THE TICKER: WADA vs. RUSADA in Court of Arbitration for Sport starts Monday; World Ath expands indoor tour; what the Leeper decision really means

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

WADA vs. RUSADA ● On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the Court of Arbitration for Sport will hear an appeal by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) against a four-year sanction imposed in December 2019 by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Scheduled for 2-5 November, the appeal take place in Lausanne, Switzerland and have remote participation in the case as well. No decision will be announced at the end of the proceedings; that will be revealed later. The issue, as summarized in the CAS news release:

“In this CAS procedure, WADA, as the Claimant, seeks a finding of non-compliance by RUSADA and requests that a variety of consequences (and reinstatement conditions) be imposed on RUSADA, including, in particular, (1) a prohibition against Russian athletes from competing in the Olympic and Paralympic Games (and other Major Events) unless they are able to demonstrate that they are not implicated in any way by the non-compliance; (2) a prohibition against government representatives being appointed to boards, committees or other bodies of Signatories and/or participating in/attending the Olympic and Paralympic Games (and other Major Events); and (3) a prohibition against Russia hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games (and other Major Events) during a four-year period.” (numbering added)

WADA imposed these penalties on 9 December 2019; then-President Craig Reedie (GBR) noted at the time:

“For too long, Russian doping has detracted from clean sport. The blatant breach by the Russian authorities of RUSADA’s reinstatement conditions, approved by the ExCo in September 2018, demanded a robust response. That is exactly what has been delivered today. Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order and re-join the global anti-doping community for the good of its athletes and of the integrity of sport, but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial. As a result, the WADA ExCo has responded in the strongest possible terms, while protecting the rights of Russian athletes that can prove that they were not involved and did not benefit from these fraudulent acts.”

Most especially, the data demanded from the Moscow Laboratory, the epicenter of the state-run doping program from 2011-15, was concealed, doctored and covered up to mask further positive tests vs. Russian athletes.

Even without any public access, there will be many more parties involved than just the two adversaries. The CAS release noted:

“The International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC), the Russian Ice Hockey Federation, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), the European Olympic Committees (EOC) and several Russian athletes have been admitted as intervening parties.”

Athletics ● World Athletics announced Friday (30th) that the World Athletics Indoor Tour for 2021 is being expanded in a parallel version of the outdoor Continental Tour, with 26 meets offered from 24 January to 28 February … if the pandemic allows.

What was the annual six-event World Indoor Tour is being maintained as the “Gold” level meets, with nine more “Silver”-level meets being added, as well as 11 “Bronze” events.

The “Gold” meets will offer $7,000 prize money for each event ($3,000 for the winners); “Silver” events will have at least $30,000 total prize money, with at least $4,000 per event, and Bronze” meets will have at least $12,000 in total prize money, with at least $2,500 per event.

The calendar shows that the U.S. has two meets on tour, both in the “Gold” program”: the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Roxbury, Massachusetts on 6 February and the Millrose Games in New York on 13 February. Those are the only two (of the 26) meets to be outside of Europe; the breakdown by nation includes Belgium (2), Czech Republic (4), France (6), Germany (5), Ireland (1), Luxembourg (1), Poland (1), Serbia (1), Slovakia (1), Spain (1), Sweden (1).

Comment: This is a nice expansion of the indoor program, but who knows how many meets will actually be held?

The 109-page decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in the Blake Leeper vs. World Athletics was posted by the Court and contains a number of interesting elements beyond the specific holding in the case.

Perhaps the most important holding was stated at the top by the Court:

“[T]his appeal is not about the broader question of whether or not disabled athletes should be permitted to compete against able-bodied athletes in elite level international athletics competitions, and if so on what terms.”

The case did decide whether Leeper would be eligible to compete in open (World Athletics) competitions – including the Olympic Games – with the set of prostheses he currently uses.

The decision made two holdings: first, that the burden of proof is on World Athletics – not the athlete – to show that the prostheses being used create an advantage for the athlete vis-a-vis an athlete not using the prostheses, and second, that the prostheses used by Leeper give him an advantage and cannot be used in World Athletics competitions.

The movement of the burden of proof from the athletes to World Athletics creates a new standard for such cases moving forward and is highly significant. The holding on the prostheses applies to Leeper only.

In reviewing the conflicting claims and evidence provided, the panel established what will be a new position on the question of how such decisions are to be taken in the future:

“[T]he Panel concludes that the only logical, principled and workable construction of the Rule is one that, in the case of disabled athletes who use a mechanical aid to overcome a disability, requires a comparison to be undertaken between the athlete’s likely athletic performance when using the mechanical aid and their likely athletic performance had they not had the disability which necessitates the use of that aid. A disabled athlete who uses a mechanical aid which does no more than offset the disadvantage caused by their disability cannot be said to have an ‘overall competitive advantage’ over a non-disabled athlete who is not using such an aid.”

This importantly eliminates any comparative issues between how fast an athlete like Leeper can run vis-a-vis an athlete with biological legs. However, the decision of whether Leeper can use his existing prostheses then turned on what his hypothetical performance would have been if he had biological legs.

The Panel pointed out that the contentions of Leeper’s experts as to his disadvantages using prosthetics would produce – relative to his actual lifetime bests – performances of 9.50 in the 100 m and 42.57 in the 400 m, both world records! Against these unlikely scenarios, the Panel held that Leeper’s prostheses are of such a height that it allows him to run “unnaturally tall,” that is “which is significantly taller than his maximum height if he had intact biological legs.”

The holding was then

“Having carefully considered all the evidence, the Panel concludes that the IAAF’s experts are correct when they state that there is a direct relationship between leg length and running speed.”

The Panel felt that if Leeper’s prostheses had been of a lower height, consistent with the Paralympic “maximum allowable standing height” formula (known as “MASH”), his 400 m times could be as much as eight seconds slower. So, Leeper is not allowed to use his current prosthetics in open competition; he plans to appeal.

The Athletics Integrity Unit issued suspensions of six years and eight years to Russian officials Elena Orlova and Elena Ikonnikova in the cover-up case of Danil Lysenko, the former World Indoor Champion high jumper who was suspended for a whereabouts failure that was attempted to be hidden – via forged medical documents – by the Russian Athletics Federation.

Orlova refused to provide the mobile phone which she used to communicate with the Russian Federation and possibly Lysenko concerning his situation and “has sought … to rely on every possible excuse to avoid compliance.” Ikonnikova, the federation’s anti-doping coordinator (!), also maintained a refusal to provide information from her mobile phone, which the arbitrator described as

“Her defence to the demands is a concoction devised to avoid exposing material on her telephone that would itself evidence the involvement of her and others in RusAF in the Lysenko violation.”

Wow.

Another casualty of the coronavirus in 2021, the Boston Marathon will not be held in April as usual. The Boston Athletic Association announced

“The B.A.A., which has been meeting regularly with its COVID-19 Medical & Event Operations Advisory Group to determine when and how the Boston Marathon can be held again, will begin working with local, city, and state officials, sponsors, organizing committee members, and other stakeholders to determine if a fall 2021 date is feasible.”

Bobsled ● The Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected the challenge by four Russian bobsledders from the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, from which they were disqualified for doping as later revealed in investigations by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Aleksander Zubkov won gold in the two-man race (with Alexey Voyevoda) and Aleksander Kasyanov was fourth (with Maxim Belugin). Zubkov drove the winning four-man sled and Kasyanov, Aleksander Pushkarev and Ilvir Khuzin were members of the fourth-place sled. All were disqualified for doping in 2019 and the Court upheld the disqualifications and the subsequent invalidations of results and competition bans.

Cycling ● The 75th Vuelta a Espana continues in Spain, with defending champion Primoz Roglic (SLO) re-joining the lead in the race with Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz in impressive fashion.

Sitting fourth after the first seven (of 21) stages, Roglic won the 8th stage on Wednesday, conquering the final uphill to the Alto de Moncalvillo over Carapaz by 13 seconds, with Ireland’s Dan Martin third. This cut Carapaz’s overall lead to 13 seconds.

On Thursday, the hilly stage for the sprinters saw German Pascal Ackermann cross first in a huge mass finish. Belgium’s Gerben Thijssen was just behind, followed by Max Kanter (GER). The first 110 riders all received the same time.

Roglic won his second stage in three days on Friday, winning another hilly stage with a sprint finish over Felix Grossschartner (AUT), Andrea Bagioli (ITA) and five more … that did not include Carapaz. He finished with the chase group that was three seconds back, but with the time bonus for winning (10 seconds), Roglic joined Carapaz as co-leaders after 10 stages.

Only Martin (IRL: -0:25) and Britain’s Hugh Carthy (-0:51) are within a minute of the leaders in second and third; fifth-place Enric Mas (ESP) is 1:54 back.

Things get tougher now. Saturday’s brutal 170 km race with a quadruple climb, ending with an uphill finish to the Alto de La Farrapona; the route starts in Villaviciosa at 75 m altitude and ends at 1,706 m! Sunday’s route is just as rough, with five climbs, but at least the route is shorter at 109.4 km.

Weightlifting ● USA Weightlifting chief Phil Andrews (GBR) was interviewed at some length by BarBend.com and was asked specifically if a new international governing body for the sport is needed in view of the issues at the International Weightlifting Federation:

“It’s possible, but not really a viable solution. And the reason I say that, is it’s just the way sports governance works. It doesn’t necessarily mean if you have an IWF that disintegrates, the IOC will go, ‘Oh, look, there’s the World Weightlifting Federation over there. Well, that’s great. We’re going to put them in charge.’

“That is not necessarily how that works. I think you can draw a parallel with powerlifting where there’s the [International Powerlifting Federation], there’s also several other international federations, one of which is recognized by the World Games Federation and, indeed, by the Olympic structure, which is the IPF. You can draw that sort of parallel if you think about it. I’m not sure that that is a particularly viable idea or solution. You’re seeing a similar thing in boxing where you’ve really got to reform [AIBA], and that might mean taking it back down to the bare bones and starting again, but you’ve really got to build it up again.”

Games of the XXXII Olympiad: Tokyo 2020 ● The Tokyo organizers announced that ticket buyers who want refunds can ask for them between 10-30 November. Buyers of Paralympics tickets can ask for refunds from 1-21 December.

At a Tokyo news conference on Friday:

“The Tokyo organizing committee has sold roughly 4.48 million tickets for the Olympics and around 970,000 for the Paralympics through the official website.

“Ticket holders outside of Japan, who bought tickets through Authorized Ticket Resellers, will be asked to follow those sellers’ refund procedures.”

If venue capacities are reduced to deal with the virus, impacted ticket holders would go through a separate refunding procedure in the future.

Games of the XXXIV Olympiad: Los Angeles 2028 ● The International Olympic Committee’s Coordination Commission for the 2028 Games held its first meeting – remotely – of course and issued a complimentary comment on the work currently underway at the LA28 organizing committee.

Commission chair Nicole Hoevertsz from Aruba – herself a synchronized swimming competitor from the 1984 Games in Los Angeles – noted:

“The extensive dialogue we’ve had over the past two days has been very encouraging, reinforcing LA28’s determination to deliver a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave a legacy for generations of Americans to enjoy. They’ve made a great start and, over the coming years, we look forward to working closely with them, drawing upon the abundance of event expertise within the city and utilising the experience of those within this Commission to deliver truly memorable Games in 2028.”

The Last Word ● While the future of the Olympic Games seems well assured, it’s a much tougher time for other events, such as the Commonwealth Games, which had been held quadrennially since 1930 and skipped only in 1942 and 1946 due to World War II.

With the 2022 Games in Birmingham, England, the question is now whether there will be a host for 2026, or whether the Games may have to be moved to 2027. The Commonwealth Games Foundation has been trying to prod Hamilton, Ontario (CAN) to host in 2026; the site held the first British Empire Games in 1930. But a conflict with the 2026 FIFA World Cup has caused the provincial government in Ontario to cool on the idea, and authorities in Adelaide (AUS) are also uninterested in the Games in 2026.

Hamilton has shown more interest in 2027, and, if no other candidates pop up, there might not be any other choices. While the cost of an Olympic bid continues to go down, with much of the operating cost underwritten by the IOC, there is no such funding available for the Commonwealth Games, and that’s a problem.

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