adopt for 2024. I hope there can be a fair assessment by both the IOC and the Paris organizing committee.

“I am confident that following the appointment of Lord Seb Coe as a member of the IOC, World Athletics can promote a major overhaul of his presence at the Olympic Games. As in the same way it has already begun to do with regard to the program of its major championships, expanding the panorama of activities.

“The affirmation of this vision (so dear to Seb Coe also with a view to sustainability and a healthier lifestyle for future generations), will be good for Athletics, but even more will be for the good of the Olympic Games.”

Concerning our Lane One column on changes to the leotard tradition in gymnastics:

“Have you seen the suits being worn by female divers in recent competitions?

“They leave very little to the imagination, and I’ve wondered how the divers felt about wearing them. Let’s just say that some parts of the anatomy are really ‘out there’! Slightly offensive even to dirty old men like me.

“Curious minds want to know.”
~ Ron Brumel (Los Angeles, California)