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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Colombian President in full-court press to bring Pan Am Games back
2. Israel furious at ban by IIHF for “safety and well-being”
3. IOC offers slight loosening of athlete social videos for Paris
4. U.S. anti-doping detection “thousand-fold” better
5. Biles calls return to competition “exciting” but she was “petrified”
● Gustavo Petro, the President of Colombia, said the country will pay the $8 million it owes to Panam Sports right away and wants the 2027 Pan American Games to be held in Barranquilla. He plans to visit with Panam Sports chief Neven Ilic in the next few days, after the Pan Ams were revoked on 3 January.
● The International Ice Hockey Federation has banned Israel from playing in IIHF events for its “safety and well-being.” Israel Olympic Committee chief Yael Arad replied, “we are witnessing a precedent-setting and dangerous decision that stinks of antisemitism under the guise of safety for the athletes.” Is Russia behind this?
● The International Olympic Committee issued new social-media guidelines for Paris 2024, allowing athletes to post short videos now, but not any of the competitions or ceremonies. Very limited “thank you” messages will be allowed to non-Olympic sponsors during the Games period.
● The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency medical director said the ability to detect doping has increased a “thousand-fold” with the use of new technologies, as well as the development of the Athlete Biological Passport.
● A splashy Vanity Fair feature on gymnastics icon Simone Biles reviews her return to competition, her daily routine, her marriage to Packers safety Jonathan Owens and, of course, includes some spectacular photography.
● World Championship: Ice Hockey (Canada and U.S. breeze into women’s World U-18 Champs semis in Zug) ●
● Panorama: Doping (Spain’s CELAD says it has done nothing wrong) = Russia (World Taekwondo confirms Russian and Belarusian “neutral” participation) = NCAA (major new proposals on name-image-likeness, a huge fan database and coaching assistants) = Alpine Skiing (another win for Odermatt, this time in Wengen) = Athletics (Kenyan Chepchirchir hit for doping again) = Football (Girma named top U.S. women’s player in 2023) = Shooting (2: ISSF names Bessaguet and Vennekamp top shooters of 2023; USA Shooting confirms first five 2024 Olympians) = Swimming (Ledecky, King, Douglass star at Tyr Pro Swim Knoxville) ●
Colombian President in full-court press
to bring Pan Am Games back
In a Tuesday news conference, Colombian President Gustavo Petro said he will push for the restoration of the 2027 Pan American Games to Barranquilla, now a national priority (computer translation from the original Spanish):
● “We want to notify you that the 8 million dollars that, for the granting of rights to the Pan American Games, are ready. They could be turned at any time if the party to the agreement so considers it.”
● “The national government, unlike some articles that have appeared, has always been supporting the Pan American Games.”
● “Procedures, some of which we were not aware of – that is the truth – [and] non-compliance that could already been seen from the last government and fears of some officials who had who had to do with the transfer of resources at the end of the year has resulted in this bad news, let’s say, a decision by an official of the Pan American Games in America and that has led to this problem.”
● “The chancellor, Alvaro Leyva, has express authorization to communicate with Presidents of the Republic, with Chancellors, if necessary and fundamentally with the Presidents of the Olympic committees of each country throughout America, in order to prepare a majority, both in the Executive Committee of Panam Sports and the possible holding of an extraordinary assembly.”
Petro, who took office on 7 August 2022, added that he will make a side trip to Chile during a planned voyage to Antarctica and visit with Panam Sports President Neven Ilic (CHI) and to the Chilean Olympic Committee.
To this end, another emergency meeting of the Panam Sports Executive Committee was held on Thursday to discuss the issue further. A letter to the other 40 National Olympic Committees asking for interest in replacing Barranquilla as the site for the 2027 Pan Ams was circulated on 5 January, with a request for replies by 30 January.
The agreement to host the 2027 Pan American Games in Barranquilla includes a $2 million payment already made and payments of $4 million from the Colombian government at the end of 2023 and by 31 January 2024. Panam Sports announced the removal of the 2027 Games on 3 January, citing “countless breaches of current contracts.”
Israel furious at ban by IIHF for “safety and well-being”
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) announced Wednesday that it has banned Israel from its events:
“After careful consideration, the IIHF Council has decided that, due to concerns over the safety and security of all participants in the Championships, Israel will not participate in IIHF Competitions for the time being.
“In accordance with IIHF’s duty of care to protect all participants at IIHF Competitions and its obligation to create corresponding health and safety policies, the IIHF Council, within its power found in IIHF Statute has decided to restrict the Israeli National Team from participating in IIHF Championships until the safety and well-being of all participants (including Israeli participants) can be assured.
“The IIHF Council took this decision after careful consideration and based on a risk assessment, discussions with the participating countries and discussions with the Hosts.”
Israel, an IIHF member since 1991, plays in the IIHF Division II-A in men’s events and Division III-B for women and was to play in the men’s Division II Worlds in Serbia in April and the Division III women’s Worlds in March in Estonia.
An appeal against the ban is forthcoming to the Court of Arbitration for Sport by the Israel Ice Hockey Association and the Israel Olympic Committee. The Israel Olympic Committee chair, Yael Arad – a new member of the International Olympic Committee – responded furiously in a statement:
“Unfortunately, we are witnessing a precedent-setting and dangerous decision that stinks of antisemitism under the guise of safety for the athletes.
“In personal conversations I had with the chairman of the International Federation, I witnessed a disappointing lack of transparency and opacity driven by a hidden agenda that has no place in world sports.
“The International Olympic Committee is aware of and supports our positions, and we will not allow this to happen.”
The Times of Israel reported the reply of the Israeli Ice Hockey Association, which noted that “sources within the International Ice Hockey Federation suggest that the underlying cause of the decision appears to be the alleged capitulation of the Federation’s chairman, Luc Tardif [FRA], to political pressures, including influences from Russia.”
Tardif told the Russian news agency TASS that the exclusion of Israel from the men’s Division II Worlds is not related to the presence of the UAE in the tournament; the two countries re-established relations under the Abraham Accords in 2020:
“The IIHF does not compare both political situations, we do not consider these situations from a political point of view. The only question is whether we, the IIHF and the organizers, can guarantee the safety of our competitions: players, staff, judges, fans, including Israeli players and officials.
“The decision on Israel is not related to the participation of the UAE team in the World Championship. We will regularly analyze the situation with the tournament.”
Observed: Since the Israeli response to the Hamas attack against it on 7 October 2023, Russian sports officials have consistently campaigned against sanctions placed on it vs. none being placed on Israel.
It matters not to the Russians, of course, that they have been the invaders of Ukraine since February 2022 and the Israelis went into Gaza to end the continuing, deadly attacks against it, especially those of 7 October.
Those with a geopolitical view of the actions taken by Russia, and by South Africa, which has filed a case for genocide against Israel at the International Court of Justice, see the development of the anti-Israel actions as part of a larger anti-U.S. campaign by Russia to try and bring together the BRICS countries (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) on the political and sports front. This is worth watching in the future.
And any involvement of Russia with the IIHF brings back memories of former, long-time IIHF President Rene Fasel, now 73, who was the IIHF President from 1994-2021. Born in Switzerland, he is an unabashed lover of Russia and obtained Russian citizenship in 2023. Although no longer directly involved in IIHF matters, he still wields influence.
IOC offers slight loosening of athlete social videos for Paris
The International Olympic Committee announced a new version of its “IOC Social and Digital Media Guidelines” for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, which allows video sharing on social-media sites during the Games:
● “From competition venues up to 1 hour before the start of your competition and after you have left the mixed zone/doping control station
● “from training venues and practice areas
● “from the Olympic Village
● “at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and/or
● “at the Champions Park.”
Video of the sports competitions and the awards ceremonies is prohibited, however, as are commercial posts (for money or as advertising), of the medical and doping-control areas and “using artificial intelligence (AI) or any AI generated content or outputs.”
Messages supporting non-Olympic commercial sponsors continue to be limited:
“During the Games Period, you may provide one simple “thank-you” message to each of your Non-Olympic Partner personal sponsors.
“A single thank-you message to each personal Non-Olympic Partner during the Games Period can be posted to multiple platforms (posting a single identical message to multiple platforms must take place at the same time). Some NOCs may permit athletes to post additional “thank-you” messages: please check with your NOC for further details.”
New rules for “other accredited persons” have also been included, with no video allowed of any ceremonies, the competition fields of play, the Olympic Village or training or practice areas. Videos must be of two minutes or less.
No photography or video of athlete or coach areas at the venues or in the Olympic Village are allowed.
U.S. anti-doping detection “thousand-fold” better
In an interview with Triathlon Magazine Canada, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Medical Director Dr. Matthew Fedoruk expressed confidence in the continuing ability to find doping cheats, thanks to better and better tools.
He cited the Athlete Biological Passport, which tracks athlete chemistry over time, as well as better testing technology:
“A good example, in addition to the Passport, of how the science is keeping up is the increase of sensitivity of the testing over the last 10 years.
“We’ve seen roughly a thousand-fold increase in the ability to actually detect these prohibited substances in samples. With the advent of new instrumentation methodology we’re down to a trillionth of a gram of substance in a millilitre of urine. To put that in perspective, that’s like a few grains of sugar in an Olympic size swimming pool.”
Fedoruk noted, however, that the advances in technology have to be balanced against human biology:
“The thing that keeps me up at night is the detection of some of these complex substances that our bodies produce naturally that as anti-doping authorities we need to be able to differentiate what is supposed to be there, what our bodies produce, and what might be synthetic in nature.
“In many instances the molecules are virtually identical in nature, so you have to have tests in place to be able to differentiate those two in addition to using the biological passport to alert you when the markers might be abnormal.”
He also pointed out that the re-testing of older samples with advanced technology as much as 10 years later is a further deterrent. The International Testing Agency has added dozens of sanctions based on this kind of testing for the London 2012 Olympic Games and is now working on samples from Rio 2016.
USADA testing is also being expanded to younger athletes, but with new methods that can be used for wider testing use:
“Urine testing is the gold standard, but the question is do we need that level of testing at the age group level?
“Maybe we have the flexibility to implement things like dried blood spot testing or other types of testing that would analyze for a smaller subset of substances. I think as the science advances, the ability to use these innovative tools that maybe bring the cost down and allow us to apply tests to a wider range of athletes are coming through the pipeline.”
Biles calls return to competition “exciting” but she was “petrified”
In a lengthy Vanity Fair cover feature posted on Wednesday (10th), gymnastics icon Simone Biles discussed her time off from gymnastics after her adventures at the Tokyo Olympic Games, her return to stardom at the 2023 Worlds, and her life now with husband (and Green Bay Packers safety) Jonathan Owens.
Of her difficulties in Tokyo, where she lost her spatial awareness during routines – “the twisties” – she faced a variety of attacks from those who felt she let the U.S. team down and others who acclaimed her as a mental-health advocate. Of the latter, she said:
“I was not okay with that. If I can be a lending hand and help people, then I’ll be open, honest, and vulnerable, but you cannot stick me in front of a crowd and say, ‘Do everything she’s doing.'”
Then came time off, which felt a lot different than the break she took after her four-gold, one bronze performance in 2016 at Rio:
“I wish I could sit here and tell you it was glorious.
“When I took a break after 2016, I had the time of my life. I was doing anything and everything. But after 2020, it was kind of depressing until I started therapy and got help. I felt like a failure. Even though I was empowering so many people and speaking out about mental health, every time I talked about my experience in Tokyo – because it obviously didn’t go the way that I had planned – it stung a little bit. But all in all, it was the best decision.”
She came back near the end of 2022 and told writer Leah Faye Cooper that she got back to her routine reasonable quickly. Copper summarized:
“By January 2023, she was back to the training schedule she currently maintains four days a week: Up at 6:20 a.m. and out the door by 6:45 for 7 a.m. practice. Home at 10:30, then lunch. She tends to her three bulldogs – Lilo, Rambo, and Zeus – then naps for an hour to an hour and a half. Then back at the gym from 2 to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays are half days, Sunday is off.”
And she returned with her customary flair to the world stage against in October in Antwerp at the FIG Artistic Worlds, winning four golds – Team, All-Around, Beam and Floor – and a Vault silver:
“I felt like I was back in my element and it was exciting, but I was truly petrified. I had the training to back it up because we worked really hard, [but] I wasn’t as confident or as comfortable as I wanted to be.”
But she appreciated the success:
“It was kind of surprising. Just taking [the] risk of allowing myself to be vulnerable in front of a crowd competing again was a win for me.”
Much more in the story, including a series of ultra-stylish images by photographer Adrienne Raquel of Biles in spectacular designer couture.
≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP ≡
● Ice Hockey ● The U.S. and Canada continued undefeated at the IIHF women’s World U-18 Championship ongoing in Zug (SUI), both winning their quarterfinal matches handily.
Canada (4-0) shut down Switzerland by 6-0, getting two goals in the first, one in the second and three more in the third period, including two goals from forward Sienna D’Alessandro, including the opening score. The Canadians out-shot the Swiss by 54-3.
The American women, also undefeated at 4-0, blanked Germany (0-4), 4-0, with two first-period goals from forward Josie St. Martin and a 58-7 edge in shots. Forwards Haley Box and Margaret Scannell got single goals in the second and third periods.
In the semis, Canada will now face the Czech Republic (3-1), which defeated Sweden by 4-2 in its quarterfinal and the U.S. will play Finland (3-1), a 2-0 winner over Slovakia. Those matches will take place on Saturday, with the medal matches on Sunday.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Doping ● The Spanish national anti-doping agency – known as CELAD – said Wednesday that the accusations against it for possible doping cover-ups and inconsistent procedures were wrong:
“All these news items are untrue and are merely interested and biased conjectures as a result of sensationalist interpretations that are far removed from the regulations in force and from the right of every athlete.”
The statement also noted that it was not aware of any inquiry from the World Anti-Doping Agency, despite WADA issuing a statement on 5 January that included:
“WADA can also confirm that for several months, as part of its compliance monitoring program, it has been aware of ongoing problems related to CELAD, including several issues to do with testing and results management.”
● Russia ● An extraordinary meeting of the World Taekwondo Council confirmed that Russian and Belarusian “neutrals” will be allowed to compete in the federation’s events:
“The Council unanimously approved the participation of Individual Neutral Athletes (AIN) in World Taekwondo recognised competitions with immediate effect, as long as the athletes have already been declared eligible at World Taekwondo promoted competitions in line with IOC recommendations.
“World Taekwondo had previously not allowed AIN athletes to compete in World Taekwondo recognised competitions due to the complexity of the eligibility verification process which requires a very strict process and funding. However, the Council agreed that AIN who had already fulfilled the eligibility criteria to compete in promoted competitions should therefore be eligible to compete in recognised competitions as well.”
The existing approvals of Russian “neutrals” have been criticized, with a 27 December 2023 letter from 193 Ukrainian athletes accusing, among others, Tokyo Olympic +87 kg gold medalist Vladislav Larin of supporting the Russian war against Ukraine. The letter also included:
“Additionally, several other Russian athletes close to obtaining Olympic licenses have also openly supported the war against Ukraine. Among them are taekwondo athletes Maxim Khramtsov, Polina Khan, Kristina Adebayo, Georgy Gurtsev, Tatiana Minina …”
The International Olympic Committee has stated in its regulations for Russian and Belarusian “neutral” athletes for Paris 2024 that it will conduct its own verification of “neutral” status.
The World Taekwondo Council report also included, ironically:
“The Council approved the World Taekwondo Risk Management Policy and creation of a Global Integrity Unit tasked with conducting the risk assessment as well as building out an integrity framework across World Taekwondo’s Continental Unions for awareness building and monitoring and enforcement of integrity practices aligned with the IOC’s approach to integrity in sport.”
● NCAA ● Details of the NCAA Division I Council proposals for name-image-likeness programs are out, with four areas identified for revision: voluntary national registration for NIL service providers, disclosure to schools of all deals of $600 or more for research purposes, standardized agreements and comprehensive NIL education. In addition, there was some attempt to reduce direct recruiting inducements:
“The proposals would also clearly define an NIL entity for purposes of NCAA rules and expressly prohibit contact between NIL entities and prospects until the prospect signs a letter of intent, participates in summer activities or practices with the team, or enrolls at the school and attends classes.”
The new proposals also better define the nature of school support for its players:
● “Schools would not be permitted to directly compensate student-athletes for the use of their NIL but could identify potential NIL opportunities for student-athletes and even facilitate deals between student-athletes and third parties.”
● “However, student-athletes should be able to retain their own representation if they choose and must ultimately retain independent authority over any resulting terms in the NIL agreement.”
● “Further, any entity that is associated with or closely aligned with a school would be subject to the same rules as the school itself when it comes to NIL and may not directly compensate a student-athlete.”
The proposals, offered during the ongoing NCAA Convention in Phoenix, could be ratified as early as April. NCAA President Charlie Baker said in his address to the delegates that he would continue to seek legislation on NIL:
“To maximize these opportunities, it will be important for Congress to provide special status to student-athletes. That way, schools and conferences can engage in NIL and enhanced educational support without turning the student-athletes into something they are definitely not, which is employees.”
Baker also explained a new initiative with sports technology firm KAGR to help identify as many as 10 million college sports fans in the next year and increase their engagement:
“With their help, we’re going to build one of the largest college sports fans databases in the country – and possibly the largest women’s sports fan database in the world.
“We should be able to provide timely, useful, actionable information to college sports fans about the teams, conferences, championships and sports they’re interested in on a personalized basis.”
Additionally, the Division I Council proposed a measure to eliminate marijuana from testing at the NCAA Championships, and will treat it like alcoholic beverages, with a “harm-reduction strategy.”
A potentially important change in coaching support was proposed, to “Permit noncoaching, sport-specific staff members in sports other than football and men’s and women’s basketball to assist in drills and other limited activities during practices.”
These items will be voted on in June.
● Alpine Skiing ● Swiss star Marco Odermatt, the reigning World Cup overall champion, won the Downhill in front of home fans on Thursday in Wengen (SUI) for his sixth World Cup win of the season.
He finished in 1:43.32, beating France’s Cyprien Sarrazin (1:43.90) and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR: 1:44.13), with American Ryan Cochran-Siegle finishing seventh (1:44.55). Sarrazin had won the prior Downhill race at the end of 2023.
With a Super-G, another Downhill and a Slalom still to go in Wengen, Odermatt now leads the seasonal standings overall and is in front in the discipline standings for the Downhill, Super-G and Giant Slalom! He’s now won nine medals this season in 13 World Cup races.
● Athletics ● The Athletics Integrity Unit announced a provisional suspension of Kenyan marathoner Sarah Chepchirchir for testosterone. The winner of the 2017 Tokyo Marathon in a still-lifetime best of 2:19:47, she already served a four-year ban from February 2019 to February 2023 for doping. Now 39, if she is suspended again, her sanction could be for eight years.
● Football ● U.S. Soccer named defender Naomi Girma as its Female Player of the Year on Thursday, the first pure defender to win the award in its 39 years.
Still just 23, she won the award in her third season with the National Team. The announcement noted that she “started all 16 games she played, helping lead the U.S. defense to its lowest ever goals against average (0.17 goals allowed per game) in a calendar year (minimum 10 games played).”
Bessaguet, 32, won second straight silver in the 25 m Rapid Fire Pistol at the 2023 World Championships, won at the European Games, and took medals in four of the six ISSF World Cup events.
Vennekamp, 28, won the 25 m Pistol gold at the 2023 World Championships and equaled the world record with 40/40, in Baku (AZE). She also won the ISSF World Cup Final silver medal in the same event.
USA Shooting confirmed on Thursday that five athletes have – subject to acceptance by the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee – won places at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
Ivan Roe was named for the men’s 10 m Air Rifle; Mary Tucker and Sagen Maddalena were named for the women’s Air Rifle and Lexi Lagan and Katelyn Abeln will compete in the women’s 10 m Air Pistol event. Tucker, Maddalena and Lagan will all be competing in their second Olympic Games.
● Swimming ● Veteran stars shined on the second day of the USA Swimming Tyr Pro Swim Series in Knoxville.
Freestyle superstar Katie Ledecky won her second event of the meet in the women’s 400 m Freestyle in 4:03.46, a time only seven others bettered in all of 2023, and ahead of Paige Madden, whose time of 4:05.66 was her fastest since 2021.
Breaststroke star Lilly King, the Rio 100 m winner, won that race in 1:05.67, a time only six others swam better than last year (including her). She beat Ireland’s Mona McSharry (1:06.23), the world no. 7 last season, Tokyo Olympic champ Lydia Jacoby (1:06.62) and Kate Douglass (1:06.67).
Douglass, the World 200 m Medley gold winner in 2023, took the women’s 100 m Free title in 53.12, comfortably ahead of fellow Americans Gretchen Walsh (53.64), Rio 2016 champ Simone Manuel (53.73), Torri Huske (53.82) and 2023 national runner-up Abbey Weitzeil (54.00).
Canadian star Summer McIntosh, still just 17, won the 200 m Butterfly easily in 2:05.73, an event in which she is the reigning World Champion.
The men’s 100 m Freestyle was another showcase for Worlds silver winner Jack Alexy, who had the fastest qualifying time (48,28) and won the final in 48.24, besting Brooks Curry (48.68) and Matt King (48.91).
Worlds silver winner Nic Fink won the men’s 100 m Breaststroke over sprint star Michael Andrew, 1:00.36 to 1:00.41 and Austrian Martin Espernberger took the 200 m Fly in 1:56.58 to 1:56.97 for American Trenton Julian. Fellow Austrian Felix Auboeck took the men’s 400 m Free in 3:46.78, with 1,500 m winner Bobby Finke of the U.S. fourth (3:52.06).
The meet continues through Saturday. A late scratch was Olympic star Caeleb Dressel, who noted on his Instagram account that the due date for his first child is too close and that he is remaining with wife Meghan.
For our new, 920-event International Sports Calendar for 2024 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!