THE TICKER: L.A. City Council hearing on LA28 agreement Monday; World Athletics reports abuse on Twitter during Tokyo Games; pentathletes want riding retained

The Los Angeles City Hall, a 1928 Art Deco downtown icon (Photo: Tim Ahem via Wikipedia)

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


The seven-member Los Angeles City Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on the 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games will meet Monday (29th) to begin consideration of the proposed “Games Agreement” with the LA28 organizing committee.

The 23-page contract lays out a host of responsibilities for the organizing committee, but preserves the basic financial concept that the organizers will pay for the people, equipment and services it requires to put on the Games, but only for requests above the normal service level required by the City for its normal day-to-day operations.

An accompanying 22 November letter from City Council President Nury Martinez to Ad Hoc Committee Chair Mitch O’Farrell included:

“The Games Agreement is a significant step in creating a sustainable and financially viable Olympics in 2028. The agreement protects the city financially and provides a framework for investing any surplus revenue. With the launch of PlayLA on November 6th, we have already seen the immense benefit the Games can bring to our communities.

“The Games Agreement also lays out the work that still needs to occur. Most notably the formation of working groups to develop plans to advance specific city priorities particularly around legacy, human rights, workforce development, sustainability, transportation, and public safety. This work is vital in terms of creating an Olympics that aligns with the city’s values and which benefits all residents.”

In terms of public reporting, Martinez also emphasized that the LA28 organizers must make public presentations which include progress on the planning for the multitude of “benchmarks and deadlines” that are part of the Games Agreement.

From the City’s side, look for City Administrative Officer Matthew Szabo and Chief Legislative Analyst Sharon Tso to start the discussion, as their staffs were the primary constructors of the agreement. Beyond questions from the Council members, look for public comments both supporting and against, especially from activist groups who want to use the Games as a tool toward other goals having little or nothing to do with the 2028 Games.


● World Anti-Doping Agency ● The WADA Executive Committee and Foundation Board both met both in person and online in Paris (FRA), with significant changes to the governance structure.

A new WADA Athletes’ Council was announced, to be made up of 20 athletes, to be appointed or elected by other athletes or athlete commissions, and an Independent Ethics Board was approved.

The Executive Committee was expanded to 16 members, adding the chair of the new Athletes’ Council and an additional independent member. The Foundation Board was expanded to 42, adding four new seats with two representatives from the Athletes’ Council and two representatives of the National Anti-Doping Organizations.

These changes are in response to demands for more WADA independence and more athlete representation. They will not satisfy the activists, but these actions are moves forward.

The WADA Foundation Board also voted to honor Canada’s Richard W. Pound as the “Founding President” of WADA in recognition for his service to the anti-doping movement and the organization. Pound was the first WADA President from 1999-2007 and served on the WADA Foundation Board from 1999-2020, helping to create, pass and implement the landmark first edition of the World Anti-Doping Code in 2004.

● Athletics ● World Athletics released a limited, but disturbing report on abusive use of Twitter directed at athletes during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games this past summer.

Threat Matrix, an effort from data science company Signify Group Ltd and sports investigations company Quest Global Ltd., was tasked to study the activity on 161 Twitter accounts of athletes involved in the Tokyo Games, “derived from a list of 200 athletes selected by World Athletics” from 15 July-9 August 2021.

The study included 240,707 tweets which included 23,521 non-text entries such as images and videos. Analysis showed:

● “132 targeted discriminatory posts from 119 authors, with 23 of the 161 tracked athletes receiving targeted abuse.

● “Out of the 23 athletes who received abuse, 16 were women with 115 of the 132 identified abusive posts directed at female athletes.

● “Female athletes received 87% of all abuse.

● “63% of identified abuse was directed at just two athletes – both black and female – while the two most common categories of abuse were of a sexist (29%) and/or racist (26%) nature, accounting for 55% of all identified abuse.”

Taking these numbers another way, 14% of the 161 athletes followed received abuse on Twitter and there were 0.0548% (132/240,707) tweets considered abusive. And of the 132 abusive tweets, 115 were aimed at 16 women and 17 were aimed at six men. Approximately 83 of the total of 132 abusive tweets were aimed at two women (both black) and about 32 were aimed at the remaining 14 women. (The division of the followed athletes by gender was not provided.)

No individuals were identified, of course, and the study noted that U.S. athletes received “89% of racist abuse” although representing only 23% of the study group.

The survey results will be folded into the continuing work by World Athletics in its new “Safeguarding Policy,” and that “existing safeguarding measures on social media platforms need to be tougher to protect athletes.”

World Athletics released the 2022 Diamond League schedule, with 14 meets beginning on 13 May and ending on 8 September:

3 in May: 13 (Doha), 21 (Birmingham or London), 28 (Eugene)
5 in June: 5 (Rabat), 9 (Rome), 16 (Oslo), 18 (Paris), 30 (Stockholm)
1 in July: 30 (Shanghai)
3 in August: 6 (in China), 10 (Monaco), 26 (Lausanne)
2 in September: 2 (Brussels), 7-8 (Zurich).

More details are expected by year-end.

American distance star Shelby Houlihan, suspended for four years the Athletics Integrity Unit for doping (nandrolone) through January 2025, has started a ClearShelby site, incorporating a GoFundMe site.

Her case was reviewed and her appeal rejected by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but the ClearShelby site continues to make her case and includes documents and a timeline. The home page includes:

“To clearly and unequivocally state, not only has she never knowingly taken nandrolone, the substance she was accused of, she has never knowingly taken any banned substance. This ultimately ended her 2021 bid for the Tokyo Olympic team. In her pursuit over the past 11 months to fight this suspension and prove her innocence, she has had to pay for the entire process out of pocket – this she cannot afford. …

“We are in firm belief that the documents provided help outline the nature of the case, and how ultimately, Shelby has had her career taken away for something she did not do.”

● Football ● A study to be released at the World Leagues Forum next week projects that having a FIFA men’s World Cup every two years could cost domestic football leagues as much as €8 billion (~$9 billion U.S.) a year from reductions in television rights and sponsorships.

Commissioned by the leagues, the study was reported on prior to release by Reuters and was compiled by the international consulting firms of KPMG and the Delta Partners unit of the FTI Consulting Group.

FIFA has committed to a worldwide consultation session in December on the issue; add the study onto the pile.

Two Norwegian television staff members were detained for 30 hours and had their equipment confiscated while trying to film a report about conditions for workers in Qatar during the preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

The Associated Press reported:

“Qatar’s government accused NRK journalists Halvor Ekeland and Lokman Ghorbani of ‘trespassing on private property and filming without a permit’ as the two returned Wednesday to Norway following their arrest.”

The Norwegian government protested their arrest and having to leave their equipment, as did the country’s football federation and journalist’s union. NRK’s statement said in part:

“Even if the Qatari authorities believe the journalists broke any rules, the treatment they were given is not acceptable. The detention of the journalists and the confiscation of all their equipment are in any case completely out of proportion. It threatens free and independent journalism and creates a serious chilling effect for all journalists visiting Qatar.”

The AP also posted a lengthy report that detailed how Qatari officials hired Global Risk Advisors, a company created by former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operations officer Kevin Chalkerto spy on rival bid teams and key soccer officials who picked the winner in 2010. Chalker also worked for Qatar in the years that followed to keep tabs on the country’s critics in the soccer world.”

Qatar won the rights to stage the 2022 World Cup in an upset over the U.S., South Korea, Japan and Australia, and David Downs, the long-time broadcast executive who headed the American bid told the AP, “It’s very telling that they would be hiring ex-CIA operatives to get inside information. A lot of what they did was either bending the rules or outright breaking the rules.”

In the latest chapter of abuse scandals and the National Women’s Soccer League, the coach of the Chicago Red Stars, Rory Dames, resigned last Sunday (21st) a day after the club lost the league title, 2-1, to the Washington Spirit.

Dames, 48, left the club one day before a story in The Washington Post carried player allegations of verbal and emotional abuse. The news release announcing his resignation did not include any mention of the allegations, but included “For 11 years, I have dedicated myself to help build the Chicago Red Stars into one of the top international clubs. Effective today, I’m refocusing my attention to my family and future endeavors, and I am resigning as coach of the Chicago Red Stars.”

On Monday, the club posted a statement including:

“We stand with the players who are fiercely advocating for change, and we are committed to doing our part to ensure a safe environment for the League’s players, staff, volunteers and fans.

“In conjunction with our players, the Chicago Red Stars several weeks ago initiated an independent review of player health and safety and the team’s culture and work environment.”

On Tuesday, the club ownership posted a statement that included:

“We apologize to Christen Press, Jennifer Hoy, Samantha Johnson and those players who didn’t feel safe to come forward, and we are deeply sorry for the pain they endure.

“As the owners of the Chicago Red Stars, we commit to holding ourselves accountable and to doing better. There is no place for any type of abuse in women’s sports. The fact that it happened here, despite the belief that we had mechanisms in place to prevent it, means our club will require significant reflection and evaluation to ensure this does not happen again.”

The statement also committed the club to “player involvement” in the selection of a new coach, and a deeper screening of candidates prior to hiring.

Abuse issues have shaken the NWSL, which has seen allegations in at least three franchises and which caused a change in the league’s commissioner.

● Gymnastics ● The long-running USA Gymnastics bankruptcy case will enter an important week, beginning with a hearing in Monday (29th), with all ballots on the reorganization plan due on that date.

The voting report must be filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana by Thursday, 2 December and objections to the plan are due by Friday, 3 December.

If all goes according to plan, a hearing to confirm the plan could be held on 13-14 December.

A report on operations through 31 October has been filed, with total legal fees in the case at $17.245 million, with $10.807 million paid by USA Gymnastics’ insurers so far.

● Modern Pentathlon ● A group of leading pentathletes has been on a frantic letter-writing campaign under the umbrella of “Pentathletes United,” sending notices signed by as many as 46 athletes decrying the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) Executive Board decision to remove the riding discipline from the event.

Letters to the national pentathlon federations were sent on 22-23-25 November, in advance of this weekend’s UIPM Congress, being held in Monaco and online. The main points made in the letters:

● The IOC has not asked the UIPM to remove riding in order to remain in the Games

● “Modern Pentathlon without horse riding would not be Modern Pentathlon”

● The actions of the UIPM regarding riding’s removal are outside of the federation’s rules.

The letters urge the national federations to (1) vote against the removal of riding and (2) to vote against incumbent President Klaus Schormann (GER) and the current UIPM leadership, characterized in the 25 November letter as “an ‘old boys club’ that has clung to power for decades.”

The best part of all of this is that it will be hashed out in a federation Congress, with all of the national federations getting to participate. Expect that this is the beginning and not the end of the process, regardless of what decision is reached.

● Table Tennis ● While the World Table Tennis Championships are ongoing (through the 29th) in Houston, Texas, the ITTF Congress was held and Sweden’s Petra Soerling elected president, running unopposed.

She succeeds Germany’s Thomas Weikert, the ITTF chief since 2014, and is not only the first woman head of the federation, but the first current World Champion to hold the office. She and Denmark’s Pia Toelhoj won the Masters women’s 45-49 doubles title in 2018 in five sets!


● Basketball ● The Americas qualifying tournament for the 2023 FIBA men’s World Cup starts this weekend, with the first competition windows with games from 26-29 November.

There are 16 teams in the Americas tournament, with seven countries to ultimately qualify. Each team will play 12 games, with the four groups:

A: Argentina, Venezuela, Panama, Paraguay
B: Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Chile
C: Canada, Dominican Republic, Virgin Islands, The Bahamas
D: United States, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba

The first games for the U.S. will be in Chihuahua City, Mexico, first against Cuba on Sunday and against Mexico on Monday. The next set of games won’t be until February 2022.

The U.S. team is made up of G League players and free agents and will be coached by former University of Utah and Chicago Bulls head coach Jim Boylan.

● The Last Word ● Another indicator of the rise of eSports: the new state budget of North Carolina includes $5 million per year for the Esports Industry Grant Fund, designed to encourage major gaming competitions to be held in the state.

The program is meant to be used for events costing $250,000 to operate and can be used to reimburse up to 25% of the spending on in-state goods, services, and staff.

A major incentive to bring these events to North Carolina, and it could set off similar concepts in other cities and states. It’s an important milestone in the growth of electronic gaming in the U.S.

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