THE TICKER: USOPC chief calls S. 2330 “a big win,” Paris 2024 cuts costs; London Marathon Sunday; Operation Aderlass doping doctor confesses

A fourth London Marathon win for the unbeatable Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) in 2019.

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

U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee ● Following the passage of S. 2330 in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, USOPC chief executive Sarah Hirshland posted a short statement on Twitter that included:

“Team USA athletes had a big win in the halls of Congress today with the passing of the Empowering Olympic, Paralympic and Amateur Athletes Act. … It will cement increases in athlete representation in the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movements, improvements in athlete safety protections, and bolster accountability and transparency in our system.

“The USOPC board has already approved two of the most sweeping governance reform updates in recent history, and a third phase is before the board this fall. This legislation codifies many of those reforms, with the USOPC now positioned to move quickly to address any outstanding provisions and support the work of the Commission. …”

No mention was made of the contentious aspects of the bill, most especially the possible dissolution of the USOPC Board or de-certification of a U.S. National Governing Body by a joint resolution of the Congress.

Is this whistling past the graveyard? Or perhaps a happy face on what the USOPC Board has already achieved, and more action to come behind the scenes on the problematic aspects of the bill that has the International Olympic Committee considerably concerned?

Games of the XXXIII Olympiad: Paris 2024 ● The Paris organizing committee announced a series of important cost-control measures on Wednesday, impressively demonstrating its serious intentions to keep within its announced spending limits:

● The temporary venues for swimming and water polo, and for volleyball will not be built and existing facilities will be used for both.

● Rugby Sevens will be moved to the Stade de France, meaning the Stade Jean-Bouin will not be used.

● Football venues will be reduced from eight to seven.

The climbing facility will be moved and a permanent site will be created and an existing facility in Lille will also be used.

All of this is designed to keep the overall Games budget at €6.8 billion (~$7.97 billion U.S.), with the Paris 2024 share at €3.8 billion (~$4.45 billion U.S.)

These will not be the last cuts, nor should they be. However, the politics of these moves are thick, with concern from the Seine-Saint-Denis area, which has been promised most of the development action from the Games. The release noted:

“With over 80% of public Solideo investment earmarked for this area, representing a total of nearly €1 billion, Seine-Saint-Denis continues to stand out as the main beneficiary of the Paris 2024 Games.”

Not as flashy, but also noteworthy was a further announcement:

“The Board of Directors also approved the creation of the Academy, the official Paris 2024 training body, to enable all those involved in organising the Games (employees, volunteers and service providers) to expand their knowledge and develop the skills they need to make the event a success and officially recognise the learnings drawn from the experience. Set up in collaboration with the French National Olympic and Sports Committee and the French Paralympic and Sports Committee, the Paris 2024 Academy will also help to boost sporting performance by also offering a complete training package.”

Organizing committees always have a difficult time in figuring out how to engage the local population interested in the Games in the years prior, whether they become volunteers or just ticket buyers. Involving the national Olympic and Paralympic organizations in the effort can help to create a lasting corps of fans and supporters for the longer term.

Athletics ● What was an expected highlight of the fall road racing season has become another likely showcase for Kenyan marathon superstar (and world-record holder) Eliud Kipchoge.

This Sunday’s 40th London Marathon is being held as an elite-only race, with the world-class fields racing on a flat, 2.15 km loop course in St. James’s Park in central London and finishing on The Mall. Barring inclement weather, the race was expected to pit Kipchoge against Ethiopia’s Kenenisa Bekele in a possible world-record challenge.

Then came Bekele’s announcement earlier today on Twitter:

“An unfortunate calf injury has forced Kenenisa Bekele to withdraw from the London Marathon. ‘This race was so important to me. My time in Berlin last year gave me great confidence and motivation and I was looking forward to show that again, I have worked so hard for it.”

So the top of the men’s field looks like this:

2:01:39 (‘18) Eliud Kipchoge (KEN) ~ Olympic champ ‘16, four-time London winner
2:02:55 (‘19) Mosinet Geremew (ETH) ~ 2019 London runner-up
2:03:16 (‘19) Mule Wasihun (ETH) ~ 2019 London bronze medalist
2:03:36 (‘19) Sisay Lemma (ETH) ~ 2019 Berlin Marathon bronze medalist
2:04:06 (‘18) Tamirat Tola (ETH) ~ 2017 Worlds silver medalist

Rio Olympian Jared Ward (2:09:25 ‘19) is the lone listed American entry.

Women:

2:14:04 (‘18) Brigid Koskei (KEN) ~ World-record holder; defending champion
2:17:08 (‘19) Ruth Chepngetich (KEN) ~ 2019 World Champion
2:18:31 (‘18) Vivian Cheruiyot (KEN) ~ 2016 Olympic 5,000 m gold; 2018 London champ
2:19:10 (‘19) Valary Jemeli (KEN) ~ 2019 Frankfurt Marathon champ
2:19:26 (‘19) Degitu Azimeraw (ETH) ~ 2019 Amsterdam Marathon winner

The top American entry is Sara Hall (2:22:16 at Berlin ‘19). Molly Seidel, who was second at the U.S. Olympic Trials in February (2:27:31 PR) will also race; should we call her a “2020 Olympian” or “2021 Olympian”?

Due to the pandemic, the prize purse has been reduced to $30,000-15,000-10,000-7,500-5,000-3,500-2,500-2,000-1,500-1,000-750-500 for the top 12 places for men and women ($79,250 total per gender). There is a $125,000 bonus for a world record for men or women.

The race had 42,096 starters in 2019, but will hold a “virtual” race in 2020, with 45,000 signed up to participate wherever they are.

The race will be shown in the U.S. on NBCSN starting at 2 a.m. Eastern on Sunday morning (11 p.m. Saturday evening Pacific time).

The new dust-up in international sport is the election of national federation officials in Belarus, where Ivan Tikhon was elected as president, succeeding Vadim Devyatovskiy. The ruckus is over the fact that both served doping bans!

Tikhon is 44 and was World Champion in 2003 and 2007 and the 2016 Rio silver medalist and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist from Beijing. He served a two-year ban from 2012-14 for steroid use. He hasn’t competed much in 2018 or 2019, but did reach 80.04 m (262-7) in 2017 and could compete for an Olympic slot in 2021!

Cycling ● The UCI World Tours for men and women are continuing, with the famed Giro d’Italia starting on Saturday and the Liege-Bastogne-Liege races coming on Sunday.

Usually the first Grand Tour of the season, the 21-stage Giro will begin in Sicily in Monreale and head to Palermo in a 15.1 km Individual Time Trial. Even with the short respite from the Tour de France, the race is loaded with stars, including two-time champion Vincenzo Nibali (ITA), former bronze medalists Miguel Angel Lopez (COL) and Thomas de Gendt (BEL), fourth-placer Steven Kruijswijk (NED) and fifth-placer Domenico Pizzovivo (ITA).

World Time Trial champ Filippo Ganna (ITA), sprint star Peter Sagan (SVK), former Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas (GBR) and fellow British star Simon Yates are all entered. Rio Olympic silver medalist Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) could be one to watch as well.

On Wednesday, Marc Hirschi (SUI) and Dutch superstar Anna van der Breggen took the titles at La Fleche Wallonne in Belgium.

Hirschi, 22, has been one of the breakout stars of 2020, winning a Tour de France stage and taking third at the World Championships road race. He scored his first win in a World Tour Classics race, ahead of Benoit Cosnefroy (FRA), Michael Woods (CAN) and Warren Barguil (FRA), all timed in 4:49:17.

The unstoppable van der Breggen took both titles at the World Championships and added a sixth straight La Fleche Wallonne title by just two seconds over Cecile Uttrup Ludwig (DEN) and six seconds on Demi Vollering (NED).

On Sunday, the 106th running of Liege-Bastogne-Liege has new World Champion Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) atop the field, plus Rio Olympic champ Greg Avermaet (BEL), four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome (GBR), 2020 Tour de France winner Tadej Pogacar (SLO), Britain’s Adam Yates and many more.

The women’s race from Bastogne to Liege has van der Breggen out for yet another win – her fifth in a row in 2020 – and will be challenged by countrywomen Annemiek van Vleuten, Marianne Vos, Ellen van Dijk and Vollering, and familiar foes such as Kasia Niewiadoma (POL), Elisa Longo Borghini (ITA), Lizzie Deignan (GBR), Ludwig (DEN) and Arlenis Sierra (CUB).

The 16th BinckBank Tour in Belgium and the Netherlands has one more stage to go on Saturday, with Danes Mads Pedersen and Soren Kragh Andersen (-0:07) atop the leaderboard. Belgian Jasper Philipsen won the first stage; the second stage was canceled due to the virus; Pedersen won stage three in Aalter and Andersen won the stage 4 time trial. Saturday’s final route is a hilly, 183.6 km ride from Ottignies-Louvain-la-Nueve to Geraardsbergen.

There was a major development on Tuesday (29th) in the Operation Aderlass trial in Munich (GER) as German physician Mark Schmidt “made a comprehensive confession and has admitted [doping] manipulation since 2012.”

Schmidt has been charged with 150 allegations of assisting doping in cycling and in winter sports, mostly with blood doping procedures. From the Westdeutsche Zeitung (via Google Translate):

“‘I have not made a profit with doping,’ said the doctor. From the athletes, Mark S. normally received 5000 euros per season as a basic amount for medical care – more intensive measures cost more, and there was also a surcharge if the athletes were successful. He had large expenses, for example through special equipment for blood preparation as well as travel and hotel expenses.”

The case exploded in February 2019 with a raid on five athletes during the FIS World Nordic Championship in Seefeld (AUT). Multiple bans were imposed by the FIS and the case against Schmidt and four others is expected to reach a decision by the end of the year.

“Last year, I followed a stage of the Vuelta [de Espana] with the Prime Minister of Andorra. Before the last climb, a rider emptied everything he had in his pockets. [The Prime Minister] asked me what he was doing…and asked ‘is that allowed? It is unacceptable.’ We could have problems obtaining permission to use the road if efforts are not made.”

That’s UCI chief David Lappartient (FRA), complaining about the recurring problem of litter during UCI World Tour races, and he’s going to more to stop it.

Such behavior is already subject to fines, but “It will undoubtedly be time fines in a stage race. It’s clear that it cannot stay this way. There are efforts that have been made by the organizers and riders but, unfortunately, this is not the case everywhere.

“It is clear there was unacceptable behaviour during the Tour de France. When you throw away a can and there are people, no problem, but when you get rid of waste in nature…it’s unacceptable.” Lappartient intends to have such penalties in place by the start of next season.

Figure Skating ● A USA Today report on Tuesday announced the retirement of French figure skating pair Morgan Cipres and Vanessa James after allegations of lewd conduct involving a minor.

The matter is being investigated by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, as Cipres trains in Florida and the activity – a photograph sent by social media in December 2017 – took place there. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is also involved.

Cipres and James won the World Championships bronze in Pairs in 2018 and the European Championships gold in 2019. They were expected to be among the medal contenders at the Beijing 2022 Winter Games.

Gymnastics ● USA Gymnastics filed its latest report on operations with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana, with total legal expenses in the case nearing the $12 million mark.

For the eight law firms and related entities involved, total fees since the case was filed on 5 December 2018 through the end of July 2020 totaled $11,962,301. Of that total, some $6,961,446 in fees and $219,193 in expenses has been paid.

Wow.

Modern Pentathlon ● Team USA lost its oldest living medal winner on Wednesday (30th). USA Pentathlon chief executive Rob Stull sent a note explaining:

“[W]e lost a legend in both the equestrian and Modern Pentathlon families. Col. John Russell passed away at noon today at his home in Texas. He was America’s oldest living Olympic medalist aged 100 years, 7 months and 28 days. He was a decorated soldier serving on General Patton’s staff in WWII and coached and mentored thousands of athletes in his career. A true legend and a monumental loss for sport.”

Russell competed in the 1948 Olympic Games in London following the end of the war, during which he received a Bronze Star, the Soldier’s Medal and a Purple Heart; he was wounded in Italy during the battle for Cassino. He finished 21st in Individual Jumping in London and then 24th in Helsinki in 1952. He won a bronze medal as a member of the 1952 U.S. Team Jumping squad.

He eventually moved to San Antonio, Texas, and became the head of the U.S, Modern Pentathlon team in 1956. Over his career in that sport, he was the U.S. coach at six Olympic Games and 22 world championships; American athletes won six Olympic medals under his guidance between 1956-2000.

Russell helped organize the 1959 and 1977 World Modern Pentathlon Championships, and ran the modern pentathlon competition at the 1959 Pan American Games. He will be missed as a stalwart in both sports. Rest in Peace.

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