TSX REPORT: ITA starts accelerated pre-Paris testing program; 11 gymnastics stars at Core Classic; FIFA pitches new anti-racism protocol

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1. ITA acknowledges Chinese swimmer controversy in Paris plan
2. All-stars out in force for USA Gymnastics’ Core Hydration Classic
3. FIFA proposes new, anti-racism protocol at Congress
4. Volleyball World announces betting sponsorship tie-in
5. Coaches, retired fencers want better Sabre cheating inquiry

● The International Testing Agency announced the start of its pre-Games testing protocol for Paris, noting the controversy over the 2021 Chinese swimming positives and promising comprehensive testing for all “at-risk” countries and events.

● A spectacular line-up of women’s stars, including the last three Olympic All-Around gold medalists – Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles and Suni Lee – will line up for the USA Gymnastics’ Core Hydration Classic on Saturday in Hartford, Connecticut.

● FIFA sent a letter to its 211 national federations, proposing a more detail, five-part protocol to combat racism across football, including asking federations to lobby for criminal penalties in their own countries, but not changing the rules on forfeiture of matches.

● Volleyball World, the FIVB-CVC Partners joint venture, announced a five-year sponsorship agreement with Cyprus-based 1xBet, looking to take advantage of new revenue possibilities in the gambling field. This project will be closely watched by other federations and the International Olympic Committee, worried about sport integrity.

● A group of mostly U.S. coaches and retired Olympians posted an open letter to the USA Fencing board, demanding a better, deeper and more thorough investigation of match-fixing in Sabre, stating “Athletes are aware that evidence exists that discloses money being offered to fix matches.”

World Championship: Ice Hockey (Canada, Swiss, Sweden still unbeaten in IIHF men’s Worlds) ●

Panorama: European Games (EOC signs memo with Istanbul to host 2027) = Canada (health tech entrepreneur donates C$1.4 million for athlete prizes for 2024-26) = Aquatics (World Aquatics takes over Tunisian federation) = Archery (Ellison and Kaufhold lead U.S. team for Paris) = Cricket (from-scratch 34,000-seat T20 World Cup stadium ready in New York) = Cycling (Alaphilppe gets first career Giro stage win!) = Figure Skating (Kerry will appeal SafeSport ban) = Swimming (2: McIntosh gets another 400 m Medley world record at Canadian Trials; Dressel and Ledecky keep improving in Atlanta) ●

ITA acknowledges Chinese swimmer controversy in Paris plan

“ITA is taking due consideration to the current situation regarding Chinese swimmers.

“While neither the ITA nor its partner World Aquatics have come across any evidence that would suggest that a cover-up or a manipulation of the anti-doping process took place as some media reports suggest, the ITA has nonetheless taken the recent concerns over the matter into account.

“To ensure the credibility of the Games and reinforce the trust that the athlete community places in the global anti-doping system, the ITA decided, with the full support of World Aquatics, to adapt its testing plans to further reinforce independent and intelligence-led testing activities on all high-risk swimmers worldwide in this sensitive period ahead of the Games.

“This further reinforcement follows work carried out by the ITA on behalf of World Aquatics to increase these independent and intelligence-led testing activities on high-risk swimmers over the past three years.”

That’s from a Thursday post by the International Testing Agency, detailing some of its procedures as it “ramps up to focus on high-risk sports & athletes and supports global anti-doping efforts ahead of the Olympic Games.”

The ITA – not the World Anti-Doping Agency – has the testing responsibility for more than 80% of the summer Olympic federations, and has begun implementation of its testing efforts for identified “high risk” National Olympic Committees and sports:

“This risk is determined by several variables, of which the combination of the National Olympic Committee (NOC) to which they belong and their discipline is one of the determining factors. …

“[A] minimum of three targeted doping controls [are to] be performed on high-risk athletes from the beginning of the year until the Games begin: over 50% of these high-risk athletes have already been tested at least once. 7% have been tested three times and a further 7% have been tested more than three times. As the majority of the tests will take place in the next 70 days, this can be seen as a positive trend in this area. More than two-thirds of these doping tests on high-risk athletes were carried out by NADOs, and around one-third by IFs.”

And special attention is being paid to “neutral” athletes:

“The ITA also continues to implement doping controls on Russian and Belarusian athletes potentially participating in the Games as individual neutral athletes (AIN) for the sports it is responsible for using independent doping control officers outside of the country.”

Observed: The ITA is under a lot of pressure for Paris and knows it. It has a good reputation, but the doping program in Paris will be very carefully scrutinized, and it will be fascinating to see whether the ITA or WADA provide detailed as-we-go reports on doping tests and positives or negatives, as we saw for Covid from the Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 organizing committees.

All-stars out in force for USA Gymnastics’ Core Hydration Classic

One of the finest fields in the history of women’s gymnastics was announced for the USA Gymnastics’ Core Hydration Classic on Friday and Saturday at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut.

This is a U.S.-only, women-only event, with youth and junior competitions on Friday, and senior competitions on Saturday. The second session, at 7 p.m. Eastern, includes the last three Olympic women’s All-Around champions, reportedly for the first time ever:

2012: Gabby Douglas: 3 Olympic golds; 2011-15 Worlds Team golds
2016: Simone Biles: 4 Olympic golds, 23 Worlds golds
2020: Suni Lee: 3 Olympic medals, 2019 Worlds Team gold

Add to that:

Skye Blakely: 2022-23 Worlds Team golds
Jade Carey: Tokyo Olympic Floor gold; 7 Worlds medals
Jordan Chiles: 2022 Worlds Team gold, Vault and Floor silvers
Kayla DiCello: 2023 Worlds Team gold; 2021 Worlds A-A bronze
Shilese Jones: 2022-22 Worlds Team golds; 6 Worlds medals
Joscelyn Roberson: 2023 Worlds Team gold
Leanne Wong: 2022-23 Worlds Team golds; 4 Worlds medals
Lexi Zeiss: 2022 Worlds Team gold

USA Gymnastics reported that these athletes have combined for 15 Olympic and 62 career World Championships medals. Hard to beat that.

The Saturday evening session will be shown on CNBC and the Peacock streaming network.

This is the start of a month-long program that will culminate in the naming of the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team. Saturday’s meet will be followed by the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Ft. Worth, Texas from 30 May to 2 June, and finally the U.S. Olympic Trials in Minneapolis, Minnesota from 27-30 June.

FIFA proposes new, anti-racism protocol at Congress

FIFA Secretary General Mattias Grafstrom (SWE) sent a letter on Thursday describing an initiative that will be presented on Friday to the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok (THA) on curbing racism in football.

A major issue in the sport for decades, racist behavior in La Liga matches in Spain against Brazilian star Vinicius Junior – a striker for Real Madrid – has raised sensitivity and prompted FIFA to implement a new approach across the entire football world.

The Associated Press shared the two-page letter, which included:

● “We, together united as global football, will make racism a specific offence with mandatory inclusion in the individual Disciplinary Codes of all 211 FIFA Member Associations, differentiating racism from other incidents, giving acts of racism their own specific and severe sanctions, including match forfeits.”

“We, together united as global football, will pause, suspend and abandon games in cases of racism, introducing a global standard gesture for players to communicate racist incidents and referees to signal the implementation of the three-step procedure which will be made mandatory in all 211 FIFA Member Associations.”

● “We, together united as global football, will push for the recognition of racism as a criminal offence in every country in the world, and where already an offence, will push for prosecution with the severity it deserves.”

The “global standard gesture” is suggested as crossed hands at the wrists in a “V” shape to alert the referee to a racist incident. Then:

● The referee will pause the match and activate a public address announcement, demanding an end to the offending behavior;

● Suspend of the match until the incident ends, and

● If needed, end the match.

This protocol has been in use already, but match suspensions and especially match-ending penalties have not been widely seen so far. In some cases, teams which have been victimized by racist chants from spectators, or in support of players who have been targeted, have walked off the field, but this action was not mentioned in the letter.

The crossed-hands signal is well known to Olympic observers, first being used by Rio 2016 men’s marathon runner-up Feyisa Lilesa of Ethiopia as he crossed the finish and used a crossed-hands gesture over his head as a message of support for a group of Omoro people who were facing relocation from areas around the capital of Addis Ababa by the government, which wanted to use the land for development projects. Tensions between the Ethiopian government and the Omoro continue to this day.

The proposal will be discussed at the FIFA Congress on Friday. The host of the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup will also be chosen.

The FIFA Council authorized a working group to study possible changes in the “FIFA Regulations Governing International Matches,” specifically to create recommendations concerning the playing of domestic league matches in outside countries.

FIFA has been sued by promoters trying to stage European league matches in the U.S. and other countries, currently not allowed by the FIFA regulations. The instructions or considerations given to the working group center on access by fans of a team in the domestic league country to matches scheduled in other countries, the impact on competition balance as a home-and-home protocol would be disrupted by matches held elsewhere, the impact on the country in which the matches would be played and so on.

The next steps:

“The working group will consist of 10-15 members from a variety of different football stakeholders, including representatives from member associations, confederations, clubs, leagues, players, supporter organisations, and also private entities engaged in organising international matches or competitions. The FIFA Council anticipates that the working group will make its recommendations in the following months.”

Volleyball World announces betting sponsorship tie-in

Betting and international volleyball have come together as Volleyball World, the joint venture between the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) and private equity firm CVC Partners, announced a multi-year sponsorship with 1xBet:

“The partnership will see 1xBet fully leverage Volleyball World’s digital platforms as well as branding featured throughout live events. It encompasses major volleyball tournaments such as the Volleyball Nations League (VNL), Volleyball World Championships and Club World Championships, as well as marquee beach volleyball events like the Beach Pro Tour (BPT) and the Beach Volleyball World Championships.

“1xBet is set to benefit from the sport’s global appeal, enhancing its international exposure and brand visibility thanks to the worldwide popularity of volleyball.”

Founded in 2007, 1xBet is headquartered in Cyprus. A check of the company’s primary Web site showed a message, “Access to this website is prohibited in the USA.”

Observed: This sponsorship, announced as a five-year deal, will be watched closely by other Olympic federations. Match-fixing is a major worry for Olympic sports, and most federations do not have enough money to maintain a dedicated team against such risks. The International Olympic Committee is already involved in programs to guard against manipulation.

There’s a lot of money in betting. The worry for federations has been to find reliable, safe partners and then guard against unscrupulous actions of outsiders to fix events for profit.

Coaches, retired fencers want better Sabre cheating inquiry

A group of 54 coaches and retired Olympic fencers posted an open letter to the board of USA Fencing, calling for added attention to match manipulation in the Sabre discipline. In part:

“We, as the collective group of US Saber Fencing Coaches and Retired Saber Olympians, would like to address the urgent issue of saber fencing bout manipulations at the US and international levels which have egregiously impacted US Olympic selection and demoralized our saber fencers.

“We are extremely concerned with the process that US Fencing has put in place to investigate allegations of bout manipulation. The athletes we have heard from have no confidence in the current investigation for several reasons.”

Specific concerns were described, including “a one-way investigation relying on people who fear retribution to come forward and provide evidence. To our knowledge, the investigation has not followed up on leads and pertinent evidence that have exposed the manipulation,” a requirement to speak “on the record” vs. whistleblower status and no re-allocation of points earned in matches officiated by the two judges who have been suspended. In addition:

● “The interim investigation suspension of Mr. Jacobo Morales and Mr. Brandon Romo has left the impression that US Fencing is lenient on match-fixing. The suspension of only 9 months for both of these referees, who were found guilty of violating the USA Fencing Referee Code of Ethics, the FIE Technical Rules, and the FIE Ethical Code (International Fencing Federation) for the San Jose NAC on January 6, 2024, is ineffective as both referees continue to direct international FIE bouts and some domestic ones.”

● “Athletes are aware that evidence exists that discloses money being offered to fix matches, yet they have been told there is not enough proof. Additionally, the undersigned coaches who have testified to the investigation have informed the investigators that cheating has occurred, yet their expert input has been disregarded.”

On 24 April, USA Fencing announced suspensions of Morales and Romo, and said that the independent investigation it had commissioned was still incomplete. However, the work so far indicated that no athletes were involved in manipulating their own bouts and called the incident at the San Jose North American Cup in January “an isolated incident.”

It’s clear that there is a difference of opinion; the investigative report is scheduled to be published once completed, which is also the request of the coaches and retired fencers. The next public step appears to be the release of the investigation, being conducted by three firms.


● Ice Hockey ● A little more than halfway through the group stage of the IIHF men’s World Championship in Prague and Ostrava (CZE), Canada, Switzerland and Sweden continue undefeated.

In Group A, Canada is now 4-0 after a 4-1 win over Norway and the Swiss also improved to 4-0 by shutting down Great Britain, 3-0. The home Czechs (3-1) are currently third and Finland (2-2) owns fourth and the final playoff spot.

Sweden continues undefeated in Group B, now 4-0 with a 19-5 goals-against total after a 3-1 win against Kazakhstan. Slovakia (3-1) shut out Poland, 4-0, and the U.S. (2-2) moved up third in the group with a 5-0 whitewash of France. Latvia holds fourth, with the round-robin to continue through the 21st.

Finn Oliver Kapanen has taken the goal-scoring lead in the tournament with six, one more than Canadian star Connor Bedard.


● European Games ● The European Olympic Committees (EOC) announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and the Turkish Olympic Committee in Rome (ITA), setting the stage for the formal award of the 2027 European Games to Istanbul. Said EOC President Spyros Capralos (GRE):

“The city is already set up to host Europe’s best athletes. The infrastructure is in place and there will be no new permanent venues built, which will make this a cost-efficient and sustainable Games, building on the model which worked in Poland last year.”

● Canada ● A Canadian patient-safety software entrepreneur, Sanjay Malaviya, pledged C$1.4 million ($1.03 million U.S.) to the Canadian Olympic Foundation and the Paralympic Foundation of Canada for added rewards for medal winners at Paris 2024 and Milan Cortina in 2026. The upshot:

“The Team Canada Podium Awards will give Paris 2024 and Milano-Cortina 2026 medallists a $5,000 grant per medal earned. Additionally, $100,000 will go to Olympic and Paralympic Next Generation Initiatives, helping to fund the highest priority needs of the Canadian Olympic Foundation and the Paralympic Foundation of Canada.”

Malaviya, through his Malaviya Foundation, gave C$1.2 million to retroactively support Canadian medalists for Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. The donations will allow awards beyond the existing Canadian Olympic and Paralympic awards of C$20,000-15,000-10,000 for medal winners in Paris.

● Aquatics ● With the turmoil in Tunisia, with the country’s Youth and Sports Ministry dissolving the national swimming federation board and the head of the federation arrested for following the World Anti-Doping Agency’s sanctions for non-compliance, World Aquatics announced Thursday that it has created a Stabilization Committee:

“The Stabilization Committee will run all day-to-day operations of the Tunisian Swimming Federation, conduct the proper and necessary amendments to the national federation’s Constitution, and organise and conduct a new election within six months.”

The action is effective immediately.

● Archery ● Brady Ellison and Casey Kaufhold confirmed their places as the top archers in the U.S. and are headed off to another Olympic Games in Paris.

The U.S. Olympic Trials in archery finally concluded with a sixth, weather-delayed stage in Newberry, Florida on Monday and Tuesday, with Ellison – the 2019 World Champion and a three-time Olympic medal winner – dominating the men’s division with 144.5 points, compiling the highest score in stage 6.

Kaufhold, still just 20 and a Tokyo Olympian in 2021, also scored 144.5 points and was the overwhelming winner in the women’s division.

In the final Trials program, Kaufhold won the first round-robin, had the highest score in the simulated team round and won the second round-robin. Catalina GNoriega finished second at 105.0 and Tokyo Olympian Jennifer Mucino-Fernandez was third (103.0); no one else scored higher than 88.0.

All three will go to Paris, as the U.S. women qualified as a team. Not so the men, so while Ellison is confirmed as an individual entrant, the U.S. will try to qualify for two more spots as a team in the World Archery final qualifier in Turkey in June.

Ellison, 35, qualified for his fifth Olympic Games, and won both round-robins on arrow average and the simulated team round to finish at 144.5. Texas A&M’s Trenton Cowles was a clear second at 115.0 and Jack Williams, also a Tokyo Olympian, was third at 95.0.

● Cricket ● The International Cricket Council’s Men’s T20 World Cup is coming to the U.S. and the West Indies from 1-29 June, with 20 teams playing a total of 55 matches.

This is the same format (T20) that will be used for the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and a demonstration of what can be done in temporary facilities is being showcased in Nassau County, New York, where an open field has been turned into a 34,000-seat stadium that will host eight matches.

The facility uses portable bleachers and boxes normally used for hospitality suites at golf tournaments to create a first-class facility that will host its first event on 3 June, with Sri Lanka facing South Africa. The 9 June India-Pakistan game is expected to be a complete sell-out.

Construction took only three months. After the tournament ends, the stands will be removed and Eisenhower Park will be left with a permanent cricket competition field and practice facilities.

● Cycling ● French star Julian Alaphilippe owns two World Road Championship golds and has won six stages at the Tour de France, but never at the Giro d’Italia, until Thursday.

He attacked with 11.5 km left in the hilly, 193 km ride to Fano in stage 12, and no one could catch him. Alaphilippe – in his first Giro – finished in 4:07:44, with a 31-second edge on Ecuador’s Jhonaton Narvaez, the winner of stage 1. Quinten Hermans (BEL) finished third, 32 seconds behind.

Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar, the race leader, was 13th at the front of a large pack of the main contenders and maintains a 2:40 edge on Daniel Martinez (COL) and 2:56 on Geraint Thomas (GBR).

Stage 13 on Friday is flat and for the sprinters, with the second Individual Time Trial on Saturday – expect Pogacar to be aggressive, with a four-climb mountain stage with a long, uphill finish on Sunday to Livigno to finish the second week. If Pogacar is on, the final week could be largely ceremonial.

● Figure Skating ● Retired Australian skater Brendan Kerry, sanctioned for sexual misconduct with a minor and a lifetime ban from the sport in the U.S. by the U.S. Center for SafeSport, has said he will appeal:

“After hearing nothing from the US Center for SafeSport for almost three years … I received their decision with no advance warning whatsoever, sanctioning me for alleged violations that I did not commit.

“That decision is not final and I intend to challenge this suspension and request arbitration before a neutral arbitrator as is my right.”

The misconduct which led to the sanction took place during the 2016-17 period when Kerry was a registered coach with U.S. Figure Skating.

A three-time Olympian for Australia in the men’s Singles, he retired after the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

● Swimming ● Another world record for 17-year-old Summer McIntosh, this time in the 400 m Medley at the Canadian Olympic Trials in Toronto, crushing her year-old mark of 4:25.87 from 2023 with a win in 4:24.38, winning by than 14 seconds.

She’s the two-time World Champion in the event and has now qualified for Paris in the 200 and 400 m Freestyle and the 400 m Medley. It’s her third world mark, after her 3:56.08 in the 400 Free (since surpassed) and two in the Medley.

She is entered in three more events, the 100 m Free, 200 m Butterfly, and 200 m Medley.

At the Speedo Atlanta Classic, Tokyo superstar Caeleb Dressel continued his methodical comeback, winning the men’s 100 m Free in 48.30, his best time since returning to competition. That’s only 32nd on the 2024 world list, and only fifth-best among Americans with a month to do before the Olympic Trials. But he is coming on, slowly.

U.S. distance icon Katie Ledecky also showed her continuing surge in fitness, joining the sub-4 club in the women’s 400 m Free, winning by more than nine seconds in 3:59.44. That’s equal-third on the world list for 2024, and just 0.38 behind McIntosh’s world-leading 3:56.06 at the Canadian Trials on Monday (13th).

The meet continues through Saturday.

● Weightlifting ● The President of the International Weightlifting Federation, Iraqi Mohammed Jalood, visited Baku in Azerbaijan for talks with the country’s Prime Minister, Minister of Sports and the National Olympic Committee and national federation on further development of weightlifting in the country.

But, as weightlifting barely made it onto the Los Angeles 2028 program in view of a history of widespread doping, that issue is still pertinent. The IWF report on the meetings noted Jalood’s comments:

“[T]hey want to elevate the level of weightlifting in Azerbaijan. The performances of the younger athletes in the country are already quite encouraging, but the sport and political officials are determined to develop a new weightlifting culture in the country, namely in the fundamental area of anti-doping.”

Continued attention to anti-doping is the only way weightlifting will continue as an Olympic sport.

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