THE TICKER: Aimless chatter on Tokyo; Bach sees virus crisis leading to a coordinated world sport calendar; 298 more Russian dopers?

The latest news, notes and quotes from the worldwide Five-Ring Circus:

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● The endless cycle of comments, questions and “analysis,” followed by more of the same continues over the Tokyo 2020 Games, to be held in 2021. This week:

● On Tuesday, Yoshitake Tokokura, the Japan Medical Association President said of the Games during an online news conference that “My opinion is that it will be hard to host them unless an effective vaccine is developed.”

He added that “The global state of infections at that particular time will be a key issue. It will be difficult even if the situation in Japan has become better if infections continue to spread” elsewhere.

● On Wednesday, IOC Coordination Commission chair John Coates (AUS) told the Australian Associated Press, “I saw that opinion. But the advice we’re getting from [World Health Organization] says we should continue to plan for this date and that is what we’re doing, and that’s not contingent on a vaccine.”

● Also on Wednesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Diet, “We’ve been saying the Olympic and Paralympic Games must be held in a complete form, in that athletes and spectators can all participate safely. It would be impossible to hold the Games in such a complete form unless the coronavirus pandemic is contained.”

● The situation was further clarified earlier in the week by organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori, who told Nikkan Sports on Monday that the event cannot be carried over past 2021.

“In that case, the Olympics will be scrapped.

“We have delayed the Olympics until next summer after we will have won the battle. The Olympics would be much more valuable than any Olympics in the past if we could go ahead with it after winning this battle. We have to believe this otherwise our hard work and efforts will not be rewarded.”

The chair of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, Toshiro Muto said last week “It’s highly likely that the expense will be higher than the originally planned budget” and that “we will proceed with transparency and explain to the taxpayers about the costs.”

Muto added the sanest comment uttered recently: “How this coronavirus infection situation will develop and when this will end – nobody can answer this question for sure.”

International Olympic Committee ● IOC President Thomas Bach posted a 2,286-word open letter on the IOC’s Web site on Wednesday, covering the current crisis and looking ahead. His most important comments came at the end:

On the costs for Tokyo 2020: “For our part, we have made it clear that the IOC will continue to be responsible for its share of the operational burden and its share of the costs for these postponed Games, under the terms of the existing agreement for 2020 that we have with our Japanese partners and friends. Although it is too early to give an exact figure, we already know that we have to shoulder several hundred million US dollars of postponement costs. This is why we also need to look into and review all the services that we provide for these postponed Games.”

The post-COVID-19 future: “What is clear, however, is that probably none of us will be able to sustain every single initiative or event that we were planning before this crisis hit. We will all need to take a close look at the scope of some of our activities and make the necessary adjustments to the new realities. In this context, the IOC administration is reviewing the IOC’s budget and priorities.”

Social impact: Bach claims a spot for sport as a way forward for the world, noting that “public health will play a much more important role. … the coronavirus crisis teaches us how much a sound general health situation helps to overcome communicable diseases as well. Sport and physical activity are therefore the perhaps most low-cost tool for a healthy society. To make this even more evident too, the IOC is about to conclude a new Memorandum of Understanding with the WHO.”

Economic impact: Bach wrote, “the current health crisis will lead to a long and deep economic crisis, the effect of which on sport may differ from country to country. This will depend greatly on the importance governments will give to the enormous social capital represented by sport when it comes to the allocation of the financial assistance provided by them for the recovery of economy. Therefore, we should strongly request governments to appreciate and honour the immense contribution of sport to public health, its importance for inclusion, social life and culture, and its important role for their national economies.”

Future of sports: These were the most important comments in the letter, as they are areas where the IOC has direct impact:

“[T]he IOC should further strengthen the sustainability and feasibility reforms of Olympic Agenda 2020 with a new phase of the “New Norm” to make even more savings possible for the Organising Committees of the Olympic Games. These new measures should lead to an even more restricted footprint for all the stakeholders at the Olympic Games.”

and

“[W]e may also have to look more closely into the proliferation of sports events, as we already discussed at previous Olympic Summits. The financial pressure on all the stakeholders, including NOCs, IFs and Organising Committees, may require more consolidation in this respect.”

Translation: Fewer events and a coordinated international calendar for all sports receiving support from the IOC. This will be a sea-change for worldwide sport and how many IFs will be ready to comply?

The latter may be the most crucial outcome of Bach’s comments and if properly implemented, could create a favorable environment for worldwide, year-round broadcast and sponsorship of Olympic-sport programs. It will be difficult to coordinate, but the effort could be well worth it.

Athletics ● World Athletics and the International Athletics Foundation announced a $500,000 fund to support professional athletes facing economic hardships during the virus pandemic.

A 10-member committee chaired by World Athletics chief Sebastian Coe and including Americans Willie Banks (Council member) and Sunil Sabharwal (Executive Board member) will figure out how to distribute the funds for maximum impact.

The idea apparently came from Olympic champion and 1500 m world record-holder Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR), who will be a member of the distribution committee. IAF Chair Prince Albert II of Monaco noted that since its creation in 1985, more than $30 million has been distributed for charitable purposes.

The IOC also announced another doping positive from its re-test program of the London 2012 Games, upping its record for the most positives of any Games in history. Turkish steepler Gulcan Mingir, who finished 27th, was disqualified for using the steroid turabinol.

London now has 74 positives, including 65 from the re-testing phase, just ahead of Beijing 2008 (72: 7+65). The IOC’s re-testing program has now registered 148 positives since it began in 2004.

Gymnastics ● The Southern California News Group reported that celebrated gymnastics coach Maggie Haney has been suspended for athlete abuse for eight years. According to the story:

“USA Gymnastics can confirm that the Safe Sport Hearing related to Maggie Haney has concluded,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement to SCNG. “The independent hearing panel – comprised of three members of the gymnastics community, including an attorney, a club owner, and a former national team athlete – found that Ms. Haney violated the USA Gymnastics Code of Ethical Conduct, Safe Sport Policy, and other policies. As a result, the hearing panel determined that Ms. Haney is suspended from membership, and any coaching of USA Gymnastics athletes or in member clubs, for a period of eight years, effective immediately, followed by a two year probationary period. After the suspension concludes, Ms. Haney may reapply for membership after submitting proof of completing certain specified Safe Sport courses.”

Haney’s attorney stated that an appeal – in arbitration procedure – is the likely next step. Haney coached 2016 Olympic gold medalist Laurie Hernandez and 2018 World Team Champion Riley McCusker, among other stars. Haney, 42, has been with MG Elite Gymnastics in New Jersey since 2007.

Doping ● The World Anti-Doping Agency announced the transmittal of evidence concerning 298 Russian athletes to 27 International Federations and one “major-event organization” for further consideration of anti-doping violations.

This is the latest outcome of the lengthy process in the Russian doping scandal. The WADA statement noted that “The evidence that identified the target group was based on information within the Moscow LIMS database obtained by WADA I&I, evidence from the 2016 WADA-commissioned McLaren Investigation, as well as the retrieved samples.”

The statement also explained that 153 of the 298 cases were not impacted by the manipulation of the Moscow lab data prior to its transfer to WADA in January 2019.

What the organization do with the evidence is subject to review by WADA. “The evidence available for each package is different, and the relevant organizations will have to decide in each case whether to bring it forward as an [doping violation] or not. WADA will review and discuss the facts with each [anti-doping organization]. WADA will also review the decisions rendered by the ADOs and appeal, if appropriate, to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). In addition, WADA has the option under the World Anti-Doping Code (Code), where no decision is rendered in a reasonable timeframe, to bring cases directly to CAS.”

So far, 57 doping violations have been found as a result of the WADA investigations, and WADA continues to work on the data it has on hand.

The four-year suspension of Russia from the Olympic Games and other events is currently being appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The Last Word ● The weekend magazine of The Australian carried a feature on 25 April showcasing the abuse showered on Australian freestyle star Mack Horton – and his family – over Horton’s protests against China’s now-suspended Olympic champion Yang Sun. From the lengthy story:

“The [parents] knew immediately where the broken glass [in their backyard pool] had come from, and why it was there. Just three months earlier their son, Olympic 400m freestyle gold medallist Mack Horton, had refused to join Chinese swimmer Sun Yang, a three-time Olympic gold medallist and 11-time world champion, on the medal podium at the World Championships in the South Korean city of Gwangju. Horton had just won silver in the 400m freestyle; Sun Yang gold. Mack Horton’s mute protest – standing up for clean sport by refusing to stand beside Sun – unleashed a wave of hostility more disturbing than anything the family had ever experienced. And since their son famously labelled Sun a drug cheat at the 2016 Rio Olympics, they’ve experienced a lot. ‘We’ve had so many death threats that we’ve stopped taking them seriously,’ says Andrew with a grim chuckle.”

The pressure on the Hortons has decreased significantly since Sun was suspended for eight years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport for resisting a doping test in September 2018. But the story is disturbing.

Special thanks to reader David Simon for passing along the story.

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