The latest news, notes and quotes from the worldwide Five-Ring Circus:
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● Vox Populi ● Further to our 18 June story on Olympic protests and medal ceremonies, this note on a famed gold medalist from British statistician Stan Greenberg:
“I knew Harold Abrahams (1924 100 m gold medallist) quite well and visited his house once. As I entered his study I looked eagerly around and said ‘where is it?’ He said ‘what?’ I said your medal – expecting it to be on a wall with a searchlight or something shining on it. On his desk he had a glass dish (as most of us have) which had all sorts of junk in it, like paperclips, pins, bits of paper and dust. He dug around in it and came up with a tarnished dirty medal. I was shocked and said ‘you can’t do that.’ To which he pointed out that he had received it in 1924, a few weeks later in the mail, and that that there had been no ‘razamatazz’ as there is now, and that it didn’t actually mean all that much to him – although of course the actual title did.”
Further to David Miller’s “Olympic Ethic Outweighs Protest,” Fordham University Gabelli School of Business Associate Professor Mark Conrad writes:
“I just read Mr. Miller’s comments regarding protest at the Olympics. While he does make some fair points about the effects of repealing Rule 50 and a possible opening of the Pandora’s box of protest, I think that his condescending tone was disrespectful to Ms. [Gwen] Berry and the opinions she feels (which are now felt by millions of Americans, black and white). Also, his extolling the virtues of the IOC should be refuted.
“First, let’s call the IOC for what it is: a large entertainment company that puts on a world event where the athletes are the labor force for their multi-billion dollar TV deals. Let us also admit that the IOC does not render its decisions in utmost morality. It has permitted such human rights bastions as China (2008 and 2022) and Russia (2014) as hosts of the Olympics. It may prefer totalitarian states because there is no threat of public protest to the exorbitant costs of the games and the ways the IOC limits its losses.
“Now to the issue of Rule 50 and Ms. Berry. To characterize her situation as being ‘a fortunate woman, living in a country, whatever its injustices, which has the financial means and momentum to provide facilities for Berry’s esoteric activity, which cannot be considered likely to promote social egalitarianism for Afro-Americans but allows Berry a full sense of acceptance as Pan American champion,’ as offensive and a travesty. First, does he know that USATF is not exactly pouring the dollars of support for its athletes, while its CEO rakes in millions of dollars per year? In fact, many T and F athletes complain about a lack of adequate support (especially ones that don’t get the endorsement bucks). Second, and more to the point, Ms. Berry did not [raise a fist] because of herself. She was expressing her outrageous at a legacy of racism for 400 years and second-class citizenship that lasted (at least in theory) until the 1960s and still is present today. There are risks taking that kind of action in the court of public opinion. Suffice it to say that any athlete will engage in this protest at the next Olympics (whenever that would be) would be risking negative reaction by millions of people. Ask John Carlos and Tommie Smith. Mr. Miller seems to be inferring his views are really a griping session. If you watch the video of the recent murder of George Floyd, it was hardly a gripe.
“It’s not that I totally disagree with the main point Mr. Miller makes: there is a Pandora’s box potential in eliminating Rule 50 (although imagine the TV ratings would go up if millions would be glued to their TVs or laptops to see if athlete X takes a knee or not — NBC could make even more money!). It is his seeming trivialization of Ms. Berry’s point of view that should be called out.”
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● Doping ● “American taxpayers should receive a tangible return on their investment in WADA in the form of clean sport, fair play, effective administration of the world anti-doping system and a proportionate voice in WADA decision-making.”
That’s from a report of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, which compiled a report deeply critical of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Reuters reported that it had reviewed the report, which “concluded that the US was underrepresented on WADA’s key policy-making committees, that WADA has not moved urgently enough to reform itself in the wake of the Russian doping scandal and that Congress should consider giving the office discretion to withhold future funding.”
The U.S. is reported to provide $2.7 million in annual funding for WADA, which would be about 5.4% of its $37.4 million budget, but 14.4% of its budget not provided by the International Olympic Committee (which funds 50% of WADA’s budget).
Travis Tygart, the head of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and a WADA critic, told Reuters that the failures to detect the massive Russian doping scandal from 2011-15 and the new revelations of widespread doping cover-ups in weightlifting, are deeply troubling. According to Reuters:
“‘Russia is the prime example and we have another one that just hit us….which is the weightlifting federation,’ Tygart said. ‘Its president not only misappropriated $10.5 million but also covered up over 40 doping cases that robbed clean athletes around the world.
“‘And what happens when he gets caught? He simply retires. He’s probably on some beach sipping cocktails right now,’ he added.”
WADA hit back, stating “It is very unfortunate that the report was written without due regard for the facts or context and with the clear intention to discredit WADA.”
While WADA was being criticized, three Russian athletes are seeking assistance from Russian President Vladimir Putin to rescue their participation in international sport. Current and former world champions Maria Lasitskene (high jump), Sergey Shubenkov (110 m hurdles) and Anzhelika Sidorova (pole vault) co-signed an open letter which included:
“Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich, Russian athletics has been in crisis since 2015. During that period a great number of officials, including the head of Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), Sports Minster and chief of Russian Athletics Federation (RUSAF) have been replaced. We have constantly heard statements that everything possible has been done to protect Russian athletes.
“And now, five years later our athletes and coaches are not even allowed to show their potential, as they are prohibited from performing internationally even in neutral status. Starting from July 1 our national federation could be completely expelled from World Athletics if the fee imposed by the governing body is not paid.
“Last year, you tasked the ROC with working out necessary measures to restore the international membership of RUSAF, making it clear that you worry about the fate of Russian track and field and athletes.
“One year has passed since then, but the situation has only deteriorated. We still don’t see any plan to solve the crisis and have no choice but to address you personally.
“We want to direct your attention to the catastrophic state of things in Russian athletics. We are on the verge of disaster. We hope for your support and understanding.”
World Athletics has imposed a $10 million fine on the Russian Athletics Federation (RusAF), with $5 million due by 1 July. If not paid, Russian athletes will not be allowed to compete internationally, even as neutrals.
● Athletics ● Great sadness with the death of a former world-record holder and a key member of the 1984 Olympic frack & field competition staff.
Dick Buerkle, who stunned the T&F world with a world indoor record in the mile in 1978 (3:54.93), passed away on Monday (22 June) at the age of 72 from complications related to Parkinson’s Disease.
He was an unmistakable presence on the track with his bald head – since age 12 due to disease – and steady gait, and achieved stunning success, especially for someone who didn’t really take up the sport until his senior year in high school and then walked-on at Villanova,
He was a three-time All-American for Jumbo Elliott at Villanova in 1969 and 1970 and was the U.S. champion at 5,000 m in 1974 and 1978. He was a 1976 Olympian in the 5,000 m and made the 1980 U.S. team as well.
But he was perhaps most famous for two races: (1) beating Steve Prefontaine in the two-mile at the 1974 CYO Invitational in College Park, Maryland, Pre’s first loss to an American since 1970, and (2) his world mark in the mile – at the same site – four years later, running hard from the gun and winning in 3:54.93 to better Tony Waldrop’s mark of 3:55.0 from 1974.
He retired in 1981 and became a teacher and track coach in the Atlanta area. He is survived by his wife Jean, son Gabe and daughters Lily and Tera.
Long-time referee and rules expert Mort Tenner, the Track & Field Competition Director for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, passed away at age 92 on 22 June (Monday).
Tenner (pictured above) was an Angeleno through and through, attending Los Angeles High School and then graduating from UCLA with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Education and later earning his Ph.D. after returning from Army service in the Korean War.
He became a noted teacher, first at South Gate High School in the Los Angeles Unified School District, eventually advancing to becoming the much-respected Principal at Franklin High School in Los Angeles from 1967-84.
While at Franklin, he continued the work of predecessors in raising college scholarship funds for students, later helping to establish today’s Franklin High Educational Foundation in 1993. He continued his work in education with the LAUSD administration, finally retiring in 1990.
He had another life altogether in track & field. He was a long-time official and became the go-to person for rules interpretation, serving as the top meet referee in the Southern California area for decades. Calm, decisive, clear-thinking and never one to suffer fools – qualities no doubt honed in his years working with high school students – Tenner was the choice of Athletics Commissioner H.D. Thoreau for the post of Competition Director for the 1984 track & field events in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. That was a facility Tenner knew well from decades of meets there, including the famed Coliseum Relays of the 1940-50-60s, and the Olympic meet was a tremendous success.
Tenner was a fixture at track meets in the area and was a sought-after meet referee into the 2000s. He had a quick wit, especially adept at deflating protests from coaches who claimed the rules said one thing when they actually said something else.
He is survived by his wife Mary and daughters Laura, Suzanne and Nancy and son Paul, and three grandchildren. No funeral is planned; contributions may be made to the Franklin High Educational Foundation.
To the surprise of very few, both the 27 September Berlin Marathon and the 1 November New York City Marathon have been canceled.
On Facebook, the Berlin Marathon posted “As hard as we have tried, it is currently not possible to organize the 2020 BMW BERLIN-MARATHON.”
On its Web site, the New York Road Runners announced “The 2020 TCS New York City Marathon, set to take place on November 1, has been canceled. New York Road Runners (NYRR), the event organizer, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of the City of New York, have made the decision to cancel the world’s largest marathon due to coronavirus-related health and safety concerns for runners, spectators, volunteers, staff, and the many partners and communities that support the event.”
These will not be the last events to be skipped for 2020.
● Football ● As expected, the Australia-New Zealand bid was selected for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The final vote was 22-13 over Colombia, after the Japanese bid had been withdrawn earlier in the week.
Following up on the success of the 2019 tournament in France, the next edition will be expanded to 32 teams, the same as presently held for the men’s World Cup. The bid book for the Australia-New Zealand bid projects sites in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Newcastle and Launceston in Australia and Auckland, Wellington, Hamilton, Christchurch and Dunedin in New Zealand.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Klausner denied a motion by the U.S. Women’s National Team for a final verdict on the counts he had dismissed via summary judgement on 1 May, first requiring a jury trial in mid-September on the remaining, smaller issues.
“The granting of an immediate appeal will not eliminate the possibility of two trials or the possibility of successive appeals involving interlocking facts. The court has declined the parties’ request to stay trial pending the resolution of any appeal. And should a jury render a verdict unfavorable to plaintiffs on their remaining claims, there is no reason to think plaintiffs will not appeal that decision.”
The Women’s National Team plaintiffs indicated they will continue to pursue their case.
● Gymnastics ● A report filed last Monday (22 June) documented that legal expenses for the USA Gymnastics bankruptcy case (including the Larry Nassar-related abuse claims) have passed the $10 million mark.
The report of operations covering the month of April 2020 showed that total legal fees and direct expenses claimed in the case by all sides at $10,605,188. Of this amount, some $6.26 million has actually been paid and $4.35 million remains.
The busiest firm has been USA Gymnastics’s primary counsel, Jenner & Block of Chicago, which has billed $4.42 million so far. The primary firm for the Survivors Committee, Pachulski, Stang, Ziehl & Jones of Los Angeles, have billed $2.40 million through the end of April.
● Swimming ● Rio Olympic 100 m Freestyle champ Kyle Chalmers chatted with Australian Rules Football star Phil Davis for a lengthy podcast posted on Wednesday (24 June), in which the swimmer shared his awe of NBA players in the Olympic Village in Rio, how he had to make a hard choice between Australian Rules Football and swimming, and doping.
On doping, he shared:
“There’s a lot of doping that goes on everywhere in swimming. You know it’s going on, and I know that I can probably not trust half of the guys I’m competing against.
“I know we as an Australian swim team are so obviously against it because like, look at Shayna Jack, the Australian swimmer who failed a drug test this year and she got a four-year ban just because we hate drug cheats in Australia.”
“So for me, [teammate] Mack [Horton] standing up against [China freestyle star] Sun Yang [on the 2019 World Champs podium] and making a big announcement about it was inspiring, and I supported Mack from afar. Like, I wasn’t going to go into the media and stand up against it, it’s a big thing to do. It takes a lot of courage and it was a very scary time for Mack, especially after he did it, with the threats and whatnot.
“And now it’s completely turned the other way, the Chinese are all supporting Mack and have hating on Sun Yang for being a liar and lying to them. So it’s been an interesting roller coaster, that journey.
“But for me, I want to beat anyone on any given day. Like, I don’t care what my competitors have in their system, I want to still be better than them, and I don’t want to have to think about those things while I’m racing. It’s about what I can do and what’s in my control, and making sure that I’m the best.
“You do want to make sure you have that even playing field really, and it is sad that there is questions over athletes in the sport, but I think Mack making that stand and making such a big deal out of it has created change in the sport and helped people realize that it is going on and it’s real and like, those countries are so far ahead of our drug-testing pool so they’re not going to find out for years what’s actually in their systems, which is really sad.”
Replied Davis, “They always say that the users are further in front of the people who are trying to catch them.”
● Games of the XXXV Olympiad ● The latest from the Australia 2032 campaign came from IOC member and Australian Olympic Committee chief John Coates.
Speaking at the launch event for the Parliamentary Friends of the Olympic Movement, Coates told guests that “There is already a need for jobs and growth in the Queensland economy arising from the impact of COVID-19.
“Our partner three levels of government recognize a potential 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games as a critical part of the state and nation’s economic recovery in the short term, quite apart from all of the long-term health, wellbeing, economic and sporting legacies.”
Coates noted that naysayers concerned about costs should consider the projected costs of A$4.5 billion would be considered by A$2.5 million from the IOC (based on its guarantee to Los Angeles 2028) and “The balance will be covered by national sponsorships and ticket sales.”