The latest news, notes and quotes from the worldwide Five-Ring Circus:
● International Olympic Committee ● The IOC announced a remarkable €1 million grant by the French Sports Ministry to its Olympic Refuge Foundation to enable “a consortium of six partners in order to devise a unique three-year programme to support refugees and asylum-seekers in France.”
PLAY International, Kabubu, Futbol Mas, Ovale Citoyen, Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation and Emmaus Solidarite are the six organizations that will deliver on-the-ground services, beginning in early 2022. The IOC provided seed funding for this project of €300,000.
The Foundation is currently reaching 200,000 people through 12 projects in eight countries – Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, Rwanda, Turkey and Uganda – plus the new French program. According to the IOC, “The goal of the ORF is for one million young people affected by displacement to have access to safe sport by 2024.”
Comment: It is especially impressive to see the IOC bringing in funding from national partners in industrialized countries, which will be key expanding this project. Even more noteworthy is that the ORF concept is for year-round programming, not just for athletes attending the Olympic Games. Great idea, hopefully the execution will be just as terrific.
● XXIV Olympic Winter Games: Beijing 2022 ● The Beijing organizers revealed the Games motto of “Together for a Shared Future” in a ceremony on Beijing on Friday. The announcement noted:
“The Organising Committee explained that the motto represents the power of the Games to overcome global challenges as a community, with a shared future for humankind. The words reflect the necessity for the world to work together towards a better tomorrow, especially given the difficulties faced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The motto was selected from 79 proposals from Chinese universities, submitted between May and September 2020, with 11 shortlisted “by experts from various fields.”
IOC President Thomas Bach (GER) released a lengthy letter on Friday which previewed the kind of health scrutiny which will be imposed for the Beijing Winter Games, including:
“While the pandemic is far from over, I would like to reassure you that together with our Chinese partners and friends, we are sparing no effort to make these Olympic Winter Games safe and secure for everyone. As we did in Tokyo, we are putting in place rigorous COVID-19 countermeasures to ensure the health and safety of all Olympic participants in Beijing. We continue to be guided in this by the scientific advice of the World Health Organization and international experts. The first edition of the Playbooks for Beijing, which outline all the countermeasures for each stakeholder group, is scheduled to be published in October.”
Bach also announced that the IOC would again provide Covid vaccination support, “by making vaccines available to all Olympic participants ahead of Beijing, in line of course with national regulations.”
● Doping ● The Court of Arbitration for Sport handed down decisions in three long-awaited cases, confirming doping suspensions in each:
● Former marathon star and Nike Oregon Project coach Alberto Salazar and Dr. Jeffrey Brown had their suspensions for doping activities confirmed, with their four-year bans confirmed. An appeal by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to further extend those bans was denied.
Brown was found to commit doping violations including “Complicity (Art. 2.8) in Alberto Salazar’s possession of Testosterone; Trafficking (Art. 2.7) of testosterone to Alberto Salazar; Administration (Art. 2.8) of a Prohibited Method; Tampering (Art. 2.5) with the Doping Control Process.”
Salazar’s violations were listed as “Possession (Art. 2.6) of testosterone; Complicity (Art. 2.8) in Dr. Jeffrey Brown’s Administration of a Prohibited Method; Tampering (Art. 2.5) with the Doping Control Process with respect to the issue of L-carnitine infusions/syringes.”
The arbitrators also noted that “the circumstances of this matter, the length of hearings and the allegations made at various stages of those hearings, as well as the way in which the case was conducted by USADA and that the evidence was presented and, in some cases, later abandoned, seemed to be out of proportion and excessive when compared to the severity and consequences of the ADRVs that have been established. It also emphasized that none of the ADRVs directly affected athletic competition, and that there was no evidence put before the CAS as to any effect on athletes competing at the elite level within the NOP.”
● Australian swimming star Shayna Jack had her doping violation confirmed, but with only a two-year suspension, starting on 12 July 2019, and now completed.
Jack had initially been suspended for four years after the steroid Ligandrol had been found in an out-of-competition test. But she “established that she did not intentionally or recklessly consume the prohibited substance and could therefore benefit from a reduction in the period of ineligibility from four years to two years.”
Nigerian star sprinter and long jumper Blessing Okagbare was reported to have had her doping positive confirmed by examination of her second sample and will be suspended for four years.
She was pulled out of the Tokyo Games on 30 July after winning her heat as the Athletics Integrity Unit informed her of her positive, out-of-competition test from 19 July. She will undoubtedly appeal; Okagbare reportedly trains with the Tumbleweed Track and Field club in Florida under the direction of coach Rana Reider.
She was a medal contender in the women’s 100 m, having run 10.89 in 2021 and a sensational, wind-aided 10.63 (+2.9) at the Nigerian Olympic Trials. Now 32, she was the Beijing 2008 Olympic silver medalist in the long jump.
World Anti-Doping Agency President Witold Banka (POL) and Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin met in Istanbul on the sidelines of the WADA Executive Committee and Foundation Board meeting with an eye to eventual reinstatement of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency.
The two-year sanction against RUSADA will run out in December 2022, but reinstatement not automatic; it will depend upon the fulfillment of conditions for a properly-functioning anti-doping program in Russia. Said Banka:
“The need for RUSADA to retain its independence is critical. There must be no attempt by the Russian state or sporting authorities to interfere with any of its operations. Associated with that, the appointment of RUSADA’s next Director General must follow a rigorous process to ensure the right person is hired for this important position and that they are able to function independently in the role.” A guarantee of sufficient funding is also required to ensure proper operation of the anti-doping effort in the country.
● National Olympic Committees ● On Wednesday, the former Sports Minister of Kenya and chef de mission of the Kenyan team for the 2016 Rio Games were both found guilty of corruption related to the misuse of $800,000 of the Kenyan team’s budget for the Games.
Former minister Hassan Wario paid a $32,000 fine while chef de mission Stephen Soi – identified as the main culprit – was fined ~$950,000 or must serve 12 years in jail. Soi has 14 days to appeal.
● Athletics ● If you think the U.S. is the only country wailing about its performance in Tokyo in the sprints and relays, guess again. How about this tweet from Canadian track & field observer Katey Ross:
“British men’s sprint performances @Tokyo2020 included a 100m trio who brought home two DQs and a positive dope test … and a relay team that stole a medal (and Olympic moment!) from the 4th placed team. Remind us again why your Head Coach was a good appointment @JoannaCoates?”
Coates is the chief executive of UK Athletics; the 100 m disqualifications were for false starts by Reece Prescod in the semis and Zharnel Hughes in the final. C.J. Ujah, who was eliminated in the semis, was caught for doping and the British silver in the men’s 4×100 m will certainly be lost. The British women were eighth in the 100 m, had no 200 m finalists, but won bronze in the 4×100 m.
American Quanera Hayes won the U.S. Trials at 400 m, but had a tough time in Tokyo, finishing seventh and being left off the 4×400 m. But she rebounded at the Diamond League final in Zurich, winning in 49.88 … and the crowd made a big difference:
“Although I was really tired, it was really worth it. It’s like a night-and-day difference here compared to Tokyo, then coming here and having this crowd, and hear everyone cheer. It really is like a night-and-day difference. It’s amazing, truly amazing. I really was not expecting to run this fast. I was just praying to God I would come here and just run; didn’t expect any kind of time.”
Dutch star Sifan Hassan won the 5,000 and 10,000 m in Tokyo, but had to settle for bronze in the 1,500 m to defending champ Faith Kipyegon (KEN). Kipyegon won again in Zurich, 3:58.33-3:58.55, but Hassan says 2022 will be different:
“Faith Kipyegon, she is really one of the greatest athletes. Today was my last race and I wanted to give everything. And I did that and I am happy about it. After Tokyo I took a break and it was hard to get back mentally and physically. It was difficult. This year I struggled with my training, I could not go to [her training base in] the U.S. Next year, I will train my speed and I will be amazing.”
More amazing: Jamaica’s Olympic women’s 100/200 m winner Elaine Thompson-Herah after winning in Zurich at 10.65:
“It has been a crazy season, a long one and a tiring one. I was so consistent because I was just keeping the faith in me and did not allow any negativity. I am really happy and grateful.
“I would describe this season with one word: amazing, yet it had ups and downs. … but next year, the [10.49] world record is definitely on my mind.”
There are still a few meets going on; last Tuesday in Bellinzona (SUI), Canada’s 100 m bronze winner Andre De Grasse beat U.S. silver medalist Fred Kerley, 10.06-10.11 with 2004 Olympic champ Justin Gatlin (USA) third in 10.13.
Gatlin will be 40 on 10 February and could be in line to set World Masters records in the sprints. The age-40 record for 100 m in 9.93 by former World Champion Kim Collins (SKN) in 2016, and the 200 m mark is 20.64 by Troy Douglas (NED) from 2003.
Gatlin ran wind-aided 9.93s twice this season and had a legal best of 9.98. He also ran 20.49 in the 200 m! Maybe he can get both?
Also in Bellinzona, Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce won the women’s 100 m in 10.78 for her 13th straight race under 11 seconds and 13 of 15 on the season! That has to be a record.
The continuing Covid issues in Japan caused the organizers of the Tokyo Marathon – a World Marathon Majors race – scheduled for 17 October, to be postponed. The race will now be held in its usual spring date for 2022, on 6 March.
● Basketball ● A horrifying report commissioned by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and conducted by McLaren Global Sport Solutions was released on Tuesday detailing long-term sexual abuse of female players within the Mali Basketball Federation (FMBB). From page 12:
“[T]he evidence shows that the FMBB and certain other individuals linked to the FMBB violated multiple FIBA General Statutes and Internal Regulations including exhibiting little to no concern for the safeguarding of its players, nonexistent safeguarding policies, interference and obstruction with the independent investigation, victim and witness intimidation, harassment of players, failure to report complaints of abuse, among others.
“The [McLaren team] has direct witness evidence that Coach [Amadou] Bamba sexually assaulted multiple players in addition to other forms of harassment and intimidation as defined in the FIBA Internal Regulations. This evidence is reliable and corroborated by other witnesses. The Mali police have taken an interest in the matter because of the MIIT investigation. Various in-person statements and depositions have been given to the Mali Police. Coach Bamba has been arrested and charged with criminal misconduct. According to media reports he was arrested for paedophilia, rape and indecent assault.”
Bamba, head coach of the FMBB U-18/19 Women’s National Team; Cheick Oumar Sissoko, an FMBB coach; and Amadou Ario Maiga, a former FMBB vice-president, were all implicated and were suspended as of 13 June 2021. The report stated that the investigators were “unable to independently verify” the allegations against Sissoko or Maiga, “although the hearsay evidence is concerning.”
Current FIBA President Hamane Niang, of Mali, was alleged to have knowledge of the sexual abuse and did nothing; the investigation “was unable to corroborate any allegations” against him.
The report further noted “[e]fforts to intimidate witnesses and publicly debase the independent investigation were factors that obstructed the investigation” and “[a]lthough there was great reluctance for victims and witnesses to speak to the MIIT, there is an abundance of credible hearsay witnesses that allege and speak to decades long harassment, abuse, and cover-ups within the FMBB.”
FIBA acknowledged the report and created “a safeguard and protection service for the players of the U19 and U16 women’s teams from Mali.” Three other Mali basketball officials were suspended, based on their involvement as noted in the report and a new program to protect players will be presented to the FIBA Board in November.
As Niang was not implicated, he was cleared to resume his position as FIBA President.
● Boxing ● Using its always-polite approach, the IOC blasted the International Boxing Association (AIBA), underlining its concerns about the federation’s fitness to serve as the international federation for the sport.
IOC Director General Christophe De Kepper (BEL) acknowledged the positive aspects of the new AIBA constitution, but:
“it is also noted that so far no new leadership team amongst the elected officials has been put in place to effectively embrace the change of culture in the governance of AIBA. Therefore, the IOC would be pleased to receive information on the schedule for the renewal of the leadership, in particular the planned date for the AIBA Board of Directors’ elections, as well as the eligibility criteria and how they will be assessed.”
Further, the IOC has commissioned the EY consulting firm to “assess” the AIBA’s current financial statements and its public statements relative to eliminating its long-standing debt, “and the terms of any sponsorship contract.”
De Kepper also noted that the IOC “was informed of a number of complaints regarding the judging and refereeing (R&J) by the participants to both the AIBA Youth World Championships and Asian Championships held early this year” and that the practices of the IOC’s Boxing Task Force – which ran the Tokyo 2020 tournament – have not been incorporated into AIBA’s procedures.
The status? De Kepper closed with:
“On the basis of the above, the IOC Executive Board restated its deepest concerns and reiterated its previous position regarding the place of boxing in the programme of the Olympic Games Paris 2024 and future editions of the Olympic Games.”
AIBA posted a reply:
“AIBA has been working on comprehensive reform for some time now and is grateful for the IOC’s public acknowledgment that a step forward has certainly been taken in terms of good governance, as confirmed by ASOIF. Wide-ranging reforms are already underway in terms of financial integrity, good governance and sporting integrity, including all the areas mentioned by the IOC and more. Independent experts are involved in each of these sectors. AIBA is confident these reforms will see AIBA meet and even exceed the criteria laid down by the IOC for reinstatement.”
Comment: The IOC took up the issue of what to do about boxing very quickly after the Tokyo Games, where the tournament ran fairly well with AIBA nowhere in sight. AIBA is in a lot of trouble, regardless of its public statements; for the IOC, the question is what to do next? Keep boxing and find a replacement for AIBA? Or just cut boxing loose from the Games?
Speaking of money, AIBA announced a major increase in prize money for its men’s World Championships, to be held from 24 October-13 November in Belgrade (SRB).
Winners in each of the 13 classes will receive $100,000 U.S., with silver medalists to receive $50,000 and each of the bronze-medal winners to get $25,000. That’s a total of $2.6 million.
● Football ● The Carli Lloyd “farewell tour” got off to a historic start on Thursday evening, as the U.S. Women’s National Team clobbered Paraguay, 9-0, in Cleveland, with Lloyd scoring five of the goals herself!
Lloyd, 39, played the first of a four-game coda to her career in front of 14,117 and scored off a header in the third minute, off a cross from Crystal Dunn in the sixth minute and then again in the 34th and 38th minute – four in the first half – and finally in the 61st. She is the 10th U.S. women’s player to score five in a game and now has 133 international goals, no. 3 on the all-time U.S. list behind Abby Wambach (184) and Mia Hamm (158).
Andi Sullivan got her first two goals for the U.S. in the 25th and 49th minutes, Lynn Williams scored in the 30th minute and Tobin Heath got a goal in the 86th minute. The U.S. had a 36-1 edge in shots.
The two sides will meet again on the 21st, in Cincinnati’s new TQL Stadium.
In the aftermath of U.S. Soccer Federation chief Cindy Parlow Cone’s offer of the same contract to both the men’s and women’s national teams, women’s star striker Alex Morgan was optimistic, saying on Wednesday:
“We still need to chat about the statement given by U.S. Soccer. But any commitment to equal pay publicly is good. However, we need to look line by line at what they’re actually providing, because if you have equal but it’s not even what we got before, or to the value that we are, then we still consider that to be not good enough. …
“We don’t want to start the new year without a new [collective-bargaining agreement] in effect, so that’s the number one priority of our [player’s association], of our legal team. Looking at the [USSF] statements, it’s difficult to say, we want to feel encouraged and we want to be optimistic, but we have seen a lot of statements before.”
That’s quite a different take than offered by the U.S. women’s team’s Twitter account, which characterized the same-contract offer as “PR stunts and bargaining through the media.”
In the face of public rejections by UEFA and CONMEBOL of the possibility of a FIFA World Cup every two years, FIFA released the results of a 23,000-person independent survey in July in 23 countries, showing 55% of respondents were in favor of the more-frequent schedule.
A total of 15,008 took the survey, with more replies from Europe (28.4%) and Asia (22.1%) than any other regions. Some 8,234 preferred World Cups every two years and 6,774 liked the status quo.
FIFA has now authorized a 100,000-person survey across more than 100 countries and incorporating questions on both the men’s and women’s World Cups. This is a battle royal in the making.
CONCACAF announced Thursday that its Paris 2024 qualifiers in the men’s Olympic tournament will be the 2022 CONCACAF Men’s Under-20 Championship. This will replace the Olympic-year qualifying tournament held up to now.
A 20-team U-20 tournament will be organized in 2022, allowing the qualifying teams more time to pick their U-23 squad for 2024. No change has been announced concerning the women’s qualifying process.
● The Last Word ● The interest of international federations in the eSports sector continues to expand, but a new study by the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations shows that the future is anything but clear:
“The report shows that there are two ways for IFs to leverage gaming: either traditional sports are replicated virtually (link to the traditional sport, but the gaming activity includes no or very little physical activity, e.g. FIFA, World Sailing, etc) or technology is used to gamify real-world sport action (the focus is on physical activity while integrating augmented/ digital features, e.g. UCI, World Rowing, etc).
“These activities attract young audiences across genders and territories and can open up new revenue streams. At the same time IFs would have to invest financial and human resources to develop such new products, which likewise require significant effort for regular updates. The acceptance of the community is also unpredictable. In the light of these complexities, the report examines different roles IFs can play in the gaming and/or esports segment at their early development stage and without taking too many financial risks.”
Translation: Nothing is easy.
For our 743-event International Sports Calendar for 2021 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!