TSX REPORT: College coaches asking Olympic-sport protection; Lewis dislikes long jump “zone” take-off; USATF Indoors over a million on TV!

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1. Coaches associations ask protection vs. NCAA anti-trust exemption
2. Lewis, Sawyers unimpressed with long jump “zone” concept
3. U.S. Indoor T&F over a million on TV, skiing good too
4. First Rodchenkov Act conviction leads to prison
5. Fair Play Committee adds condemnation of Enhanced Games

● A coalition of college coaches in 20 different individual sport associations asked the Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics to recommend in its forthcoming report protections for Olympic-sport programs against the NCAA’s lobbying for anti-trust exemptions, which it says could be “catastrophic.”

● Long jump legend Carl Lewis rejected the World Athletics experiment to try a “take-off zone” rather than a take-off board, saying (among other things) it removes an essential skill from the event. British long jump star Jazmin Sawyers was also negative, going into detail in a series of four short videos.

● The USA Track & Field Indoor Championships drew more than a million television viewers last Saturday on NBC, completing a three-week run of U.S. indoor meets, all of which saw increased ratings from 2023.

● The U.S. Justice Department publicized a three-month prison sentence for Eric Lira, an El Paso doctor who was the first person convicted under the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act of 2019 and who supplied doping materials to multiple athletes, including star sprinter and jumper Blessing Okagbare, who is serving an 11-year suspension.

● The head of the International Fair Play Committee, a long-time surgeon, railed against the pro-doping Enhanced Games, echoing the outrage of the International Olympic Committee and World Anti-Doping Agency, calling it “potentially catastrophic” to the athletes participating.

Panorama: Paris 2024 (artistic director says final opening drama at Trocadero) = Los Angeles 2028 (joint ticketing sales service companies assigned) = Football (U.S. women open CONCACAF W Gold Cup with 5-0 win) = Speed Skating (Dutch star Schouten retires at 31) = Weightlifting (CAS agrees to Akkus appeal, prompting a new appeal) ●

Coaches associations ask protection vs. NCAA anti-trust exemption

The Congressionally-appointed Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics held its one public hearing on 6 September 2023 and has been quiet since, working on its report to the Congress, due in the spring.

But it is now being targeted to provide recommendations to Congress to resist calls by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for anti-trust exemptions which could crush collegiate Olympic-sport programs.

A 14 February letter from the Intercollegiate Coach Association Coalition, representing 20 college coaching associations in baseball, equestrian, fencing, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, rifle, rowing, rugby, softball, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field, volleyball, water polo and wrestling stated:

● “An exemption from the restrictions of federal antitrust laws or any other preemptive remedy should be considered if Congress requires certain protections for Olympic sports as part of the equation. Simply put, if the NCAA and its member schools are provided an antitrust exemption without considering the effect on Olympic sports, the result will likely be as catastrophic to those Olympic sports as providing no exemption at all.”

● “Without the support of college and university athletic programs, the performance of athletes representing the United States on the world stage will suffer. It will take our country back to the eras of the 60’s and 70’s when the differences between the AAU and the NCAA caused such lackluster performances that intervention by Presidents Kennedy and Ford was necessitated. Ultimately, Congress passed the Amateur Sports Act of 1978 which stabilized the platform for the development of Olympic athletes and paved the way for the successes we see today.”

● “[C]onversations about a ‘football super conference’ that might exist if antitrust protections are afforded are every bit as detrimental to the Olympic sports as no relief at all. Granting the exemption without concomitant protections for Olympic sports will only result in more money pouring into the revenue sports and a proverbial arms race that will force many universities to choose between cutting Olympic sports in an attempt to ‘keep up’ with the schools that have greater resources. Relatively speaking, it won’t take much of the additional revenue to keep Olympic sports alive but it will likely mean the difference between continued success on the world stage and the relative mediocrity that plagued so many of our Olympic teams only a few decades ago.”

Although relegated to a footnote, a desired aspect of legislation around an NCAA anti-trust exemption was specifically noted:

“Current NCAA regulations require that Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) and Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools offer a minimum of 14 and 16 sports, respectively. Minimum requirements such as these need to be a component of any recommended exemption or those current requirements may well disappear as soon as the pressure associated with paying athletes in a revenue sport ‘super conference’ begins to take a toll on budgets.”

Observed: It’s not clear how the fight over athlete pay, name-image-likeness legislation and a movement to separate college football – by far the biggest cash generator in collegiate sport – is going to turn out. New NCAA President Charlie Baker has said that more order is needed within football especially to ensure a level playing field in schools in different states and in different conferences and is asking for a federal anti-trust exemption while also maintaining that collegiate football players are not university employees.

If college athletes are ruled to be employees – those cases are ongoing and likely to end up at the U.S. Supreme Court – it could implode the entire collegiate sports structure nationwide, with schools shedding sports by the dozens to avoid the attendant costs of these “new” employees.

The appeal to the Commission, which did not explore this issue at all in its September hearing, is interesting as a strategic move, rather than a push directly to Congressional leaders. Given the vitriolic divisions on the U.S. House and Senate in an election year, it’s hard to be optimistic that anything truly substantive can get done in 2024.

Lewis, Sawyers unimpressed with long jump “zone” concept

Carl Lewis, the iconic four-time Olympic long jump champion, still the World Indoor record holder and coach at the University of Houston, got busy on X (ex-Twitter) to show his disdain for a new approach to the event offered by World Athletics.

Chief Executive Jon Ridgeon (GBR) said in a podcast that a rules change is being tried at some low-level competitions in which a take-off “zone” would be used and jumps would be measured from the take-off point rather than the end of a fixed board. Lewis was not impressed, reeling off a series of posts. Some highlights:

● “You’re supposed to wait until April 1st for April Fools jokes.”

● “Actually, it wouldn’t change the distances that much. You would just see more bad jumps measured.”

● “I guess It supports what I’ve been saying, that the long jump is the most difficult event in track and field. That would just eliminate the most difficult skill from the event. Just make the basket larger for free throws because so many people miss them. What do you think?”

● “The issue has nothing to do with fouling. They are no longer trying to jump far. We jumped differently. That’s why we jumped farther. So the board change will hurt the distances in the long run. A lack of discipline and consistency on the runway that exists will only get worse.”

● “Those who like the idea are missing the point. It will not make people jump farther. It’s how you jump, now where you jump from. So all of the 8.20 jumps will become 8.60? We should focus on accepting the fact that the world record is [8.95] and stop ignoring it.”

● “Mike Powell took years of work to jump that world record. So we’re saying they cant jump that 30 years later? They can, with the right commitment. The focus should be like his and go get the damn record changing and doing whatever he had to do in training.”

● “The new board idea will not work and will not improve distances. Every person who has ever jumped over 29 feet is still alive. Maybe you should start asking them how they did it and stop trying to do everything else.”

British star Jazmin Sawyers, the 2023 European Indoor champ and a 7.00 m (22-11 3/4) jumper indoors, posted a group of two-minute videos with her own view of three positives and eight negatives, including, “It could be potentially exciting to have bigger jumps.”

But she also was worried: “How to do you this accurately at grassroots level,” since the equipment needed may not be available. And she added:

● “This is going to be much, much easier to cheat with.”

● “I think it’s going to be harder to get those big jumps when you take off on the track rather than the board”

● “If you remove [taking off from a board], it changes the event completely. … I think it just becomes a different event.”

● “If runners didn’t have to go at the gun and they could just go whenever they felt like and we just took the fastest time, that would just be a time trial. It would be a different event.”

She also said the change would confuse spectators, because it would be difficult to know how far a jump is in comparison to others since there would be no fixed take-off point. Recognizing the attempt at trying to make things better, her bottom line:

“I don’t think this innovation is a good idea.”

As Ridgeon said, it’s an experiment and there is a long way to go to see if it will be implemented, or discarded.

U.S. Indoor T&F over a million on TV, skiing good too

Another increase in television viewing for indoor track & field, this time for NBC’s two-hour showcase of the USA Track & Field Indoor Championships from Albuquerque, New Mexico on Saturday (17th).

The show, which included live competitions as well as taped coverage of Friday’s events, drew an average audience of 1.051 million, up 10.2% from the 954,000 from 2023. That means all three of NBC’s televised indoor meets in February had audience of over a million and all ahead of the 2023 ratings:

2023: 866,000 for the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix (4 Feb.)
2024: 1.197 million on 4 February (+38.2%)

2023: 972,000 for the Millrose Games (11 Feb.)
2024: 1.087 million on 11 February (+11.8%)

2023: 954,000 for the USATF Indoor Nationals (18 Feb.)
2024: 1.051 million on 17 February (+10.2%)

The Indoor Nationals ranked fourth in its time period, behind the PGA’s Genesis Open on CBS (1.92 million), Kansas-Oklahoma college basketball on ESPN (1.37 million), and Fox’s Marquette-Connecticut game (1.09 million).

The USATF meet also did poorly with the younger 18-34 demographic, with only 53,000 watching; the Kansas-Oklahoma game did 165,000 in that space. Still, viewership was up.

NBC also scored surprisingly well on Sunday with a two-week-old, taped Freestyle Skiing highlights show of Aerials and Moguls from Deer Valley at 3 p.m. Eastern (574,000) and coverage of the first FIS Cross Country World Cup in the U.S. since 2001, in Minneapolis, at 4 p.m. at 547,000. Both had 53,000 in the 18-34 demographic.

The leading program during that time was the final round of the Genesis Open on CBS at 3.25 million.

The NBC series “Chasing Gold: Paris 2024″ came on before both skiing shows, at 2 p.m. Eastern and averaged 389,000 viewers, with 30,000 from 18-34.

First Rodchenkov Act conviction leads to prison

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that ERIC LIRA was sentenced to three months in prison by U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield for his role in providing banned performance-enhancing drugs (“PEDs”) to Olympic athletes in advance of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games held in Tokyo in 2021.

“LIRA is the first defendant to be charged and convicted, following his guilty plea in May 2023, under the Rodchenkov Anti-Doping Act, which criminalizes the operation of doping schemes for the purpose of influencing international sports competitions, such as the Olympic Games.”

Wednesday’s statement from the U.S. Department of Justice for the Southern District of New York, is a milestone, and is the latest – but not final chapter in a doping scheme that is still unfolding.

According to the Justice Department announcement:

“LIRA, who claims to be a ‘kinesiologist and naturopathic’ doctor operating principally in and around El Paso, Texas, obtained unapproved versions of these and other prescription drugs from sources in Central and South America before bringing those drugs into the U.S. and distributing them to, among others, the two athletes referred to in the Indictment.

“Throughout the scheme, LIRA and an athlete competing for Nigeria communicated via encrypted electronic communications regarding the sale, shipment, and use of LIRA’s illegal drugs and specifically discussed the “testability” of those drugs by anti-doping authorities.

“LIRA separately communicated with an athlete competing for Switzerland via encrypted electronic communications on the use of human growth hormone and erythropoietin. Both athletes tested positive for prohibited substances, and in both cases, LIRA directly and indirectly advised that the athletes should blame the positive drug test on contaminated meat, knowing full well that the drug tests had accurately detected the presence of banned, performance-enhancing drugs. …

“In addition to the prison term, LIRA, 44, of El Paso, Texas, was sentenced to one year of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $16,410.”

Athletes already identified as Lira clients include Nigerian sprinter Blessing Okagbare – who received a 11-year ban in 2022 – and countryman Divine Oduduru, who received a six-year ban in October 2023.

In December, American coaches Dewayne Barrett and O’Neil Wright were indicted on charges of distributing performance-enhancing drugs, in coordination with Lira, to athletes from Great Britain, Switzerland and Nigeria. The Athletics Integrity Unit has been inquiring about the athletes concerned.

Fair Play Committee adds condemnation of Enhanced Games

“We agree with these organizations that such an event would be devoid of any fair play and sportsmanship. Moreover, they represent a potentially catastrophic healthcare risk to its participants as athletes and their collaborators will inevitably try to push beyond healthy limits.

“Finally, we are all aware of the inequity in terms of access to technology, including its use in developing illegal enhancement drugs.

“We urge the organizers and backers of such an event to – instead – bring their organizational and financial prowess to the Olympic Movement for a dialogue that would create an even more level-playing field for all athletes around the world, with the use of enhanced technology.

“Doping is not fair play to ourselves and to our opponents.”

That’s from Dr. Jeno Kamuti (HUN), a long-time surgeon who is also the President of the International Fair Play Committee (CIFP), an organization that has encouraged and recognized the principles of fair play since 1963, criticizing the Enhanced Games concept.

Now under development, the Enhanced Games was announced as an all-doping-allowed concept that would be pointed toward the breaking of current world records in individual sports such as swimming and track and field. No events, dates or competition formats have been announced, but the idea is to stage something in 2025.

Reuters asked the International Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency for comment on the Enhanced Games concept last week and both ripped it. The IOC’s reply:

“The idea of the Enhanced Games does not merit any comment.

“If you want to destroy any concept of fair play and fair competition in sport, this would be a good way to do it.

“Worse than that, no parent would ever wish to see their child competing in such a damaging format in which performance-enhancing drugs are a central part of the concept.

“Furthermore, the idea of ‘sovereign individuals’, as promoted by the supporters of these Enhanced Games, means that there are no accepted rules or values. This is completely at odds with the idea and values of the Olympic Games.”

The World Anti-Doping Agency’s response was similarly angry, calling the idea “a dangerous and irresponsible concept,” adding:

“The health and well-being of athletes is WADA’s number-one priority.

“Clearly this event would jeopardize both by promoting the abuse of powerful substances and methods that should only be prescribed, if at all, for specific therapeutic needs and under the supervision of responsible medical professionals.

“As we have seen through history, performance-enhancing drugs have taken a terrible physical and mental toll on many athletes. Some have died. …

“WADA warns athletes and support personnel, who wish to participate in clean sport, that if they were to take part in the Enhanced Games, they would risk committing anti-doping rule violations under the World Anti-Doping Code.

“Athletes serve as role models and WADA believes this proposed event would send the wrong signal to young people around the world.”


● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● In an interview with Telerama magazine, Paris 2024 artistic director Thomas Jolly (FRA) said that the lighting of the Olympic flame and the formal opening of the Games would take place at the Trocadero in Paris.

That site, located on the north side of the Seine River, has the Eiffel Tower in the background – on the other side of the river – so one can now imagine the television shot for the final drama of the Olympic opening on 26 July.

Jolly also explained that the Bethune quay along the parade route cannot hold any heavy decorations and that rehearsals will take place away from Paris, in another location with a suitable river.

The FrancsJeux.com site speculates that “Lyon and Bordeaux could tick the boxes.”

● Olympic Games 2028: Los Angeles ● The LA28 organizing committee announced a partnership of the Los Angeles-based AXS and German-based CTS EVENTIM as “Official Ticketing Service Provider” for the Los Angeles Games.

AXS is a subsidiary of Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and deeply entrenched in the L.A. market, with a strong national and international presence. CTS EVENTIM, based in Munich, has extensive Olympic Games ticketing experience, from Rio in 2016, now in Paris for 2024 and for Winter Games in Turin in 2006 and Sochi in 2014.

The announcement indicated that 2028 tickets would be sold by both AXS and CTS EVENTIM through their existing sites as well as through the LA28 organizing committee.

● Football ● The first CONCACAF W Gold Cup kicked off on Tuesday, with 12 national teams in three groups and the U.S. scoring a 5-0 win against the Dominican Republic.

In the first match, held in rainy conditions at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, Mexico and Argentina played to a 0-0 draw, despite the Mexicans having 56% of possession and up 16-3 on shots.

The U.S. took charge of its game right away, with 18-year-old Olivia Moultrie scoring in the seventh minute and Lynn Williams adding a 30th-minute goal for a 2-0 halftime edge. Moultrie scored again in the 58th and the pace took a toll on the Dominicans as two penalty shots were called in the final minutes.

Jenna Nighswonger scored on her penalty in the 86th and Alex Morgan concluded the evening with a penalty-shot goal at 90+2.

Group-stage play will continue through 28 February.

● Speed Skating ● Last weekend, Dutch skating star Irene Schouten won three golds at the ISU World Single Distances Championships in Calgary (CAN) in the women’s 3,000 m, Mass Start and Team Pursuit.

On Monday, she retired, writing on her Instagram page; in part (computer translation from the original Dutch):

“After fifteen years of top sport, I have decided to stop skating. After a career with many wonderful highlights, I am ending my years on the ice.

“After my successful Olympics and many world titles, I can look back on a super beautiful and successful career. I have achieved what I wanted. Only winning the Elfstedentocht [distance race] is still missing from my list. After the Olympic year, I realized that it would be difficult to commit to a new four-year Olympic cycle right away. I then decided to look at it on a year-by-year basis. Last weekend showed that I am in top form and that I am still enjoying the races. I feel strong and even skated my fastest laps ever last days. But I also realize that there is a life besides top sport. I’m really looking forward to that, too.

“Recently I have been thinking hard and decided that this would be my last season. Now that the decision has been made, it feels good to share it right away.”

Schouten finishes with five Olympic medals, including Beijing 2022 golds in the 3,000 m, 5,000 m and Mass Start, the 2022 women’s World Allround title and 15 World Single Distance medals (8-2-5), with three in the Mass Start, two at 5,000 m, one at 3,000 m and two in the Team Pursuit. Wow.

● Weightlifting ● The International Testing Agency announced that the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled against the ITA and the International Weightlifting Federation in an appeal against a four-year sanction against former IWF Vice President and Turkish Weightlifting Federation President Hasan Akkus.

A January 2023 decision by the Court held that Akkus “tampered with the results management of 21 anti-doping rule violations committed by Turkish Weightlifters by providing false documents and therefore avoided sanctions against the TWF which he presided at the time.”

He filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport appeals division and on 18 January 2024, was successful in that his actions were not an “anti-doping violation for tampering,” even though the appeal decision noted his “conduct was deceptive and reprehensible, and in any event prone to create severe damage to the federations which had entrusted him with top-level positions and the power to represent them in public.”

The IWF has filed an appeal with the Swiss Federal Tribunal to annul the appeal victory by Akkus.

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