TSX REPORT: Belarus and Ukraine athletes to check Russian “neutrals”; Johnson critical of World Relays’ fan approach; $65,000 Oslo torch!

Too much fan attention and too little security at the World Athletics Relays for U.S. star Noah Lyles? (Photo: Francesca Grana for World Athletics)

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1. Belarus and Ukraine activist athletes checking “neutral” entries
2. Israeli wrestlers forced to skip Olympic qualifier in Turkey
3. Michael Johnson on World Relays: example of a problem
4. Enhanced Games founder claims 50-100 Olympians to compete
5. Oslo ‘52 torch goes for $65,000 to highlight Ingrid O’Neil 96

● A coalition of Belarusian athlete activists against the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Ukrainian athletes have joined together to offer (unsolicited) advice to the International Olympic Committee’s own “neutrality” review panel on Russian and Belarusian athletes submitted by the International Federations as Paris participants.

● Five Israeli wrestlers who planned to compete for a spot at the Olympic Games in Paris are not being allowed to go to the final Olympic qualifier in Turkey over concerns for their safety after Turkey’s government cut off trade with Israeli last week over its response to the 7 October 2023 massacre and hostage-taking by Hamas. They are no longer shown on the entry lists.

● Atlanta 1996 sprint icon Michael Johnson’s new track league for 2025 will make him a meet promoter and meet director, and he shared his concerns about last weekend’s World Athletics Relays as for the athletes, but not fans. However, Noah Lyles posted that too much fan interaction – and not enough time to concentrate on his warm-up – tired him out!

● The head of the doping-encouraged Enhanced Games said in an interview that he hopes for 50-10 Paris Olympians to compete in his event in 2025. He says swimmers and lifters have shown interest, but not so much for track athletes.

● The Ingrid O’Neil Auction 96 ended with two rarities bringing big prices: a torch from the first Winter Games relay at Oslo in 1952 ($65,000) and a gold medal from the special 1956 Olympic equestrian events held in Stockholm due to quarantine restrictions in Australia ($32,500).

Panorama: Paris 2024 (2: China’s Xi says he favors Olympic Truce during Games; Australia announces Paris athlete bonuses) = Anti-Doping (Cambodia now considered compliant by WADA) = Athletics (4: Bannister broke the 4:00 mile barrier 70 years ago; Price past injuries, reaches 252-9; USATF to send team to World Juniors; L.A. Grand Prix tickets on sale) = Boxing (IBA sets championships) = Cycling (Merlier sprints to Giro stage 3 win) = Fencing (2: El-Sissy and Navarro win Seoul Sabre Grand Prix; worries over Sabre match-fixing) = Gymnastics (FIG hands 2025 Worlds to Jakarta, but will Israel to able to compete?) ●

Belarus and Ukraine activist athletes checking “neutral” entries

The International Olympic Committee has already said it expects its program of only “neutral” athletes to limit the number of Russian entries at this summer’s Paris 2024 Olympic Games to be in the dozens, not the hundreds.

Part of that qualification process includes a “Individual Neutral Athlete Eligibility Review Panel,” announced by the IOC in March, including IOC members Nicole Hoevertsz (ARU), Pau Gasol (ESP) and Seung-min Ryu (KOR), which will check on the neutrality of the athletes submitted as qualified for Olympic participation by the International Federations.

Now, they are getting some more advice.

The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation – an activist, anti-government athlete group – and Ukrainian athletes are joining together to scrutinize the credentials of Belarusian and Russian qualifiers. From their Instagram post last Friday:

“Belarusian athletes led by the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation and Ukrainian Athletes led by Vladyslav Heraskevych with the support of the Open Society Foundation (USA) to launch an important initiative ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“This joint project focuses on the verification of Belarusian and Russian athletes planning to participate in the upcoming Olympic Games.

“The aim is to ensure these athletes do not have ties to military or paramilitary structures, aligning with the International Olympic Committee’s recommendations on athlete neutrality.

“Through the collection and analysis of information from open sources, both pre and post-Olympics, we are committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity and neutrality in sports.”

Various Ukrainian groups have been posting notices, photographs and social-media posts of athletes they claim are not “neutral,” but this new collaboration can significantly extend that work to Belarusian athletes as well.

The numbers are not big, but that’s not the point, as Ukraine has protested the appearance of even a single Russian or Belarusian athlete as an insult in view of Russia’s continuing invasion of Ukraine. The IOC’s statement in March noted:

“The experts currently project that, under the most likely scenario, 36 AINs with a Russian passport and 22 AINs with a Belarusian passport will qualify for the Olympic Games Paris 2024. The maximum number, which is unlikely to be reached, would be 54 and 28 respectively.”

The last time Russia had less than 200 athletes at the Olympic Games was in Stockholm in 1912, when 159 competed for the Russian Empire. Prior to that, there were five at Paris 1900 and six at London in 1908. So the number of Russians in Paris will be the lowest in 116 years.

As for Belarus, it competed as an independent country first in 1996, with 157 athletes; it sent a low of 101 to Tokyo in 2020, and Paris 2024 will be a new low.

Israeli wrestlers forced to skip Olympic qualifier in Turkey

The massacre and hostage-taking by Hamas – the elected leadership of Gaza – of Israelis on 7 October 2023, and the fierce response of Israel since then has roiled multiple countries around the world, including protests and counter-protests in the U.S.

Now, it is keeping Israeli athletes from trying to qualify to compete in Paris.

United World Wrestling is holding its final world Olympic qualifier in Istanbul (TUR) from 9-12 May, with five Israeli wrestlers set to compete, but who will now not be allowed to compete as the Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) has barred the athletes from going to Turkey.

The Turkish government, which has been supportive of Hamas, said it was halting trade with Israeli last Thursday. In March, Israel’s National Security Council warned against travel to Turkey: “The potential for terrorist threats against Israelis and Jews more than five months after the start of the war is very high.”

A Monday check of the list of participants for the Olympic Qualifier showed no Israeli entries.

Said Ilana Kratysh, the 2015 European 69 kg silver medalist and who wrestled in the women’s 69 kg class at the Rio 2016 Games – Israel’s first female Olympic wrestler – said:

“I’m disappointed, but I knew that this was going to be the decision.

“I hope that the Israeli [wrestling] association and the Olympic committee will demand from the world association [UWW] to consider us and give us a free ticket to the Games; the athletes should not be harmed by the situation.”

Michael Johnson on World Relays: example of a problem

Already a high-profile commentator on track & field for the BBC after his iconic performance as a double gold medalist at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, when Michael Johnson talks, people listen. Even more now that he has announced a new track “league” for 2025, with $30 million raised in capital.

Over the weekend, he was in action on X (ex-Twitter) about the World Athletics Relays going on in Nassau (BAH) as an Olympic qualifier in five events:

“World Relays is an example of a constant problem with track. Amazing event! But feels like the primary focus is providing an opportunity for athletes and federations, and fans are an after thought. Broadcast was poor and stands were half full for an event I believe the casual fan would find incredibly entertaining. But requires a fan focused strategy. Too much of track is structured as ‘this is our event for us.’ Kind of like opening a restaurant set up to serve just your family and wondering why you have no customers.”

Watching the build up to one of my favorite sporting events. @KentuckyDerby Not a single mention of times or how fast the horses have run. Just 1) The stories of how they got here, and 2) their chances of winning or where they may place in the race. Track needs this!”

U.S. television audience information for the Sunday session shown on cable (CNBC) will not be available for another day or so. The international feed was shown, with the English and Dutch announcers, not the NBC announce crew.

As Johnson will now be a meet promoter and meet director in 2025, it was also notable that he re-posted this comment from superstar Noah Lyles, who anchored the winning U.S. men’s 4×100 m:

“I would love to thank Bahamas for hosting a very successful meet. The atmosphere was so energetic and welcoming. I’m just sorry I could not meet that atmosphere with the same energy because I was emotionally and mentally drained.

“This track meet was difficult. Not because of the race but the lack of boundaries at the warm up track. There were so many people who would try to interact with me during my race preparations and while practicing. Management, athletes, and even coaches I could not find time to dial in to the competition.

“The saddest part about this is it left me so drained that I had no energy after my race to approach fans with a smile and give them the energy I normally give. I might be the first to speak on how this affects athletes but I know I’m not the only athlete that had this happen to them. I hope to see you all at the next track [meet] well rested and with tons of new energy.”

Enhanced Games founder claims 50-100 Olympians to compete

Australian lawyer Aron D’Souza, founder and promoter of The Enhanced Games, which will be free of doping controls, said in an interview that he expects dozens of Paris 2024 Olympians to compete in his event in 2025:

“We have a great many who are in the sign-up process at the moment, who are competing at Paris.

“I would hope 50-100 is [the number] of Paris Olympic alumni who would be competing at the first Games. You will see at the Paris Olympics, some athletes are going to be very open about the Enhanced Games concept. We have quite a plan for the Paris Olympics.”

His Enhanced Games are designed as doping-allowed world-record-attempt events, with a focus on track & field, swimming, gymnastics, weightlifting and combat sports. He said that 1,500 athletes had applied in some form to take part, without providing more details; formal entries are to be opened in late 2024.

He plans to pay participants a specified amount, with major bonuses for beating established records. D’Souza said that interest among swimmers and lifters had been good, but less so in track & field:

“Our perfect candidate is not the 19-year-old who is going to their Olympics for the first time.

“It’s the 28-year-old who has gone to the Olympics twice and won a silver medal and they’re like, ‘I don’t want to become a personal trainer’.

“They feel like they have got a little bit more in them before their ‘retirement’ and put out to pasture at age 30 in elite sports.”

The event has been condemned as dangerous by the World Anti-Doping Agency and multiple International Federations have come out against it, some promising significant bans for those who participate.

Oslo ‘52 torch goes for $65,000 to highlight Ingrid O’Neil 96

The first torch relay at an Olympic Winter Games was in Oslo, Norway in 1952 and one of the 95 torches made for that program was the highlight of the Ingrid O’Neil Auction 96 that concluded on Saturday.

It was by far the highest-priced item that sold, with 12 items that sold for $9,500 or more:

● $65,000: Oslo 1952 Winter Games torch
● $32,500: Stockholm 1956 gold medal (equestrian)
● $16,000: Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936 Winter gold medal
● $14,000: Los Angeles 1932 gold medal
● $12,000: St. Louis 1904 participation medal
● $12,000: Antwerp 1920 gold medal (swimming)
● $12,000: London 1948 gold medal
● $12,000: Tokyo 1964 gold medal (fencing)
● $12,000: Sydney 2000 gold medal (taekwondo)
● $11,000: Rome 1960 gold medal (wrestling)
● $11,000: Seoul 1988 gold medal (fencing)
● $9,500: Stockholm 1912 gold medal (track & field)

The Stockholm 1956 gold is another rarity; the 1956 Olympic Games was held in November in Melbourne, Australia, but due to quarantine regulations there, the six equestrian events were held in Sweden in June.

The $12,000 for the St. Louis 1904 participation medal confirmed its status and high esteem among collectors of what are usually modestly-priced collectibles.

There were some other interesting items of lower prices that were noteworthy:

● An “official stopwatch” marked for the 1928 St. Moritz Olympic Winter Games sold for $1,000.

● A fuel pack container – no fuel – for use with a Melbourne 1956 Olympic torch sold for $1,200.

● A silver and amber ring presented by the Ministry of Sport to German winners at the 1936 Berlin Games, replete with the Nazi swastika, sold for $2,000.

● A 1976 Montreal ceremonial Sword of Honor – 44 1/2 inches long and made by Wilkinson in England – and bearing the Montreal city crest, sold for $800.

And a 12-inch miniature version of the Munich 1972 torch, made as a lighter (!), sold for $140.

Many other medals and torches did not sell and will no doubt be seen again, but there was good interest in many other documentation and souvenir-style items of lower cost.


● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● Chinese Premier Xi Jinping said he supports an Olympic Truce this summer, saying through an interpreter during a meeting in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron:

“The world today is far from being calm. As member of the United Nations Security Council and as a responsible country, China urges with France for a truce in the world during the Paris Olympic Games.”

Macron added, “We wanted to explain the impact of this conflict on Europe’s security and our determination to support Ukraine for as long as necessary.”

The Australian Olympic Committee announced its prize money structure – the Medal Incentive Fund – for the Paris Games, with A$20,000 to be given to gold medalists, A$15,000 for silver and A$10,000 for bronze (A$1 = $0.66 U.S.).

(This amount is also awarded in non-Olympic years for events such as world championships, Commonwealth Games or similar events.)

Two new funds are being set up in Australia, which can receive tax-deductible contributions through the Australian Sports Foundation: the existing Medal Incentive Fund, and the Aspiring Australian Olympic Athlete Fund, allowing direct donations to individual athletes rather than rewards for Olympic or Worlds performances.

A new “Indigenous Athlete Support Grant” program has also been started to provide grants of A$5,000 to assist “Indigenous athletes selected in the Australian Olympic Team.” Moreover, the project will continue through the new “Australian Olympic Indigenous Athlete Fund.”

At its Annual General Meeting, AOC delegates were told that the Committee’s four-year sponsorship target of A$74 million had been met and that the cost of sending the Australian team to Paris will cost about A$25 million.

● Anti-Doping ● The World Anti-Doping Agency announced that Cambodian law has properly come into conformity with the World Anti-Doping Code that its national anti-doping agency is now considered compliant with the Code.

This removes any penalties, such the loss of flag and anthem status at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

● Athletics ● Worth remembering that Monday (6th) was the 70th anniversary of the first sub-4:00 mile, achieved by Britain’s Roger Bannister at the Iffley Road track in Oxford in a dual meet between Oxford University and the British Amateur Athletic Association.

Bannister, 25 at the time, meticulously planned and trained for the race, paced by his British Olympic teammates from 1952, Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway. He passed the 1,320 mark in 3:00.7 and finished in 58.7 for the 3:59.4 record-breaker.

While Bannister broke a nine-year-old mark from 1945, his status as world-record holder lasted only 46 days, as John Landy (AUS) ran 3:58.0 on 21 June in Turku (FIN).

Almost (but not quite) lost in the wild weekend of track & field was the impressive 77.05 m (252-9) win by 2019 World women’s hammer champ DeAnna Price of the U.S. at the Fighting Illini Tune-Up meet in Champaign on Saturday.

Price has been bothered by injuries over the past couple of years, but moved to no. 2 on the world list for 2024 and also had another in-series throw of 77.02 m (252-8).

Good news for U.S. juniors, as USA Track & Field reversed its stance on refusing to send a team to the World Athletics U-20 Championships in Lima, Peru:

“USA Track & Field has received reassurance of sufficient safety measures that will be in place at the event and has made the decision to field a team to represent Team USA at the Championships taking place August 26-31, 2024, in Lima, Peru.

“The safety and well-being of USATF athletes, coaches, managers, and staff remain our top priority, and we will continue to communicate closely with all relevant stakeholders. USATF is committed to providing our athletes with the highest level of competitive opportunities on their journey to gold.”

Tickets are now on sale for the 18 May USATF Los Angeles Grand Prix to be held at UCLA’s Drake Stadium from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., featuring – among others – a return appearance from Ryan Crouser, who set a world shot record of 23.56 m (77-3 3/4) in 2023. Currently-discounted ticket options include:

● $175 (vs. $250): An upgraded VIP package from 2023, that includes track-side, tented seating near the finish line (with catering) and premium seating in the stands. Plus free admission to the Friday night distance and field events.

● $75 (vs. $135): Premium seating in the stands, and “premium access” to the field events, and free access to the Friday night events.

● $30 (vs. $40): General Admission single tickets (or $80 for a family of four), also with free access to the distance events on Friday.

The Grand Prix will be preceded on Friday by the USATF Distance Classic from 5-9 p.m., starting with the women’s hammer throw and also including the women’s vault and discus.

● Boxing ● The International Boxing Association, now excommunicated from the Olympic Movement and more of a professional boxing organization concerned with prize money, announced world championships for men in 2025 and 2027 and for women in 2024 and 2026. Prize purses were announced as a quite-unequal $10.4 million for men and $4.8 million for women.

● Cycling ● Monday’s stage three of the 107th Giro d’Italia finished with the expected mass sprint at the end of the 166.3 km course from Novara to Fassano, with German Tim Merlier winning in 3:54:35, as the top 91 riders received the same time.

Merlier beat Italy’s Jonathan Milan and Biniam Girmey (ERI) to the line for his second career Giro stage win, previously in 2021. Slovenian star Tadej Pogacar added a second to his lead, now 46 seconds over Geraint Thomas (GBR).

● Fencing ● Worlds bronze medalist Ziad El-Sissy of Egypt won the FIE men’s Sabre Grand Prix in Seoul (KOR) that ended Monday, defeating 2023 Worlds silver winner Sandro Bazadze (GEO) by 15-13 in the final. Both bronze medals went to Americans, with Colin Heathcock and Filip Dolegiewicz losing in the semifinals; it’s Heathcock’s third medal of the season and the first international medal for Dolegiewicz.

Spain’s Araceli Navarro, the 2022 Worlds bronze winner, took the women’s victory with a 15-13 decision against Sarah Noutcha of France, 24, who won her second career international medal and first since 2018!

The self-described left-leaning Splinter site highlighted the 24 April announcement of sanctions on two Sabre referees by USA Fencing over actions at a North American Cup match in January, and that preliminary findings from a wider inquiry showed (so far) that individual fencers were not involved in match-fixing and that the NAC actions by the two officials involved was an isolated incident.

Splinter’s report concentrated on a YouTube video posted by “ponce de leon,” identified only as a retired Sabre fencer:

“The video analyzes tournament footage and statistics to convey ponce de león’s suspicions about a small cadre of powerful referees and coaches – each invested in the success of specific athletes or national fencing programs – and suggests that they have bent or broken rules to give their preferred athletes a leg up in competition.”

USA Fencing stated in its post that its inquiry is continuing.

● Gymnastics ● The Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) announced that Jakarta, Indonesia has been chosen as the site for the 2025 World Artistic Championships, from 19-25 October.

This will be a first for Indonesia, with FIG President Morinari Watanabe (JPN) stating, “I am delighted that our discussions last year led to the national federation submitting a bid for our flagship event, the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, which has now been approved by the FIG Executive Committee. I am convinced that the event will be organized to a high standard.”

No mention was made about potential Israeli entries, such as current Olympic men’s Floor gold medalist and 2023 World Floor Champion Artem Dolgopyat. Indonesia canceled the 2023 ANOC World Beach Games so as to not allow Israeli athletes to participate (the organizers said the government canceled the funding at the last minute) and FIFA removed its 2023 men’s U-20 World Cup, where Israel was entered (and won a bronze medal in the relocated tournament in Argentina).

Indonesia has been strongly pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel in its foreign policy, extending directly into sports in 2023.

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