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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Olympic Pairs star: need to “lie better about Valieva”
2. RUSADA reports heavy sanctions numbers for 2023
3. French bid for 2030 Winter Games submitted
4. Reindeer slalom races in Levi return this weekend
5. Swiss open inquiry into new ski track on the Matterhorn
● The added hearing in the endless Kamila Valieva doping case from the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games commences Thursday at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne. In Russia, three-time Olympic Pairs champ Irina Rodnina said in an interview, “We should have learned to lie better about Valieva.” Wow.
● Those who don’t believe that reform has come to the doping culture in Russia can be concerned about the latest doping sanction numbers, with 127 violations reported so far for 2023. That’s on pace to surpass 2022 (135 total) and compares with 40 sanctions announced this year by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
● The French bid for the 2030 Olympic Winter Games has been submitted to the International Olympic Committee, with four clusters in two French regions and using mostly existing venues. A new arena appears necessary and a temporary or out-of-country solution to speed skating is still needed.
● One of the truly fun features of the early-season FIS Alpine World Cup are the “reindeer races” at Levi ski resort in Finland. The winners of each of the women’s Slalom races on Saturday and Sunday will “win” a baby reindeer, but actually just get to name it. American star Mikaela Shiffrin won both races last year and has the largest “herd” at six!
● Controversy ahead of this weekend’s unique FIS Alpine World Cup men’s Downhills on a new course at the Matterhorn, which begins in Switzerland and finishes in Italy. The “Matterhorn Cervino Speed Opening” will have men’s races this weekend, and then the women will compete their on 18-19 November. But Swiss and Italian authorities are making inquiries about possibly unauthorized construction work to create the 3.7 km course.
● Panorama: Paris 2024 (organizers trying to settle concerns over surfing venue in Tahiti) = Parapan Am Games (USOPC names 240-member team for Santiago) = On Screen (pretty good viewership for skating, not so much for the NYC Marathon) = Figure Skating (famed Canadian Pairs coach sentenced for abuse) = Skiing (USSS raises $2 million at pre-season gala) ●
● Podcast: TSX editor-in-chief Rich Perelman explored the status of the Olympic Movement and today’s challenges on the “Sports Business Podcast with Prof. C,” produced by the Fordham Gabelli School of Business, with Professor Mark Conrad. You can hear it here. ●
Olympic Pairs star: need to “lie better about Valieva”
The long-running doping case concerning Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva will resume at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne (SUI) on Thursday and Friday with the two additional days of hearings requested by the arbitration panel in September.
More information was asked for, but without any details about the subject matter as the process is closed.
In Russia, some frank comments were reported from State Duma Deputy Irina Rodnina, now 74, the three-time Olympic Pairs Champion from 1972-76-80, skating with Alexei Ulmanov (1972 only) and then with Alexander Zaitsev. She told Sport 24:
“I don’t understand when they say that they specifically want to destroy Valieva.
“We need to wake up and understand that we have mistakes and blunders. We should have learned to lie better about Valieva. Who will believe the fairy tale that she accidentally drank the wrong glass? Well, what kind of nonsense is this?!”
She blamed Russia’s communications on the case for putting Valieva in a negative light, seized on by “countries that do not like Russia.” She added:
“They shouldn’t do that. But you must always know that Russia is a country of the strongest athletes, and the attention to us will always be triple; they will remember every mistake.”
Rodnina’s comments were quickly criticized by the Russian Sports Minister, Oleg Matytsin:
“It’s strange to hear such statements from a State Duma deputy, a three-time Olympic champion. Such public assessments, based on one’s own conjectures, not supported by knowledge of the details of the process, are unacceptable, this is a violation of the ethics and culture of the sports community.
“We must treat our victories with care and respect, our coaches and athletes, to unite Russian society through sports, and not to create provocative news feeds for circulation in the media.”
Valieva, then 15, was a member of the winning Russian squad in the 2022 Beijing Winter Games in the Team Event, but disclosure of a doping positive from 25 December 2021 was not made until after the event was over.
The results have never been confirmed and no medal ceremony has ever taken place. The World Anti-Doping Agency, the International Skating Union and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency have appealed the holding of the independent Russian anti-doping appeal board, which found that she had committed an unintentional doping violation, and gave her a one-day suspension.
WADA is asking for a four-year ban.
One of the defenses made for Valieva’s doping positive is that she drank from a glass used by a elderly family member to take a medication which included the prohibited substance trimetazidine. Rodnina was not impressed.
RUSADA reports heavy sanctions numbers for 2023
There are those who have continuing doubts that doping has been effectively controlled in Russia. The latest statistics reported from the Russian Anti-Doping Agency indicate they may be right.
A Wednesday report noted that a total of 127 doping violations have been recorded – some not confirmed as yet – by RUSADA, including 13 in October. During the first three quarters:
● 1st quarter: 48
● 2nd quarter: 43
● 3rd quarter: 23
The story explained that “RUSADA General Director Veronika Loginova told TASS that anabolic steroids, diuretics and masking agents, as well as meldonium are most often found in athletes’ samples.”
In 2022, there were 135 case reports of violations, so 2023 will apparently show an increase.
“Whereabouts” violations continue to be a problem, with “33 cases of athletes violating the rules of accessibility for testing.” For 2023 so far, 163 “whereabouts” issues have been reported, but that is down from 375 in 2022. These are apparently being reported separately from the sanctions, since it takes three “whereabouts” failures to create a sanctionable offense.
By comparison, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has announced 40 sanctions in calendar year 2023 so far, against 7,807 total tests conducted from January through September. A total of 44 new sanctions were registered in 2022.
French bid for 2030 Winter Games submitted
The race for the Olympic Winter Games in 2030 is between Sweden, Switzerland and France, with the French bid detailed this week as it was submitted to the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday.
The proposal is to host the event in two regions: Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region (AURA) and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA), with two venue clusters in each (four total):
● AURA/Savoie: bobsleigh, luge and skeleton at La Plagne; alpine skiing at Courchevel and Meribel; ski jumping in Courchevel.
● AURA/Haute-Savoie: cross-country at La Clusaz; biathlon at Grand Bornand, alpine skiing at Val d’Isere.
● PACA/Nice: curling, figure skating, ice hockey, short track.
● PACA/Brianconnais: freestyle skiing and snowboard at Isola 2000.
The athlete village and media centers would be in Nice, with the opening in AURA and the closing in Nice.
The ice events in Nice could be in a new arena, and there is no venue for speed skating, which could be held in a temporary facility such as a convention center – as Milan Cortina is doing for 2026 – or held somewhere else.
No budget projection was included by French National Olympic Committee (CNOSF) President David Lappartient, but he told reporters that it would be no more than Milan Cortina 2026, about €1.5 billion (about $1.606 billion U.S. today). This is expected to be funded privately; said Lappartient, “The Games must finance the Games.”
A meeting with the IOC Future Host Commission for the Winter Games is scheduled for 21 November, and the decision on the 2030 host is expected in 2024. The CNOSF bid release noted that the award may not be made at the IOC Session prior to the Paris 2024 Games, with the “decision planned during the IOC Session which will be held at the start of the Paris 2024 Games or in the fall of 2024.”
A delayed award would get around the Olympic Charter requirement that a Games cannot be awarded at a Session held in a country which is a candidate.
Reindeer slalom races in Levi return this weekend
The international winter sports season is opening up, with alpine skiing, figure skating, curling, ice hockey and speed skating events all on the schedule this week, especially featuring one event with a wild tradition.
The winner “gets” a baby reindeer.
The event is the annual women’s Slalom races at the Levi resort in tiny Sirkka, Finland, located in the Finnish Lapland, about 110 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Famed for its year-round ski resorts and reindeer safaris, the race organizers came up with a crazy idea beginning in 2013: the winners of the FIS Alpine World Cup Slalom races would “win” a reindeer.
Well, they don’t actually get the animal, but they get to permanently name one, a ceremony which has become a tradition. The animals are raised on a nearby farm, and are very familiar with two stars: American Mikaela Shiffrin and Slovakian Petra Vlhova.
The two have dominated the reindeer races, with Shiffrin winning both last year to take a 6-5 lead over Vlhova for the most victories (and namings). Shiffrin’s six wins and her pack names:
● 2013: Rudolph
● 2016: Sven
● 2018: Mr. Gru
● 2019: Ingemar, in honor of Swedish skiing legend Ingemar Stenmark
● 2022: Lorax, in honor of her late father, Jeff Shiffrin
● 2022: Sunny
Shiffrin finished sixth in the season-opening Giant Slalom in Soelden (AUT) two weeks ago and pronounced herself satisfied with her skiing. She is not only the two-time defending Alpine World Cup champion and the record-holder – men or women – for the most World Cup wins in history with 88, she has rewritten the Slalom record lists. She has 53 career Slalom wins, by far the most of any skier in any discipline; the closest is Stenmark with 46 wins in the men’s Giant Slalom.
Vlhova already has a 2023-24 seasonal medal after a bronze finish in Soelden. She owns 28 career World Cup wins, 19 of them in Slalom, ranking her no. 6 all-time. And she has those five wins in Levi, in 2017-2020 (2)-2021 (2).
Watching the Levi races, or any others on the FIS Alpine World Cup is a chore for American fans, with U.S.-based events streaming on Outside, but also on NBC or CNBC and streaming on Peacock.
World Cups held in Austria are streamed on Peacock, but sometimes also on NBC.
All other events – like Levi – are streamed on a different site, skiandsnowboard.live, on a subscription basis. Outside also has delayed coverage, on a subscription basis.
Swiss open inquiry into new ski track on the Matterhorn
This weekend also brings a new concept in alpine skiing: a race which begins in one country and finishes in another. But not without controversy.
The “Matterhorn Cervino Speed Opening” race will be held on a new track called the “Gran Becca,” designed to begin in Zermatt in Switzerland and finish in Cervinia in Italy, a long ride of 3.7 km (about 2.3 miles) that starts at an altitude of 3,720 m (12,205 feet)!
Creating the route required construction in what is apparently a protected area in Switzerland, and reported to be shut down in mid-October by Swiss authorities. Most of the track is on the Italian side, however,
But Italian prosecutors are also involved and have asked for documentation of the permits procured and the process to obtain them.
The concept was supposed to have become reality last year, but a lack of snow required cancellation. The snow control in 2023, however, was positive and the show is on.
Training runs on the new course have begun, ahead of downhill races for men this weekend on Saturday and Sunday. Women’s downhill races will be held on the 18th and 19th. The legal proceedings will carry on from there.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● The tempest over the construction and modifications needed for the surfing competition in Tahiti at Teahupo’o, but the Paris 2024 organizers are pressing on with the preparations. The BBC was told:
“Our ambition has remained unchanged. We are studying every possible scenario to enable the surfing competitions to take place on this site, which we want to preserve, respect and enhance for the Games.
“All of our efforts are centered on finding the best solution collectively, in conjunction with the Polynesian government, for the exceptional site of Teahupo’o. …
“Where the Games adapt to Teahupo’o and not the other way round, and to showcase the mythical Teahupo’o wave to the world and ensure that the Games are a success for Tahiti and its people.”
The issue has primarily centered on the impact of the construction of a large aluminum judging and scoring tower to replace the wooden facility now used, but considered too small and unsafe for Olympic purposes. The discussions are continuing on many sides, even a possible move of the venue to another location, on Tahiti’s west coast.
● Parapan American Games ● The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced a 240-member team for the VII Parapan American Games in Santiago (CHI), to be held from 17-26 November.
The squad has 148 men and 92 women, with swimmer Chloe Cederholm the youngest at 13 years old and table tennis player Michael Godfrey the oldest at 59. The team includes 91 Paralympians and 23 athletes with ties to the military.
The U.S. will compete in 16 of the 17 sports on the program, all excepting blind soccer.
● On Screen ● Pretty good TV audiences for the ISU Grand Prix highlight shows on NBC, competing with college football on Saturday and the NFL on Sunday:
● Nov. 4 (Sat.): 622,000 for Skate Canada International on NBC at 12:00 p.m. Eastern (delayed one week).
● Nov. 5 (Sun.): 551,000 for the Grand Prix of France on NBC at 12:30 p.m. Eastern (delayed, but same week).
These were both delayed-broadcast highlights programs, which did fairly well compared with the Skate America telecasts in October:
● Oct. 21 (Sat.): 191.000 on E! for Skate America: live
● Oct. 22 (Sun.): 699,000 on NBC for Skate America: delayed
The New York City Marathon, held early on Sunday, drew modest interest both live and on delay:
● Nov. 5 (Sun.): 176,000 on ESPN2 at 8:30 a.m.
● Nov. 5 (Sun.): 411,000 on ABC at 3:00 p.m. (replay)
The biggest show of the week was the late-window NFL games on Fox, mostly showing Dallas at Philadelphia, which averaged 27.14 million viewers.
● Figure Skating ● Richard Gauthier, 61, who coached some of Canada’s great Pairs teams, was sentenced to 12 months in prison for his sexual assault and gross indecency conviction in January, for actions which took place in the 1980s.
Gauthier had helped form the eventual Olympic champion team of Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, winners at the 2001 World Championships and elevated to a co-gold medal at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, and coached two-time World Champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford.
Skate Canada suspended Gauthier in October 2020, when the charges against him were filed. He had been inducted into the Canadian Skating Hall of Fame in 2015, but removed following his conviction.
He was found guilty on two charges, and acquitted on a third, all stemming from conduct in 1984 or 1985.
● Skiing ● Impressive fund-raiser for the 57th U.S. Ski & Snowboard “Gold Medal Gala” in New York on 30 October, in front of more than 600 attendees, with more than $2 million raised to support the federation.
The fund-raising total almost equaled the 2022 take, the most ever, and was well ahead of the $1.7 million raised in 2021.
For our updated, 850-event International Sports Calendar (no. 4) for 2023 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!