HEARD AT HALFTIME: U.S. Dept. of Justice indicts four on bribes for 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups

Opening Ceremony of the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens (Photo: Wikipedia)

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

The U.S. Department of Justice unsealed indictments against four men accused of receiving bribes for votes for the hosts of the 2018 and 2022 FIFA World Cups.

The formal charges follow up testimony in previous cases that alleged at least three men – all from South America – received bribes to vote for Qatar, which won the right to host the 2022 event over the U.S. by 14-8, in 2010.

On Monday, Nicolas Leoz (PAR) and Ricardo Teixeira (BRA) were charged with taking bribes in the vote for the 2022 World Cup, and that Jack Warner (TTO) and Rafael Salguero (GUA) received bribes of more than $1 million to vote for Russia for the 2018 event.

Leoz, head of the South American football confederation (CONMEBOL) in 2010, died in 2019. Teixeira and Warner have remained in their home countries; 2017 testimony in other cases indicated that Argentine Julio Grondona, who died in 2014, also took a bribe to vote for Qatar.

Three broadcast executives, two of whom were part of 21st Century Fox subsidiaries, and a marketing company were charged with bribery and other crimes in the solicitation of rights to the Copa Libertadores tournament.

This is the latest installment of charges against FIFA and other football executives that began in 2015. According to the Associated Press, “there have been 26 publicly announced guilty pleas.”

A complete list of the FIFA Executive Committee members who voted for Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 (and what happened to them as of December of 2015) is here.

Athletics ● Further to our comment last week that moving the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon to July of 2022 could raise issues with the pollen season there, Prefontaine Classic meet director Tom Jordan suggested it shouldn’t be an issue:

“[M]ore effective (doping-)legal medications have really reduced the allergy problems among athletes. For example, it has been 20 years since an athlete has been seriously affected at the Prefontaine Classic, which is usually held during the peak of the pollen season. July 4th is known as Independence Day around here because beyond that date the allergens have lost their potency.”

Basketball ● With all the hubbub surrounding the election of a great class of players into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, including Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Tamika Catchings, the international committee also elected the late Patrick Baumann of Switzerland.

Baumann died at 51 from a heart attack in 2018 while at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires (ARG). Starting as a player, referee and coach, he was the Secretary-General of the International Basketball Association (FIBA) from 2002 until his death and was a key adviser to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. He was a member of the International Olympic Committee himself and was prominently mentioned as a possible successor to Bach after the latter’s near-sure re-election in 2021.

Baumann was also the head of the IOC’s Coordination Commission for the 2028 Games in Los Angeles and established a close relationship with Mayor Eric Garcetti and organizing committee head Casey Wasserman.

SwimmingSwimming World Magazine added details to the announcement that the International Swimming League’s initiative to pay contracted swimmers a monthly stipend during what would have been the ISL season after the 2020 Olympic Games.

With the Games moved to 2021, ISL sent a letter to an estimated 320 swimmers, the 10 ISL teams and managers and coaches. The swimmers will receive $1,500 per month for 11 months from the start of September 2020 through the start of July in 2021. The 30 ISL “ambassadors” will receive from $3,500 to $5,000 per month. Swimming World called it the “first regular wage in their sport.”

The ISL’s planned five-week “solidarity camp” from mid-October to mid-November will include a series of competitions in the ISL style; possible locations could be in Australia, Japan, Budapest (HUN) or in the U.S., in Florida. The meets will be televised, and a documentary will be made of the program.

ISL founder and funder Konstantin Grigorishin (UKR) also updated the status of its lawsuits against FINA in U.S. federal court in the Northern District of California:

“We’re still in litigation process in the United States and we’re negotiating with them through lawyers. We’ve won the case but now we’re waiting for some final court decision or settlement with FINA. We’re not against FINA in principle, we’re against a monopoly and against FINA’s approach to organising competitions and treating athletes. We’re not against an organisation that can regulate the sport.”

In fact, ISL has won nothing yet, as the main issue in the case was rendered moot by a FINA policy declaration that non-FINA entities are welcome to organize competitions. But the two suits are going nowhere fast and should be settled, sooner rather than later.

Weightlifting ● Doping and weightlifting continue to be a couple, as the International Weightlifting Federation announced substantial penalties against the national federations in Malaysia and Thailand due to multiple doping violations.

The sanctions were imposed by the federation’s independent disciplinary panel on 1 April:

● Malaysia was banned from the 2020 Olympic Games, taking place in 2021, and its athletes are banned for 11 months from the date when the next IWF competition takes place (in addition to the country’s voluntary recusal since 30 May 2018). The federation was banned from all IWF activities through 1 April 2021, but could be reinstated as early as 1 October 2020, based on a series of requirements.

● Thailand was banned from Tokyo 2020 (for 2021), was fined $200,000 and its under-18 lifters are banned for five months from the date of the next IWF event, and its senior-level competitors are banned for 11 months from that date (in addition to their voluntary recusal since 7 March 2019). The federation is suspended from the IWF until 1 April 2023 (three years). This could be reviewed as early as 7 March 2022, based on federation compliance with a defined set of anti-doping actions.

These sanctions can be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport by 21 April.

The IWF-ordered independent investigation into major doping issues raised by the German ARD documentary “Lord of the Lifters” that aired in January continues, under the direction of Canadian law professor Richard McLaren.

At the BuZZer ● In addition to all of the tumult, it’s also worth noting that Monday (6 April) is also the 124th anniversary of the revival of the Olympic Games, in Athens, Greece in 1896.

The Opening Ceremony, with 241 athletes from 14 countries, took place in the ancient Panathenaic Stadium before an estimated crowd of 80,000 (pictured above). Five events and two finals took place in the stadium on that first day, all in track & field.

● The preliminary round of the 100 m began the program, with American Francis Lane winning the first race in modern Olympic history in 12.2. Heats were also held in the 400 m and 800 m.

● In the triple jump, Harvard’s James Connolly became the first Olympic gold medalist in the modern era, reaching 13.71 m (44-11 3/4). Connolly also finished third in the long jump on 7 April.

● In the discus, Princeton’s Robert Garrett won on his final throw, of 29.15 m (95-7 1/4). He also won the shot and was second in the high jump and long jump. He competed in Paris in 1900, taking bronzes in the shot and the standing triple jump.

From this humble beginning, a giant tradition grew.