The Sports Examiner

LANE ONE: The top stories of a turbulent 2022, nos. 10 to 6: confusion, doping, federations in trouble and sensational world records!

Three world records in 2022 for Sweden's Mondo Duplantis ( Photo: World Athletics)

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// SHIFFRIN ALERT: She did it again! American alpine ski star Mikaela Shiffrin won the second Giant Slalom race in Semmering, Austria on Wednesday, giving her 79 career World Cup wins, three behind Lindsey Vonn for the most in women’s history. She came from second after the first run to finish in 2:03.51, just ahead of Swiss star Lara Gut-Behrami (2:03.61) and Italy’s Marta Bassino (2:03.98). She contests the Slalom in Semmering on Thursday. //

In 2022, the year began with a difficult, but ultimately successful Olympic Winter Games in Beijing and ended with perhaps a more strenuous, but also historic FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

In between, there were issues everywhere that went well beyond the continuing coronavirus pandemic and challenged the Olympic Movement to find solutions to new problems and recalcitrant stakeholders. But there was also sensational competition on the fields of play; our look back at the top stories of the year, counting down from no. 10 to no. 6:

Ball of confusion: bidding for the 2030 Olympic Winter Games

What the bid committees in Canada, Japan, Spain and the U.S. thought would be the process to select the host for the 2030 Olympic Winter Games was turned inside out. Now, nothing is sure.

In June, Spain’s bid to stage the Games in Barcelona and the Pyrenees fell apart as the two host regions, Catalonia and Aragon, could not agree on a division of what would be played where. In October, the Province of British Columbia told the Vancouver organizers and the Canadian Olympic Committee that it would not help fund the Games, also eliminating any federal support, effectively killing that bid.

Meanwhile, U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Chair Susanne Lyons said that while Salt Lake City is ready, willing and able to host the 2030 Winter Games, it would prefer 2034 in order to give the domestic marketing effort some breathing room after the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

That left Sapporo, where interest had been good, but hardly overwhelming. Then came a still-unraveling scandal from last year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in which Tokyo prosecutors alleged that nearly $1.5 million in bribes were paid to organizing committee Executive Board member Haruyuki Takahashi by at least four companies wishing to be selected as sponsors or licensees – at a discounted rate – as well as an advertising agency looking for sponsor marketing work.

The scandal expanded to include big-rigging for contracts to operate the test events for the organizing committee and then venue management contracts for the Games. So, Sapporo announced in December that it was lowering its promotional efforts until more is known.

For its part, the International Olympic Committee’s Future Host Commission suggested to the IOC’s Executive Board that perhaps a rotation of pre-approved cities for future Winter Games might work best and is holding off naming either Sapporo or Salt Lake City as the preferred bidder for 2030. And yet, the decision is still expected in the fall of 2023 at the IOC Session in Mumbai, India. Wow.

Doping, transgenders and more under the microscope

The International Testing Agency concluded its re-analysis of stored samples from the London 2012 Olympic Games, ending with a total of 73 positives, the most of any Games ever. In all, the IOC withdrew 31 medals won at the Games and re-allocated 46, with Russia (21), Belarus (11) and Ukraine (7) leading the list of doping nations.

But the lessons have apparently not been learned, as doping positives continued to pop up in 2022. In track & field, there was an alarming outbreak of doping by Kenyan distance runners, with 49 listed by the Athletics Integrity Unit on provisional suspension, pending suspensions, suspensions and failed appeals in the calendar year of 2022 alone.

World Athletics considered suspending Kenya from international competition, but a government commitment to clean up the doping, backed by $25 million in added funding for the Anti-Doping Agency of Kenya has stayed its hand for now.

Meanwhile, the discussion over eligibility to compete in the women’s category for transgenders and individuals with differences in sex development (DSD) raged on. In response to the IOC’s Framework on Fairness, Inclusion and NonDiscrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sex Variations – adopted in 2021 – that was seen as more interested in human rights than competitive equity, the international aquatics federation – now re-named as World Aquatics – issued detailed regulations in June that prohibit male-to-female transgender participants who have experienced male puberty.

Further criticism of the IOC’s Framework document led to the December release of a commentary in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that specifically included:

“The Framework does not preclude the possibility that certain individual athletes could be subject to participation restrictions or exclusions where an unfair and disproportionate advantage and/or unacceptable safety risk is clearly demonstrated and cannot be mitigated via reasonable accommodations.”

This discussion has only started; look for much more in 2023 as more scientific inquiries are conducted.

Modern Pentathlon: Can a house divided against itself still stand?

While Modern Pentathlon has long been considered the smallest sport on the Olympic program in terms of attention, popularity and participation, it made a lot of headlines in 2022.

Not included by the IOC in the “initial sports program” for Los Angeles in 2028, a furious debate has raged between the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) Executive Board and an activist athlete group – Pentathlon United, including Olympic champion Joe Choong of Great Britain – about the future of the sport.

The UIPM Executive Board convened an expert panel, considered dozens of options and agreed in May to test two different kinds of obstacle racing to replace riding (show jumping) following the Paris 2024 Games (where riding will be included again).

The Pent United folks protested, posted polls, challenged the UIPM at every turn and put forward a highly-revised riding program with horse-care controls modeled after the Federation Internationale de Equestre (FEI).

In November, the UIPM Congress approved the addition of obstacle racing as a possible discipline within the sport – created by modern Olympic Games founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France for the 1912 Stockholm Games – in advance of a formal application for a modified Modern Pentathlon in 2028.

However, the IOC said publicly that it has taken note of the discordant voices within the sport, which it said would be considered in determining whether it returns to the Games program, echoing Abraham Lincoln’s famed “A house divided against itself cannot stand” speech from his 1858 Illinois Senate campaign that presaged the American Civil War three years later.

The decision on whether Modern Pentathlon is included for 2028 will be made in 2023. One of the other in-trouble sports, weightlifting, has been getting good marks from the IOC for cooperation with its new Board and staff. Its future looks fairly bright right now.

Boxing on the brink of elimination from Paris 2024

In even more trouble is boxing, now governed by the International Boxing Association (IBA), whose President is Russian Umar Kremlev.

Given decades-old problems with refereeing and judging and more recent trouble with finances and governance, boxing was also not included in the initial Los Angeles 2028 sports program. But the sport was much worse off at the end of 2022 than at the start.

Kremlev and Dutch federation chief Boris van der Vorst were the candidates for President at the IBA Congress in May, but van der Vorst was disqualified by an IBA Ethics Committee a day before the vote was scheduled. Kremlev won in a walk-over. Then the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that van der Vorst should not have been disqualified, and a special Congress to decide on a re-vote was held. The result was a vote to not have a re-vote, confirming Kremlev as President.

The IOC took notice and having already included boxing on the Paris 2024 program, stripped the IBA of its responsibilities to manage the qualifications or the Olympic tournament in June, just as it had done for the Tokyo 2020 Games.

This hardly impressed Kremlev, which crossed the IOC again in October, announcing that Russian and Belarusian boxers would be allowed to compete in future IBA events, with full colors, flags and anthems.

At the IBA’s Global Boxing Forum in Abu Dhabi in December, Kremlev insisted that there were no facts backing the IOC’s complaints and said “I think it’s only P.R. for the mass media.” The next day, at the IBA Congress, there was no agenda item or vote on a renewal of the IBA’s $25 million-a-year sponsorship contract with the Russian energy giant Gazprom, the IBA’s primary source of funding; Kremlev raised it in his closing remarks and declared the matter approved without so much as a comment from the delegates.

On 23 December, the IOC issued its strongest statement yet, saying “The recent IBA Congress has shown once more that IBA has no real interest in the sport of boxing and the boxers, but is only interested in its own power. … The IOC will have to take all this into consideration when it takes further decisions, which may – after these latest developments – have to include the cancellation of boxing for the Olympic Games Paris 2024.”

The decision on Paris will have to come by the spring, as qualifying events begin in June. The question about 2028 will also be decided in 2023. Boxing has been on the Olympic program continuously since 1920; that could have ended in Tokyo.

A record-breaking year for Duplantis, McLaughlin,
Kipchoge, Ledecky

There was more than politics in 2022; happily, there were also great performances, especially from Swedish vaulter Mondo Duplantis, American 400 m hurdles star Sydney McLaughlin, the greatest marathoner of all time, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge and U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky.

Duplantis was the star of the indoor season, raising his absolute world record twice, to 6.19 m (20-3 3/4) in Belgrade in early March and then again at the World Indoor Championships – also in Belgrade – to 6.20 m (20-4).

It was clear there was more to come and while he had opportunities to raise his record further, he saved his efforts for the World Championships in Eugene, winning with a fantastic 6.21 m (20-4 1/2) vault, giving him the top five vaults in history and seven of the top nine. He also claimed a $100,000 bonus for a world record in addition to the $70,000 first prize.

McLaughlin was also a multi-world-record setter, having come into 2022 as the Olympic champion from Tokyo and the world-record holder at 51.46. After opening with the third-fastest performance of all-time on 5 June at 51.61, she won the U.S. nationals with another brilliant run and her third world record of 51.41.

But that was just a warm-up compared to her masterpiece in the final of the World Championships in Eugene, where she ran away from the field and crossed in an astounding 50.68, the first woman ever under 51 seconds and a winning by more than a second and a half.

McLaughlin, who also found time to get married in 2022 and now goes by McLaughlin-Levrone, owns the top three times in history and seven of the top 10. Encore?

Kipchoge simply kept going, continuing his mastery of the marathon. Following his Tokyo triumph in 2021, he won the Tokyo Marathon in March in 2:02:40, then returned to the Berlin Marathon for the fifth time, having set the world record at 2:01:39 in 2018.

He was steady and brilliant and even surprised himself a little with a victory in another world record, this time in 2:01:09. His career record is almost incomprehensible: in 17 career marathons, he has won 15, set two world records and has four of the top six times ever run.

Those weren’t the only track & field world-record setters in 2022, as Venezuelan triple-jump sensation Yulimar Rojas claimed the furthest jump in history with her 15.74 m (51-7 3/4) winner at the World Indoor Championships in March and then Nigeria’s Tobi Amusan ran a surprise 12.12 to win her semifinal at the World Championships in Eugene to take the women’s 100 m hurdles mark. She proved it was no fluke either, coming back to win the final in a windy 12.06 (+2.5 m/s).

Ledecky, the American Freestyle superstar, won four golds at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan in June, taking the 400-800-1,500 m Free events, plus the fastest leg of the meet in the women’s 4×200 m Free Relay. She made a rare appearance in short-course (25 m) competition at the FINA World Cup, setting world records in the 1,500 m Free (15:08.24) in Toronto and then 7:57.42 in the 800 m Free in Indianapolis, the 15th and 16th world marks of her amazing career.

Best of all, none of these stars are done yet.

Next up, a look at the top five stories of 2022, and, yes, China, Qatar and Russia figure prominently.

Rich Perelman

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