HEARD AT HALFTIME: Weightlifting could face IOC suspension; AIBA wants a new name and 40 years since Carter boycott proposed

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

Weightlifting ● The fire under the International Weightlifting Federation is getting hotter.

The folks at ARD television in Germany who produced the documentary “Secret Doping: Lord of the Lifters” were at it again on Sunday evening (19th). This time, Canada’s Dick Pound – the senior member of the International Olympic Committee and the first head of the World Anti-Doping Agency – said:

“If the allegations are proven, the logical answer — at least in the short term — can only be, to remove weightlifting from the Olympic Program until they can show to the IOC that weightlifting satisfies the Olympic values.”

When Pound speaks, people listen. The International Weightlifting Federation has called an emergency meeting of its Executive Board in Doha (QAT) for Wednesday (20th) to discuss its next course of action.

IWF chief Tamas Ajan, targeted directly by the 5 January documentary, said in a letter to the federation’s national associations, “You will of course have noted that the great majority of the ARD allegations refer to the past, while the TV show gave no recognition for our reforms – many of which have gone further and faster than in any other international sports federation.”

In the meantime, the IWF announced another positive test from the 2012 Olympic Games in London, this time for Romania’s Gabriel Sincraian in the men’s 85 kg division, in which he failed to complete any of its his lifts and did not place. The London positive makes him a two-time loser, as he lost his bronze medal from Rio 2016 due to doping. The additional positive is the third announced for Romania within the past 10 days and should subject it to at least a one-year ban from international competition.

The alarm bells are being sounded in multiple quarters. USA Weightlifting Chief Executive Phil Andrews (GBR) tweeted that “The sport must do whatever it takes to remain in the Olympic Games.” IWF Secretary-General Mohammed Jalood (IRQ) said “ We transferred our anti-doping program to ITA [International Testing Agency] and we are now on the right track. At the last world championships – controlled by ITA – zero doping. And we encourage ITA to target all the athletes qualified for the 2020 Olympic Games. Even if it costs much money, it doesn’t matter: Olympic status is top priority for weightlifting.”

Russian Weightlifting Federation president and IWF Executive Committee member Maxim Agapitov has demanded Aján’s resignation. And so it goes; stay tuned.

Vox Populi ● Further to last week’s comment by 1992-96 U.S. race walk Olympian Allen James that the IOC’s regulation of protests at the Games “is not fair” and places athletes in “indentured servitude to the IOC” because they are not paid for participating:

“I think Allen James missed a very important point. One of the bedrock principles of the law of sports (based on British Common Law – the law of associations) is that the organization throwing the party, gets to set the rules. If you don’t want to play by the rules, then don’t come to the party… “
~ T.J. Rosandich, Ed.D., President and Chief Executive, United States Sports Academy

Gymnastics ● Triple Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman confirmed on her Instagram account that she would not compete to be on the U.S. team for 2020. Although her decision had been reported in December, she added “It’s true, I’m not going to be competing in Tokyo” and noted “The past 10 years have been such a whirlwind that I haven’t really processed all that has happened, and sometimes I wonder whether I ever will.”

Football ● U.S. Soccer named a 20-woman roster for the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament coming at the end of January, with most of the top stars on the list, including strikers Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe and midfielder Julie Ertz.

Striker Lynn Williams and midfielder Andi Sullivan made the cut, having not been part of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup team. Five members of the gold-medal-winning squad did not make the new roster, including star striker Alex Morgan (maternity), defender Tierna Davidson (injury), striker Mallory Pugh and midfielders Allie Long and Morgan Brian.

There were 23 roster spots for the Women’s World Cup, but only 20 for the Olympic qualifiers and 18 for the Olympic tournament itself, making the choices difficult for new coach Vlatko Andonovski.

Figure Skating ● The U.S. Nationals are this week in Greensboro, North Carolina, with American star Nathan Chen going for his fourth straight men’s title … if he can get past his fight with the flu (or something close to it). He told reporters last Friday:

“At this point in time I’m just trying to get myself back to 100 percent. That being said, I don’t think trying to push technique is necessarily my goal here. (It’s) more just to maintain my body, maintain my health and prepare myself for the second half of the season as well.”

Asked about possibly being the first since Brian Boitano (1985-88) to win four straight U.S. titles (and the eighth man to achieve the feat), Chen added:

“It’s awesome to be in a position to make that happen. If it does, awesome. In competitions, I’m driven by wanting to medal, wanting to stand on top of the podium. But that’s based on how my results are scored and how other skaters do. I don’t like to think about things like that. The fact is, other guys have done that and it would be great to follow in their footsteps.”

Boxing ● The IOC-suspended International Boxing Association (AIBA) completed the first of five continental forums in Panama City, Panama over the weekend, promising a complete revamping of the organization in hopes of being once again designated as the International Federation for the sport.

A March Congress has been called to elect new officers and adopt a new set of governing documents. The AroundTheRings.com site noted that the federation could be re-named to “World Boxing Association,” which would not sit well with the existing WBA – founded in 1921 – which is one of the multiple governing bodies in professional boxing.

The AroundTheRings story also detailed the heavy influence of the Russian Boxing Federation. Interim AIBA President Mohamed Moustahsane (MAR) “acknowledged the support of the Russian Boxing Federation to underwrite the costs of the continental forums, which included travel costs for invited journalists.”

RBF Secretary General Umar Kremlev reiterated his support to help wipe away some $16 million in AIBA debt, although no details were forthcoming on where the money would come from. He also wants to hold a new championship tournament – this time for national teams – later in 2020 as a way to draw new interest and revenue to the federation.

There is a long way to go; four more continental forums are to be held in February. The IOC will not consider AIBA’s situation until after the Tokyo Games this summer.

Athletics ● The start of the World Athletics Indoor Tour for 2020 begins on Saturday with the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Roxbury, Massachusetts. But there was off-the-track competition last week with the USA Track & Field Cross Country Championships held in San Diego, California last Saturday.

Anthony Rotich from the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program won the men’s race (10 km) in 30:35.8, running away from WCAP teammates Emmnauel Bor (30:57.5) and Lawi Lalang (31:00.0). Natosha Rogers won the women’s race (also 10 km) for her second national title in 35:44.3, ahead of Paige Stoner (36:06.9) and Carrie Verdon (36:24.0). Full results here.

The newest fracas in doping in track & field is the refusal of the British anti-doping agency (U.K. Anti-Doping or UKAD) to release any of its stored samples for distance superstar Mo Farah for re-testing as part of the investigation into doping at the Nike Oregon Project.

UKAD chief Nicole Sapsted says she wanted some “credible evidence” that Farah’s samples might turn up some new results before handing them over, explaining “The reason we put samples into storage is to enable us to retest when the science moves along. And so, every time we open a sample up to look at something, we lose the ability to maybe look for something else, which is why, if somebody wants to reanalyse a sample, it needs to be with foundation.”

Naturally, the Russian Anti-Doping Agency jumped on this and claimed that the refusal creates a “wall of mistrust in the country’s anti-doping system and, accordingly, its athletes as part of the system.” It should be noted that UKAD has supervised the re-engineering of the Russian anti-doping organization on behalf of WADA.

At the BuZZer ● Monday was the 40th anniversary of a bad day for the Olympic Movement. In 1980, U.S. President Jimmy Carter proposed that the Games of the XXII Olympiad be either moved from Moscow (URS), postponed or canceled, and if not, that the U.S. should not send a team and “stage an alternative games elsewhere,” in protest of the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan.

The U.S. did boycott the Moscow Games, the only Games it has ever missed. As for the Soviets, they continued in Afghanistan until 1989, a month after Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan, had left office, and less than three years before the Soviet Union itself was dissolved.

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