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The latest news, notes and quotes from the worldwide Five-Ring Circus:
● Miller Time ● Veteran British Olympic observer David Miller considers whether a postponed 2020+1 Olympic Games in Tokyo may be devalued by the absence of countries where the coronavirus may not yet be under control. Like the United States!
● World University Games ● The U.S. has had a mostly-disinterested relationship with the World University Games, established in 1959 and designed to be for athletes who are in college or recently completed student work and are between 17-25 years old.
That appears to be changing.
The U.S. Olympic Committee (now Olympic & Paralympic Committee) supported American participation in the WUG in the 1990s and up to about 2003, primarily with support staffing, travel and uniforms, but decided the event was not a core program and U.S. participation is now in the hands of the U.S.-International University Sport Federation (US-IUSF).
Longtime chair Gary Cunningham, the former UCLA basketball coach from 1978-79 and later athletic director at the University of California, Santa Barbara, retired at head of the US-IUSF and recently-retired UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero has assumed the lead role.
Over lunch on a patio in a rare open restaurant in Los Angeles, Guerrero explained that he is looking for a more active role for the US-IUSF in the future: “We’re excited about what’s coming up and bringing the World University Games back to the U.S.” He noted:
● Despite the pandemic, the US-IUSF is planning to field at team at the 2021 Winter World University Games in Lucerne, Switzerland from 21-31 January. This is especially important since the 2023 Winter World University Games will be held in Lake Placid, New York, from 12-22 January.
It’s only the second time the Winter WUG will be held in the U.S. The first was also in Lake Placid, back in 1972, with 410 athletes competing in seven sports. The last event, in Krasnoyarsk (RUS) in 2019, attracted 3,000 athletes competing in 11 sports.
● The 2021 World University Games is scheduled for Chengdu, China from 18-29 August, and in Kazan (RUS) for 2023. The last WUG, in Naples (ITA) drew 5,971 athletes, but as many as 12,885 have attended for the 2015 WUG in Gwangju (KOR).
● Guerrero said that interest in the WUG is increasing, with a possible host city in Germany for 2025 and the U.S. for 2027.
A U.S.-based World University Games would be pretty interesting in 2027, one year prior to the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. The U.S. hosted a summer WUG only once before, in Buffalo, New York in 1993, with 3,582 athletes competing in 12 sports.
The current program includes 15 required sports and up to three optional sports. Guerrero indicated that preliminary discussions are underway about a bid city or area.
(The best choices would be areas with large universities already in place that can offer athlete housing and competition and training facilities. Obvious options would be the “Research Triangle” area of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, which hosted the 1987 U.S. Olympic Festival; Houston, Texas, which constructed an excellent bid to be the U.S. candidate city for the 2012 Olympic Games and perhaps also Austin, Texas, site of the University of Texas and an increasingly popular site for conferences and events, or Indianapolis, site of the 1987 Pan American Games.)
To get all of this done, Guerrero has a building job on his hands. He and Secretary General Delise O’Meally, Executive Director of the Institute for Sport & Social Justice at the University of Central Florida – both volunteers – operate on an annual budget of only about $60,000, enough for paying dues to the International University Sports Federation (FISU) and travel to some meetings. But Guerrero was a prolific fund-raiser – in the hundreds of millions – during his 18 years as Director of Athletics at UCLA and will look to expand the US-IUSF profile.
The FISU, under the leadership of Russian Oleg Matytsin, has also shown more vigor since his election in 2015. In fact, his efforts were noticed nationally and he was named as Russian Minister of Sport on 21 January of this year. Guerrero believes Matytsin will remain as the head of FISU and has ambitious plans to make the organization more visible within the worldwide Olympic Movement.
● U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee ● As S. 2330, the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic, and Amateur Athletes Act of 2020, was making its way to the U.S. Senate floor for unanimous approval on Tuesday (4th), a companion bill was finally introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.
H.R. 7881, To amend the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act to provide for congressional oversight of the board of directors of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee and to protect amateur athletes from emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, and for other purposes, was introduced on 31 July by Ted Lieu (D-California), with five co-sponsors: John Curtis (R-Utah), Dianna DeGette (D-Colorado), Susan Brooks (R-Indiana), Ann Kuster (D-New Hampshire) and Michael Burgess (R-Texas).
The bill was sent to the House Judiciary Committee and to the House Committee on Education and Labor. Lieu is a member of the Judiciary Committee, but none of the five co-sponsors are on either committee.
While the USOPC has made many of the changes requested during the four Senate sub-committee hearings that led to the filing of S. 2330, there are significant problems with this bill and the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act of 2019 (S. 259). In the Moran-Blumenthal bill (S. 2330), the Congress would have the power to – by resolution – to decertify a U.S. National Governing Body or to dismiss the entire Board of the USOPC. Both of those actions would be contrary to the Olympic Charter and invite a suspension of the USOPC by the International Olympic Committee.
Let’s see what happens in the House.
● Doping ● As if there wasn’t enough drama already in Russia concerning doping in sport, the Supervisory Board of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) recommended the dismissal of the head of that agency, Yuriy Ganus, to the Russian National Olympic Committee.
Ganus has been given high marks for revamping RUSADA into a working and competent anti-doping organization, and allegations against him for financial mismanagement over taxi fares and English lessons – among other things – have left the World Anti-Doping Agency considerably concerned.
The Russian Olympic Committee and Russian Paralympic Committee commissioned an inquiry into RUSADA finances and came up with conclusions of mismanagement against Ganus. On 5 August (Wednesday), WADA issued a statement noting:
“Today’s recommendation has presented further very important questions as to the validity of the legal process that has been followed and the motives behind the recommendation. …
“It is a critical element of the World Anti-Doping Code that National Anti-Doping Organizations, such as RUSADA, remain safe from any interference of the relevant National Olympic and Paralympic Committees in their operational decisions and activities in order to conduct their work effectively. This is why WADA’s independent Compliance Review Committee (CRC), when it issued its recommendation to declare RUSADA non-compliant with the Code that was unanimously endorsed by the Agency’s Executive Committee on 9 December 2019, made it a condition of RUSADA’s eventual reinstatement that WADA remains satisfied that RUSADA’s independence is being respected and there is no improper outside interference with its operations.”
Ganus, for his part, has been strident in condemning the allegations on Twitter and last Sunday issued a remarkable three-panel tweet (in Russian and English) which included this:
“The root of our problems lies not in the western countries unlike it has been portrayed. The problems are internal. The greatest fear is the fear of change, fear to break the old disastrous patterns and methods. The tasks related to sports, se by the Russian President, are not accomplished and can not be accomplished because of the corrupt and inefficient old approaches and methods. …
“In a considerable part of our sports, the need for changes in attitude to doping, and the plausibility of such changes are either not understood or underestimated, or deliberately ignored.”
In the meantime, Russia has been slapped with a four-year sanction by WADA which could keep it out of the 2021-22-24 Olympic Games; its appeal will be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in November.
● Athletics ● The London Marathon announced Thursday that it will hold only the elite-athlete portion of its 2020 race on 4 October, on a course that will be devoid of spectators.
Event Director Hugh Brasher’s announcement included:
“Despite all our efforts, the fantastic support from all of our partners and the progress that has been made on planning for the return of smaller mass participation events that are not on the roads, it has not been possible to go ahead with a mass socially distanced walk or run.
“In parallel with the work on the plans for the socially distanced mass event, we had a team working on planning the elite races for men, women and wheelchair athletes in a biosphere environment in St James’s Park and another team creating a truly inspiring Virgin Money London Marathon which means participants across the UK and abroad can still be part of The 40th Race from their home or wherever they might be on 4 October.”
The date for the 2021 race was also moved to 3 October, “to give the best chance for the mass race to return.”
The Athletics Integrity Unit has been busy, issuing bans to Ukraine’s Nataliia Krol for 20 months from 16 January 2020 and to Turkish steepler Gulcan Mingir, for two years from 3 February 2020.
Krol was hit for use of a prohibited substance (hydrochlorothiazide, a diruretic used for high blood pressure) and Mingir for DHCMT (the steroid Turinabol) in a re-test of her 2012 specimen given at the London Olympic Games.
As Nataliia Pryshchepa, she won the European 800 m titles in 2016 and 2018 with a lifetime best of 1:58.60 in 2016. Her last competition was in October, 2019.
The now-retired Mingir was the 2012 European steeple champ and was a 2012 Olympian in that event (eliminated in the heats). Her marks from 4 August 2012 to 4 August 2014 were erased, eliminating her Olympic results and her World University Games victory in 2013.
The clock is ticking on the 15 August deadline for payment of the $6.31 million in fines and costs due to World Athletics from the Russian Athletics Federation. At the same time, a detailed plan for reinstatement is due to be filed by the end of August, by the RusAF Reinstatement Commission.
This body consists of Russian Anti-Doping Agency, the Russian Olympic Committee and Russian sports ministry, and at least two athletes, and is expected to meet for the second time on Friday, 7 August.
Said acting RusAF President Alexei Plotnikov, “We have enormous work ahead. We held the first reinstatement commission meeting on July 27, when the decision was made to draft a detailed plan for RusAF to steer clear out of the crisis and submit it to World Athletics for approval. We will discuss the draft of this vital document at the second meeting, which should take place August 7. We will also talk about all the recommendations that were voiced at [the World Athletics] Council meeting.”
If this plan is not submitted on time, it could trigger a decision for formal expulsion of the Russian Athletics Federation.
● Cycling ● A horrific crash marred the finish of the first stage of the Tour de Pologne, with Dutch rider Fabio Jakobsen declared the winner, but suffering severe injuries due to interference in the final sprint by fellow Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen.
On the downhill sprint finish at the end of the 195.8 kg kick-off leg from Stadion Slaski to Katowice, Groenewegen (who rides for the Jumbo-Visma team) moved from the center of the road to the right side. According to CyclingNews, “His actions forced Jakobsen into the barriers at high-speed with the Dutch national champion smashing through the roadside safety equipment and into a race official who was left unconscious.”
Jakobsen, who rides for Deceuninck-Quick Step, was taken to a hospital and underwent 5 1/2 hours of facial reconstructive surgery and was in intensive care in an induced coma overnight. On Twitter, Groenewegen – who suffered a broken collarbone – wrote:
“I hate what happened yesterday. I can’t find the words to describe how sorry I am for Fabio and others who have been crashed or hit. At the moment, the health of Fabio is the most important thing. I think about him constantly.”
The race reported that the injured official was in stable condition.
Dane Mads Pedersen won the second stage on Thursday and the race continues through Sunday.
● Figure Skating ● The French Ministry of Sports stated that more than 20 coaches working with French skaters are the subject of accusations into abuse, harassment or violence.
The inquiry was launched after multi-time French champion Sarah Abitbol alleged sex abuse by her coach in the early 1990s. The ministry stated that “The volume of cases identified is indicative of practices and behaviours that have been replicated through generations of coaches. It is unparalleled internationally.”
The report will be forwarded to the government prosecutors in Paris.
The International Skating Union confirmed on Monday that its Grand Prix season of six competitions will be held – maybe – but with only competitors from the host country, skaters training in the country where the event will take place and skaters in nearby countries who can meet the requirements for entry in the applicable country.
The results will not count for world rankings, or for qualification for ISU Championship events. The Grand Prix season is slated to start on 23 October at Skate America in Las Vegas.
● Short Track Skating ● A unique milestone for the sport as Eddy Alvarez, who grew up in Miami as a roller-blader and later became a U.S. Olympian in Short Track in 2014, was called up to the Miami Marlins of Major League Baseball.
Alvarez won a silver medal in the 5,000 m relay in Sochi in 2014 and competed in the 500 m (finishing 31st), 1,000 m (11th) and 1,500 m (19th). He then turned his attention to baseball and after six minor-league seasons, he joined Miami this week as an infielder.
He debuted on Wednesday in Baltimore against the Orioles in a 1-0 Marlins win, going 0-3 and handling one chance defensively at second base.
● Swimming ● Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis could be the site of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials, with a temporary pool placed on the existing football field.
The Indianapolis Star reported that a bid is being developed for USA Swimming to bring the Trials back to Indy, which has hosted the event six times previously, most recently in 2000.
The story noted that St. Louis is also interested in bidding and Omaha, the site of the 2008-12-16-21 Trials, will almost certainly request the event again. The CenturyLink Center held about 14,000 for swimming in 2016, but Lucas Oil Stadium would be able to host more than 70,000 for each session.
Like the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four, however, those swimmers will look awfully small from the upper reaches of a football stadium. A decision on the 2024 Trials host could be made as early as this December.
● The Last Word ● Naturally, the amazing 50 m swim by U.S. distance superstar Katie Ledecky with a glass of chocolate milk on her head has spawned imitators.
Australia’s Susie O’Neill, 47, who won eight Olympic medals as a freestyler and butterfly swimmer from 1992-2000, got into the act on Wednesday, trying to balance a glass of beer on her head for 25 m.
She almost got there, but the glass fell off just before the finish as O’Neill turned her head slightly. Maybe she should have used a snorkel for breaking as Ledecky did!
Although some of the beer fell off into the water, O’Neill gulped down what was left so it wouldn’t go to waste!