THE TICKER: Bach has “cautious optimism” on Tokyo; more Mondo in final Diamond League meet Friday; van der Breggen wins women’s time trial as Dygert crashes

World Champion Anna van der Breggen of the Netherlands (Photo: Innsbruck 2018)

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

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach (GER) posted his second letter on Olympism and the coronavirus on Tuesday, celebrating the return to competition in some sports. But what about the Tokyo Games?

“[T]hese recent weeks have shown that we can organise big sports events in a safe way even without a vaccine. On the other hand, we have to realise that even testing methods and vaccines are not the ‘silver bullet’ that will solve all our problems. We just do not yet know the full impact of any potential vaccine. But, altogether, there are good reasons for cautious optimism.

“The IOC will continue to study these developments closely. We are also evaluating what consequences they would have for the organisation of sports events, ranging from the need to change certain rules of our respective organisations to medical, economic, social and logistical aspects. To this end, we continue to cooperate closely with the World Health Organization, public authorities, medical and scientific experts, as well as pharmaceutical companies. We are also drawing from the experience of those sports organisations that have recently organised successful events. We of course will share any insights with all those concerned among you, so that all of us in the Olympic Movement can benefit.”

On Wednesday, Kyodo News reported:

“Japan will allow the entry of foreign athletes for next summer’s rescheduled Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics if they meet a set of requirements, such as presenting negative test results for the novel coronavirus upon their arrival, a government-led panel said Wednesday.

“The agreed-upon criteria also include not using public transportation in principle and consent to movement restrictions within Japan.”

The Japanese government currently has entry restrictions on individuals from 159 nations, but a special task force is looking at a protocol for the Games which would allow athletes to enter and compete. A report on the suggested program is expected by the end of the year.

Athletics ● The final edition of the abbreviated Wanda Diamond League season comes Friday in Doha (QAT), with some excellent fields lined up:

Men/800 m: Four sub-1:45 performers, with world no. 2 Bryce Hoppel of the U.S. (1:43.23) the fastest on time, but he will have his hands full with Australia’s Peter Bol (1:44.96 in 2020), Elliot Giles (GBR: 1:44.68) and Kenyan Ferguson Rotich (1:44.34). Will 1,500 m superstar Tim Cheruiyot have enough speed to win his first 800 m race in a year? His last race was a win at the 2019 Kenyan Nationals in 1:43.11!

Men/1,500 m: Australia’s Stewart McSweyn has become one of the more dangerous metric milers in the world this season, with a lifetime best of 3:31.48 in Stockholm (SWE) last month. He will be chased by Kenya’s Bethwell Birgen (3:30.77 lifetime best), who hasn’t run since February, Ethiopian distance star Selemon Barega and even super steeplers Soufiane El Bakkali (MAR) and Conseslus Kipruto (KEN).

Men/110 m hurdles: French champ Wilhem Belocian, no. 3 on the world list for 2020 (13.18), takes on Americans Aaron Mallet (5th: 13.23) and Freddie Crittenden (9th: 13.30).

Men/Pole Vault: Almost all of the usual suspects are here, including world-record holder – indoors and out – Mondo Duplantis (SWE), reigning World Champion Sam Kendricks of the U.S.; 2012 Olympic champ Renaud Lavillenie (FRA) and one of the surprises of the season, American Matt Ludwig, who has cleared a lifetime best of 5.90 m (19-4 1/4) in 2020.

Women/100 m: World leader Elaine Thompson-Herah (JAM: 10.85) is a big favorite over familiar foes Marie-Josee Ta Lou (CIV: 11.14 in 2020) and Americans Aleia Hobbs (11.12) and Kayla White (11.18).

Women/800 m: Olympic 1,500 m champ Faith Kipyegon (KEN) comes down in distance, to be challenged by Uganda’s Winnie Nanyondo as well as three 2:00 performers this season: American Kaela Edwards (2:00.38), Spain’s Esther Guerrero (2:00.56) and Brit Adelle Tracey (2:00.99).

Women/3,000 m: The final event, and for good reason with 16 entries and eight from Kenya. World 5,000 m Champion Hellen Obiri has to be the favorite, from her world-leading 14:22.12 in the 5,000 m in Monaco last month. But she will get a considerable argument from Ethiopia’s Gudaf Tsegay, the Worlds 1,500 m bronze winner in Doha in 2019; Britain’s onrushing Laura Weightman, who has lifetime bests at 1,500 m and 5,000 m this season, world Steeple record holder Beatrice Chepkoech (KEN) and 2016 Olympic Steeple silver medalist Hyvin Kiyeng (KEN) and Kenyan Agnes Tirop, the 2015 World Cross Country champ.

In other events, France’s Christophe Lemaitre leads the field in the men’s 200 m, against Americans Michael Rodgers, Demek Kemp and Chris Belcher, among others, and former U.S. 400 m champion Kahmari Montgomery is one of the favorites in the men’s 400 m.

The meet will be televised in the U.S. by NBCSN, beginning at noon Eastern time on Friday.

Although the season is drawing to a close, world leaders were logged in the last few days in the men’s 10,000 m by Kenyan Nicholas Kimeli (26:58.97) on the 19th in Leiden (NED), and in the 50 km Walk by China’s Zhaxi Yangben (3:52:19) in a race in Taian on 20 September.

Cycling ● Dutch star Anna van der Breggen finally won the UCI World Championship in the Individual Time Trial, but only thanks to a terrible crash that ended the race for defending champion Chloe Dygert of the U.S.

Van der Breggen had won the Worlds silver in the three previous years as well as in 2015 and rode smoothly on the hilly, 31.7 km course in Imola, Italy. Seeded second, she was in a tight battle on the clock with third-seed Marlen Reusser of Switzerland, who eventually finished second (+15.58 seconds). Van der Breggen’s winning time was 40:20.14..

But Dygert was racing at a torrid pace and was 26.54 seconds ahead of Reusser and 36.25 seconds ahead of van der Breggen at the 14.9 km checkpoint. But soon after, her front wheel wobbled badly while on a right-turn descent and she not only plowed into a guard rail, but flipped over into the vegetation below.

Reports showed Dygert, 23, being placed on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to a hospital. She was conscious and speaking, but the extent of her injuries has been disclosed.

For van der Breggen, 30, the title just about completes her career as one of the greatest women’s riders ever. The reigning Olympic road gold medalist from Rio, she won the 2018 Worlds Road Race, three editions of the Giro Rosa and European titles in both the Road Race and Time Trial. She has said she will retire at the end of 2021.

Said the winner, “Getting second for many years, I cannot really believe it yet. I said to my director ‘Don’t tell me split times, I just want to go as fast as possible to the finish line’.”

Ellen van Dijk of The Netherlands won the bronze (+31.46) and two Americans finished in the top 10: former World Champion Amber Neben (6th: +1:20.32) and Lauren Stephens was ninth (+1:43.03).

The men’s Time Trial comes on Friday, the women’s Road Race on Saturday and the men’s Road Race on Sunday. NBC’s Olympic Channel has live coverage in the U.S.

The astonishing Stage 20 time trial by Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar that keyed his win in the Tour de France, as well as an investigation by French authorities into the Arkea-Samsic team headed by Colombian star Nairo Quintana, has started the chatter about doping in the sport once again.

You can read about the chirping here; two staff members of Quintana’s team were taken into custody, but both have been released. Said French rider Guillaume Martin, who finished 11th overall: “This is the price of the sport’s troubled past. One has to live with it.”

Figure Skating ● At age 20, Maria Sotskova’s figure skating career appears to be over. Really over.

The 2017 ISU Grand Prix Final silver medalist was banned for 10 years (!) by the Russian Anri-Doping Agency (RUSADA) for forging documents:

“RUSADA’s Disciplinary Committee has disqualified Maria Sotskova for 10 years for forging a medical certificate while trying to explain why she failed to comply with doping test obligations.

“A prohibited substance was also detected on one of Sotskova’s doping probes.”

She had announced her retirement last July, and RUSADA will ensure she stays that way.

Gymnastics ● USA Gymnastics filed two motions with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana this week, asking for time extensions for the filing of its revised plan of reorganization and for the movement of suits to federal court. These motions will allow the planned court-supervised mediation to go forward in October. In the motion to extend the deadline for removing suits from state court to federal court to 31 December 2020:

“The parties are currently finalizing the logistics for the Settlement Conference and the Debtor anticipates that preparing its Settlement Conference presentation will demand a significant investment of resources. In addition, the Debtor continues to revise its proposed plan of reorganization and disclosure statement. The Debtor also continues to prosecute in this Court, the District Court, and the Seventh Circuit certain insurance coverage disputes with the goal of increasing the amount of insurance proceeds available for a settlement fund.”

So the strategy of trying to twist more money from insurers continues in force.

Wrestling ● The U.S. will announce sanctions against an Iranian court, judge and prison facility today (24th) in the wake of the execution of wrestler Nafid Afkari. FoxNews.com reported:

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will announce Thursday afternoon sanctions against Judge Seyyed Mahmoud Sadati, Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz and Adelabad Prison for their involvement in the trial, imprisonment and execution of Navid Afkari, said a U.S. official. Afkari was a wrestler arrested in 2018 for participating in protests. He was accused of murder, tortured and executed Sept. 12, according to a U.S. official.

“‘These so-called ‘revolutionary courts’ are not what anyone in the United States would recognize as a court. Their purpose is to maintain the regime’s stranglehold on power and put Iranians who seek freedom into prison – or even to order their execution,’ said Elliott Abrams, U.S. Special Representative for Iran. ‘They take orders for their verdicts from the ayatollahs and they make a mockery of justice.’”

Doping ● Add another log on the Russian doping fire. According to a story on the Russian Sport-Express site, a massive 2017 investigation which led to doping inquiries of about 60 junior athletes and a physician – the “Chuvash case” – has nearly collapsed.

The criminal case eventually was dismissed but the Russian anti-doping process continued. Five athletes had hearings during the summer, with three acquitted and two others sanctioned (but for periods which had already expired). Another 16 cases were recently dismissed, with all of the athletes being minors.

According to the athlete’s attorney, Anna Antseliovich (per a computer translation from the original Russian):

“During the hearings, we were able to prove that the athletes, all of whom were minors at the time of 2017, could not realize that they were committing an anti-doping rule violation, and completely relied on the professionalism of the medical staff.”

So who was giving these youngsters these medications? Where are the charges against them?

Antseliovich indicated that there are still about 30 cases in process, with varying circumstances.

Sounds like the World Anti-Doping Agency might want to raise some questions.

XXII Olympic Winter Games: Sochi 2014 ● The Court of Arbitration for Sport announced decisions in three doping cases from the Sochi Games concerning Russian biathletes.

Olga Vilukhina won the silver in the 7.5 km Sprint and was seventh in the 10 km Pursuit (among five total events), Yana Romanova was in four events and Olga Zaytseva was in six. All were disqualified by the IOC for doping violations as part of the Russian cover-up scandal at the Games.

The CAS panel decided that not enough evidence was shown to adequately charge Vilukhina and Romanova with doping violations and their individual results (and Vilukhina’s silver medal) are restored. However, Zaytseva’s sanction for substitution of her sample and for using a prohibited substance was upheld. Her lifetime ban, however, was reduced to ineligibility for the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. Now 42, she retired in January 2015.

The Russian women’s 4×6 km Relay won silver in Sochi, with all three women participating, and that disqualification stands, as does the Mixed Relay, where Vilukhina and Zaytseva competed and the Russian team finished fourth.

The Last WordDavid Woods, the veteran Olympic writer for the Indianapolis Star, is worried about the future of the Games, commenting in a recent e-mail:

“I kinda think we will have an Olympics but am prepared for them to be cancelled, too. I thought back in March that it would be smart to postpone Tokyo to summer 2022.

“1940, 1980, 2020. No city should bid for 2060 Olympics.”

The 1940 Games was originally awarded to Tokyo, but was cancelled due to World War II; the 1980 Moscow Games suffered a massive, U.S.-led boycott, and now the unprecedented delay of the 2020 Games to 2021. Thankfully, no one has signaled interest in the Games of the XLII Olympiad!

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