The Sports Examiner

TSX REPORT: Griner enters strategic guilty plea in Moscow; Ukraine welcomed in Chula Vista; Canadian swimmer Harvey drugged at Worlds

Yaroslava Mahuchikh of Ukraine celebrates after winning the Women's High Jump on day two of the World Athletics Indoor Championships Belgrade 2022 (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images for World Athletics)

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1. Griner enters strategic guilty plea to Russian drug charges
2. Ukraine World Athletics team welcomed in Chula Vista
3. Athletics: Cubans defecting, wrong shoes, no hope for the sport?
4. Canadian swimmer Mary-Sophie Harvey drugged at FINA Worlds
5. U.S. women stop Jamaica in CONCACAF W group play, 5-0

American basketball star Brittney Griner entered a guilty plea to “drug smuggling” charges in Moscow in a move to receive a light sentence and set up her eventual release. Ukraine’s nearly-40 member team for the World Athletics Championships, with three strong medal contenders, is training at the Chula Vista Elite Training Center, along with athletes from nine other countries. In the meantime, Cuba has seen three stars – in the men’s 200 m, long jump and triple jump – all withdraw, possibly to defect to other countries, while Venezuela’s Olympic triple jump champ Yulimar Rojas was refused entry in the long jump for wearing the wrong shoes. Canadian swimmer Mary-Sophie Harvey recounted on Instagram the horror of being drugged and unconscious for 4-6 hours at a party following the FINA Worlds in Budapest last month. The U.S. Women’s National Team sailed past Jamaica in CONCACAF W Championship group play by 5-0 and qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Griner enters strategic guilty plea to Russian drug charges

Two-time Olympic basketball gold medalist Brittney Griner, 31, pled guilty to drug smuggling charges in court in Moscow, a strategic move aimed at reducing any sentence and possibly expediting her freedom. She told the court, “I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law.” According to CNN:

“Griner’s plea came on the second day of her trial, at which a prosecutor accused her of smuggling less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. Prosecutors argue Griner intended to import the drugs into Russia’s territory and put the prohibited substances into a backpack and a suitcase, according to TASS, another state news agency.”

One of her Russian attorneys, Maria Blagovolina, told reporters on Thursday: “We, as her defense, explained to her the possible consequences. Brittney stressed that she committed the crime out of carelessness, getting ready to board a plane to Russia in a hurry, not intending to break Russian law.” The next hearing is scheduled for 14 July and the plea is hoped to result in a light sentence.

Griner has been held since 17 February and is considered unlawfully detained by the U.S. government. It has been widely speculated that she could be part of a prisoner exchange for a Russian national held in U.S. prison.

Ukraine World Athletics team welcomed in Chula Vista

Ukraine’s 37-member team of athletes and coaches is getting ready for the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene at the Chula Vista Elite Training Center – south of San Diego – through 13 July before leaving for Oregon.

While the first arrivals came on 30 June, a welcome reception was held on 7 July with Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas and representatives of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee. Yes, Chicken Kiev was served.

Ukrainian head coach Oleskii Serdiuchenko said, “We are very grateful for your kind and very important support and assistance in these difficult times for Ukraine.

“In spite of the war in Ukraine, with the help of our international friends, we continue to prepare our team and still willing to take part in the World Athletics Championships.”

Ukraine has high hopes for medals in Eugene, especially in the women’s high jump, where World Indoor Champion Yaroslava Mahuchikh and Tokyo Olympic fourth-placer Iryna Herashchenko are 1-2 on the 2022 world high jump list at 2.03 m (6-8) and 1.98 m (6-6), respectively. Long jumper Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk, the 2019 Worlds silver medalist, is also a medal contender, currently sixth on the world list at 6.86 m (22-6 1/4).

Although no longer operated by the USOPC, the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center continues as an official U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Site and has multiple teams preparing there for the Eugene Worlds including Brazil, Chile, Estonia, India, Israel, Norway, Portugal, Singapore and the U.S.

Athletics: Cubans defecting, wrong shoes, no hope for the sport?

Track & field is a crazy sport, with 44 different individual events coming up at the World Championships starting 15 July in Eugene. Here’s the latest chaos with the Worlds a week away:

● Women’s Olympic triple jump champion Yulimar Rojas of Venezuela will not be allowed to compete in the long jump, even though her 6.93 m (22-9) mark from 8 June would be number four on the world list for 2022.

The issue was that Rojas was wearing triple jump shoes during that competition in Guadalajara (MEX), a violation of the new World Athletics rules on sole thickness. Long jump shoes are limited to 20 mm sole thickness, while triple jump shoes may have 25 mm soles. Tweeted Rio 2016 women’s vault champ Katerina Stefanidi (GRE):

“I competed in 1 comp (only) this year that did an actual spikes check. They randomly selected 1 athlete from wPV. She showed them a different set of spikes and competed in the TJ shoes that aren’t allowed for PV. Rules are rules but are they being enforced the same for everyone?”

Said a Scottish commenter of the shoe rules:

“I knew that, and I’m not a professional athlete. Boggles the mind that she didn’t.”

● Things are tough in Cuba. Reynier Mena, who moved to no. 3 on the world list for 2022 in the men’s 200 m with his sensational 19.63 win in La Chaux-de-Fonds (SUI) last week, is shown on the qualification list for the Worlds, but was reported not to be competing due to filing for a change of allegiance to Portugal, where he lives.

If true, Mena is following the same path as Olympic triple jump champ Pedro Pablo Pichardo, who switched to Portugal in 2018; Olympic long jump silver medalist Juan Miguel Echevarria – who has not competed in 2022 – is also mentioned as transferring to Portugal and has withdrawn from the Worlds.

Andy Diaz, the world’s no. 2 triple jumper at 17.68 m (58-0 1/4) also withdrew from the Worlds and staying with his Italian club, Livorno Libertas.

Rachel Bachman’s 23 June Wall Street Journal story “Track and Field Aims to Capture an Emerging Market: The USA was summarized in her tweet:

“The United States has the world’s best track and field athletes.

“But the sport lags way behind No. 1 in popularity.

“Track and field leaders plan to change that. They aim to make it a top-five sport in the US by the LA 2028 Olympics”

Replied Stefanidi – a Stanford grad – sarcastically on Twitter:

“In 2017 they were aiming to make it a top-five sport in the world in 5 years. Big success.”

Canadian swimmer Mary-Sophie Harvey drugged at FINA Worlds

A terrible incident, and a warning to always – always – be on guard. Canadian swimmer Mary-Sophie Harvey, 22, who won a women’s 4×200 m Free relay bronze as a prelim swimmer and was eighth in the 200 m Medley at the recent FINA World Aquatics Championships, wrote a poignant, eight-panel post on Instagram, explaining that she was drugged – possibly by a spiked drink – at a party following the end of the swimming events on 25 June:

“I’ve debated for awhile on if I should or if I shouldn’t post anything. But I’ve always been transparent with ya’ll and these situations sadly happen too many times for me to stay silent.”

The panels were illustrated with photos of bruises she received and she explained:

“On the last night of the World Championships, I got drugged.

“At the time I wasn’t aware of what got inside of me, I just remember waking up completely lost; with our team manager and doctor at my bedside. I remember celebrating my competition while also being reasonable and aware of my next objective, which is the Commonwealth Games. But, then, I don’t remember anything. There’s this four-to-six-hour window where I can’t recall a single thing. …

“Some friends told me afterwards that they had to [carry] me while I was unconscious…”

She said that beyond the bruises, she suffered a rib sprain and a small concussion. “To anyone reading this, please be careful. I thought I was safe, that it would never happen to me, especially while being surrounded by friends. But it did … and I wish someone had educated me on the matter prior to that night.”

Swimming Canada spokesman Nathan White told the Canadian Press, “We are aware there was an incident the night before departure from Budapest. As soon as team staff became aware, Mary received excellent medical treatment from our team physician on site, and was cleared to travel home.

“Staff have been in contact with Mary since her return and we are offering her support. We continue to gather information on the situation, and the file has been forwarded to our independent Safe Sport officer.”

U.S. women stop Jamaica in CONCACAF W group play, 5-0

After beating Haiti by 3-0 last Sunday, the U.S. Women’s National Team took a firm grip on Group A of the CONCACAF W Championship with a 5-0 victory over Jamaica in Guadalupe (MEX).

The game opened quickly with Jamaican midfielder Jody Brown getting a shot on U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher in the second minute and then the U.S. struck, with Sophia Smith scoring from right to left past Jamaican keeper Rebecca Spencer for a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute. Smith struck again just three minutes later, with a shot from the right side for a 2-0 lead. Mallory Pugh scored in the 27th minute, but the goal was overturned on video review. The U.S. had 67% of the possession and led in shots by 10-2.

U.S. star Rose Lavelle got the third goal in the 59th minute, taking a cross from midfielder Ashley Sanchez and finishing with a right-footed shot across the goal. After a foul on striker Midge Purce in the box, Kristie Mewis converted a penalty shot in the 83rd minute; Trinity Rodman scored in the 86th for the 5-0 final. The U.S. finished with 68% possession and up 20-4 on shots.

The U.S. is now the only unbeaten in the group (8-0 goals-against total) and will finish against Mexico on the 11th (Monday), with the semifinals beginning on the 14th. The American women are now qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup; the tournament winner qualifies for the Paris 2024 Games.


● International Games ● The World Games 2022 began Thursday night in Birmingham, Alabama, to be followed on 28 July by the XXII Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England. In between will be the 21st Maccabiah in Israel, from 12-26 July, and in August comes the second European Championships.

Just completed were the Mediterranean Games in Oran (ALG), the 24 June-5 July Bolivarian Games in Valledupar (COL), the first Caribbean Games in Guadeloupe (FRA) and the Pacific Mini Games in the Northern Marianas in June. The 2022 World University Games in Chengdu (CHN) was re-scheduled for 2023, but coming up on 9 August is the fifth Islamic Solidarity Games. Now you know.

Lots more than just the Olympic Games, which started the entire multi-sport movement, but was not followed up with another new event until the 1923 International Universities Championships in Paris.

● Athletics ● Now 75, Bob Beamon’s legacy is secure as the 1968 Olympic gold medalist in the men’s long jump and his stunning world-record leap of 8.90 m (29-2 1/2) in Mexico City, which created the term “Beamonesque” for an achievement almost beyond comprehension.

Originally from New York, he competed at UTEP and was inducted into the Texas Track & Field Hall of Fame in January as a member of the Class of 2021. He is now lending his expertise and prestige to RunRite Track & Field, which under the brand of The Indoor Track, is opening a series of indoor facilities, with the first to open in Plano, Texas on 6 September, with locations in Allen and McKinney also slated.

Beamon, who spent most of his professional career working with youth in the Miami area, is interested in giving youngsters the opportunity to learn about track & field and explore their abilities.

● Cycling ● Two-time defending champion Tadej Pogacar is putting his stamp on the 109th Tour de France early, with a final-sprint victory on the hilly, 219.9 km Stage 6 ride on Thursday, taking the overall lead in the race. He burst away from Michael Matthews (AUS) and David Gaudu (FRA) and now owns a four-second lead over American Neilson Powless and 31 seconds on last year’s runner-up, Jonas Vingegaard (DEN). Friday will be the first climbing test, with an uphill finish to La Super Blanche des Belles Filles.

The sixth stage of the 33rd Giro Donne in Italy featured a tough, uphill finish on the Passo del Maniva, won by France’s Juliette Labous in an 8 km solo attack that routed the field. Race leader Annemiek van Vleuten (NED) was second (+1:37) and second-place Mavi Garcia (ESP: +1:41) was third. Two-time winner Van Vleuten continues to lead, now by 0:31 over Garcia and 1:10 ahead of Marta Cavalli (ITA) with three stages left.

● Modern Pentathlon ● The Court of Arbitration for Sport dismissed an appeal by the Danish Modern Pentathlon Association against the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM), allowing the UIPM to proceed with its plan for a new fifth discipline to replace riding.

“The present CAS decision only means that a proposal may be submitted by the UIPM EB to the IOC in view of the possible replacement of the equestrian discipline at the 2028 Olympic Games. Any subsequent format change of the modern pentathlon event would have to be adopted by the competent bodies according to the procedures set by the UIPM Statutes.”

● Triathlon ●Our policy outlines that Triathlon is a sport for everyone and that transphobic behaviour will not be tolerated. It confirms that Triathlon is a gender-affected sport and so for competitive events (those races that have prizes, times, and/or rankings) for athletes over the age of 12, there will be two categories; a Female Category, (for those who are the female sex at birth), and an Open Category, (for all individuals including male, transgender and those non-binary who were male sex at birth.”

That’s from British Triathlon’s Wednesday announcement of its new policy (operative 1 January 2023) concerning transgender athletes in “competitive activity,” defined as an event “run under the auspices of British Triathlon or the Home Nations involving any or all of official timing/results, qualification, or rankings and involving participants of 12 years of age or greater.” For recreational events, entrants may compete “in their self-identified Gender, without providing any additional evidence.”

The federation consulted with its members, receiving 3,167 responses – about 10% of the entire membership – with “approximately 8 out of 10 members” approving of the policy that was issued this week. It’s a stiff policy, but follows up on the approach announced by the International Aquatics Federation (FINA) and others; World Triathlon has not announced its policy yet.

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