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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. Court of Arbitration says Valieva doped, banned for four years
2. Reax: USOPC, WADA cheer Valieva decision on behalf of skaters
3. Reax: “war has been declared on Russian sports”
4. Estanguet realistic on security challenges for Paris 2024
5. Paris 2024’s Jolly on managing the unmanageable Olympic opening
● The Court of Arbitration for Sport announced the decision in the Kamila Valieva doping case from the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games, finding that the Russian skater did register a doping positive and suspending her for four years – as requested by the World Anti-Doping Agency – from 25 December 2021. This opens the way for the International Skating Union to finalize the results of the Team Event from 2022, with the U.S. in line to receive the gold medals after Valieva’s results are removed.
● Reaction from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency was all positive, with WADA stating “doping of children is unforgivable” and suggesting criminal penalties in the future.
● Reaction from Russia was predictably angry, with the Kremlin calling the decision “politicized” and the Russian Olympic Committee stating “war has been declared on Russian sports, and, as we see, all means are good.”
● Paris 2024 chief Tony Estanguet told Reuters that security continues to be a concern, but is optimistic that the Games have “tendency to pacify relations and leave a space for dialogue.” He is fine with the International Olympic Committee deciding who can compete, instead of the organizing committee or the host country.
● Thomas Jolly, the ceremonies director for Paris 2024 explained to AFP that the opening on the Seine cannot be rehearsed all in one piece and will come together only very late in the process. But it is being assembled now, in pieces.
● Panorama: Athletics (indoor world leads in France, hot 5000s in Boston) = Figure Skating (U.S. announces men’s and Pairs teams for Worlds) = Football (3: FIFA to visit 2027 Women’s World Cup candidates in the next month; quality of play was up at FIFA Women’s World Cup in ‘23; Greece implementing mobile-phone security system for matches) = Ice Hockey (Israel sweeps IIHF men’s U-20 Worlds/Division III-A in Sofia) = Modern Pentathlon (12 Belarusians approved as “neutrals”) = Swimming (Portugal’s Silva re-elected as Euro Aquatics President) ●
Court of Arbitration says Valieva doped, banned for four years
At 3 p.m. Lausanne time on Monday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport issued its long-awaited decision in the doping case of Russian skater Kamila Valieva, with a clear decision in favor of the World Anti-Doping Agency:
“● The decision taken by the Disciplinary Anti-Doping Committee of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency No. 9/2023 on 24 January 2023 in relation to Ms Kamila Valieva is set aside.
“● Ms Valieva is found to have committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV) under Clause 4.1 of the All-Russian Anti-Doping Rules of 24 June 2021 (the Russian ADR).
“● A period of four (4) years ineligibility is imposed on Ms Valieva, starting on 25 December 2021.
“● All competitive results of Ms Valieva from 25 December 2021 are disqualified, with all the resulting consequences (including forfeiture of any titles, awards, medals, profits, prizes, and appearance money).”
The impact will be to disqualify Russia from its gold-medal performance in the Figure Skating Team Event at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing (CHN), where Valieva won both the Short Program and the Free Skate.
The beneficiaries should be the U.S. team, which should be advanced to the gold medal, as well as Japan (bronze to silver) and Canada, which finished fourth and would now get the bronze medals.
The CAS statement added:
“According to Clause 4.1 of the Russian [Anti-Doping Rules], athletes are responsible for any Prohibited Substance found to be present in their samples and the presence of any prohibited substance amounts to an [adverse finding]. In this matter, a prohibited substance, Trimetazidine (TMZ), was found to be present in the sample collected from Ms Valieva on 25 December 2021 during the Russian National Championships in St Petersburg, Ms Valieva did not contest liability in that she accepted that, by reason of the presence of a TMZ in her sample, she had committed an ADRV under Clause 4.1 of the Russian ADR.”
Based on this, the three-arbitrator panel reviewed whether Valieva could establish, based on the written submittals and two sessions of oral argument, that she ingested the Trimetazidine unintentionally:
“Having carefully considered all the evidence put before it, the CAS Panel concluded that Ms Valieva was not able to establish, on the balance of probabilities and on the basis of the evidence before the Panel, that she had not committed the ADRV intentionally (within the meaning of the Russian ADR).”
Valieva, then 15 and now 17, was sanctioned with four years of ineligibility from the date – 25 December 2021 – that she gave the sample that turned up positive.
This is the decision sought by the World Anti-Doping Agency (four years), with the International Skating Union and the Russian Anti-Doping Agency also part of the appeal; both would have accepted lesser penalties.
The decision is appealable to the Swiss Federal Tribunal on procedural grounds, and it can be expected that an appeal will be filed within the required 30 days, which will further delay any action on the finalization of the Beijing Team Event.
And the statement noted that the Court of Arbitration was not asked to deal with the question of the results, which will now be up to the International Skating Union and finally, the International Olympic Committee. The ISU Executive Board is next scheduled for an online meeting on 7 February.
The full decision was not published and since the arbitration rules allow for one party to maintain confidentiality if it desires, may never be. But that is in the future. For now, Valieva was found to have committed a doping violation and was ineligible to compete at Beijing at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
Reax: USOPC, WADA cheer Valieva decision on behalf of skaters
U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee chief executive Sarah Hirshland was more than thrilled by the CAS decision on Monday:
“Today is a day we have been eagerly awaiting for two years, as it is a significant win not only for Team USA athletes but also for athletes worldwide who practice fair play and advocate for clean sport.
“The incredible athletes of Team USA, including Evan Bates, Karen Chen, Nathan Chen, Madison Chock, Zachary Donohue, Brandon Frazier, Madison Hubbell, Alexa Knierim [and] Vincent Zhou, have displayed remarkable fortitude. Their outstanding performances in Beijing will forever symbolize their commitment to clean competition.
“We take immense pride in the United States Figure Skating Team and their historic performance. Not only did they achieve their best-ever finish, score the highest number of points ever, and achieve firsts in three different disciplines, but they also embody the spirit and principles of the Olympic Movement.
“We now anticipate the day when we can wholeheartedly celebrate these athletes, along with their peers from around the world. Their moment is approaching, and when it arrives, it will serve as a testament to the justice and recognition they truly deserve.”
The World Anti-Doping Agency was similarly pleased:
“WADA welcomes the decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to uphold its appeal and impose a four-year period of ineligibility on the Russian Olympic Committee figure skater, Kamila Valieva, as well as disqualify her results from the date of the sample collection on 25 December 2021, including all her results during the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing. WADA took this appeal to CAS in the interests of fairness for athletes and clean sport and we believe that has been delivered through this decision.
“The doping of children is unforgivable. Doctors, coaches or other support personnel who are found to have provided performance-enhancing substances to minors should face the full force of the World Anti-Doping Code. Indeed, WADA encourages governments to consider passing legislation – as some have done already – making the doping of minors a criminal offence.”
Reax: “war has been declared on Russian sports”
The Russian Olympic Committee was furious over the decision, posting a message which included (computer translation from the original Russian):
“Unfortunately, the CAS decision is negative, but we can no longer count on the objectivity and impartiality of this international structure, and we know this from the example of those cases where the [Russian Olympic Committee] itself is involved as a party, including in the case of our suspension based on the decision of the Executive Board of the [International Olympic Committee].
“Of course, one can believe in a coincidence of circumstances when the test result was made public, immediately after the end of Russia’s victorious team figure skating tournament. As well as in pure coincidence, the ISU will make a decision on approving the medals of the Olympic tournament on February 7, the day of the 10th anniversary of the Games in Sochi. In fact, war has been declared on Russian sports, and, as we see, all means are good.
“With regard to the gold medals of our figure skaters, the Russian Olympic Committee has repeatedly emphasized that, in accordance with the applicable rules, the results of team competitions at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games do not depend on the outcome of the consideration of the individual case of Kamila Valieva, and the awards won by our team in Beijing are not legally subject to review.
“CAS did not consider the issue of team results in this process. This is the prerogative of the ISU and the IOC. The ROC will closely monitor further steps and decisions of international sports organizations and, if necessary, take appropriate measures to legally protect Russian interests.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the decision should be appealed:
“From my point of view, of course, it’s politicized.
“If there are any appeal mechanisms and so on, then, of course, they should be involved. We must protect the interests of our athletes to the end.”
The Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on Physical Culture and Sports, Dmitry Svishchev, told the Russian news agency TASS:
“This decision was, unfortunately, expected for us. But at the same time, it is completely politicized. Valieva and her lawyers need to use all opportunities. We support Kamila, who has experienced so much pressure on herself in recent years.
“Many cases of CAS, which is largely affiliated with the International Olympic Committee, have been going on like a carbon copy lately. I think that we shouldn’t expect anything good in the case between the Russian Olympic Committee and the IOC.”
Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin told TASS (computer translation here and following):
“We emphasize that not a single athlete should suffer from a biased attitude for the sake of someone’s political interests, international authorities must prioritize the protection of athletes, which, as we see today, is no longer a priority for some of them.
“The details of the CAS decision must be carefully studied from a legal point of view. The fate of the gold medal in the team event of the 2022 Olympic Games will be decided by the International Skating Union: we urge it to be independent and unbiased.”
The Russian figure skating team physician, Dr. Phillip Shevetsky told TASS:
“I was hoping for an objective and personal assessment of this whole situation, especially at a high legal level. One might assume that this is an absurd accident, but now we see a deliberately planned attack, because, despite the facts in Kamila’s favor, a decision of unprecedented cruelty has been made.
“The work to discredit Russian sports has been going on since 2006, and now they are trying to weaken us more than ever, to destroy us by all means.
“Kamila became a victim of unsportsmanlike wrestling, a bureaucratic sports machine. A unique athlete, there has never been and never will be, but this machine has done everything to destroy the most beautiful thing in sports. They erase all the best and ingenious, created by nature and great labor. And all this in order to take away the Olympic team gold from the Russians. They intend to do this in any way. If they need victory at such a price, then what kind of sport is this anyway?”
Legendary skating coach Tatyana Tarasova said:
“What can I say, there is no justice. It’s a shame that such an honest, wonderful, talented person like Kamila faced such cruel injustice in her youth. Hatred of our country spread to her.”
Beyond the decision announced Monday, more questions are raised for the ISU Council ahead of its 7 February meeting on how to deal with the disqualification of Valieva:
● Via her disqualification, the entire Russian team could be disqualified.
● Valieva’s 20 points (out of 74) could be removed, leaving Russia with the bronze medal with 54 points to 53 for Canada.
● Valieva’s 20 points could be removed and the scores for other skaters in the women’s Short Program and Free Skate could be re-allocated. This would change the final scores to 67 for the United States (gold), then 65 for Japan (silver), 55 for Canada (bronze) and 54 for Russia, in fourth place.
The ISU has promised a statement on Tuesday (30th).
Estanguet realistic on security challenges for Paris 2024
Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet (FRA) told Reuters that security is always on the mind of the organizing committee:
“It’s hard to know six months down the line whether things are going to get worse or calmer.
“You have to stay in your place, not think that the Games are a magic wand that will solve all the problems and armed conflicts in our world, but with the deep conviction that they have a tendency to pacify relations and leave a space for dialogue and positive expression, and that each delegation, each qualified athlete must be respected.”
He has supported the IOC’s approach to the Russian and Belarusian athletes being allowed to compete as “neutrals,” subject to the IOC’s own checks, in addition to those of the relevant International Federation:
“I find it reassuring to see that, on such a complex subject, it’s not the organizing country that decides which countries can take part in an event.
“In 2014 in Russia (Sochi) and in 2022 in China (Beijing), at no time were these nations able to influence which countries could take part in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and I think that’s healthy.”
He also acknowledged concerns over the safety of delegations such as Israel, now deeply involved against Hamas in the Gaza Strip after its deadly attack on 7 October last year, and which was victimized by a terrorist plot at the 1972 Games:
“We are taking a very strict approach to all the delegations, with the Prefecture of Police and the State working with the intelligence services.
“I’ve been to the Games (four times as an athlete), and we know that this is a delegation that, given what happened at the Munich Games in particular, is extremely closely watched and accompanied to guarantee its security at the time of the Games.
“The threat level is regularly updated so that the police and security services can guarantee that every participant in the Games and every spectator who comes to experience the magic of the Games will be in complete safety.”
As for protests during the Games period:
“Security remains a priority at the Olympics, and we expect that there will be demonstrations and demands. We are a free country where people can put forward their ideas, but we want them to be peaceful and respectful of all those who want to enjoy the festivities.
“We will manage the situation as it arises, and we need to be able to react immediately as best we can, respecting the integrity of everyone involved, not overreacting, and guaranteeing the continuity of the Games’ operations. We want to welcome the athletes in the best possible conditions.”
Paris 2024’s Jolly on managing the unmanageable Olympic opening
The Paris 2024 opening ceremony will be a first in many ways: first ever outside a stadium, first on a river, first to have more than 150,000 spectators and probably the largest ever in terms of assigned security personnel.
The show itself is being led by Thomas Jolly, 42, a renowned French theatrical director, who is literally assembling the show on the fly:
“What’s unique about this show is that you can’t rehearse it on location. Actually you can’t rehearse it even once in advance.”
He explained in an interview with Agence France Presse last week that the staged elements are being developed and perfected inside enormous hangars, while the on-the-river elements are being worked out at a sailing center.
And then there is the Seine itself:
“There’s the issue of the Seine which is not the same depth in one place as another. The bridges don’t have the same strength, nor do the banks of the river.
“The wind doesn’t blow in the same way depending on where you are. There are places where fish spawn too, because we are trying not to disturb the natural environment.”
Jolly said that the show, expected to consume about three hours in all, including the on-the-water parade of 200-plus boats over a 6 km course, will integrate the entertainment elements, parade of nations and the protocol aspects, rather than staging them in discrete segments.
He was appointed as the artistic director in September of 2022 for the opening and closing of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, responsible for four shows on 26 July, 11 August, 28 August and 8 September.
But most of the public focus now is on the Olympic opening in July. The plan was developed by last July and then presented for review to all the groups that would be involved:
“All of these reviews were done to see if we could turn our dream into reality.
“They all agreed pretty unanimously on around 90 percent, so I have around 10 percent left of the project that I need to re-adapt.“
Any clues? He gave a hint:
“Around ten paintings will be spread out from the Austerlitz Bridge to the Trocadéro. They will be crossed by delegations and hosted by artists from all disciplines: circus, dance, music, performance, plastic arts … The story that we have written tells a story of what France is and what will be the France. I want each spectator to feel represented.”
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Athletics ● The indoor season is heating up, with multiple noteworthy world-leading marks, including Spain’s Mohamed Katir with a 3:51.91 men’s mile win at Val-de-Reuil (FRA), plus Hugues Fabrice Zango (BUR) triple-jumping 17.15 m (56-3 1/4). Britain’s Molly Caudery won the women’s vault at 4.83 m (15-10), the best so far this year.
The top men’s vault moved up to 6.01 m (19-8 1/2) for American star Chris Nilsen in a meet in South Dakota; he missed three times at 6.10 m (20-0).
At the John Thomas Terrier Classic at Boston University, the 5,000 m races were hot, with Kenyan Edwin Kurgat winning the first section in 12:57.52, with American 1,500 m star Yared Nuguse getting a lifetime best – indoors or out – of 13:02.09 in third, moving to no. 6 all-time U.S. indoors.
In section two, South African Adrian Wildschutt won in a tight finish over Northern Arizona junior Nico Young, 12:56.76 (world leader) to 12:57.14, a collegiate record. That makes Young no. 4 all-time U.S. indoors (and moves Nuguse down to no. 7).
Ethiopia’s Senayet Getachew won the women’s 5,000 m in 14:42.94, now no. 8 all-time world indoors, ahead of countrywoman Fantaye Belayneh (14:43.25). Americans Josette Andrews and Courtney Wayment finished 5-6 in 14:46.51 and 14:49.78, moving to no. 2 all-time U.S. indoor and no. 6, respectively.
● Figure Skating ● U.S. Figure Skating announced its men’s and Pairs teams for the ISU World Championships in March in Montreal (CAN), with the top three in each event moving on.
Men’s champ Ilia Malinin, runner-up Jason Brown and bronze winner Camden Pulkinen will compete, as will Pairs winners Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea, bronze medalists Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez and Emily Chan and Spencer Howe, who led after the Short Program, but withdrew due to injuries. They filed a petition with the federation to be named for the team, which was accepted.
Pairs runner-ups Alisa Efimova and Misha Mitrofanov are not eligible for the Worlds this season since Efimova competed for Germany at the 2023 Worlds.
● Football ● FIFA announced its schedule for visiting the bidding countries for the 2027 FIFA Women’s World Cup, with Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands on for 30 January to 2 February; Brazil from 20-23 February and the U.S. and Mexico from 26-29 February.
The vote will be taken on 17 May at the FIFA Congress in Thailand.
FIFA released some new statistics on the 2023 Women’s World Cup, noting the increased level of play. Although the field increased from 24 to 32 and eight nations fielded teams in the Women’s World Cup for the first time, defenses were tighter than ever, across the board.
Goals-per-game were down to 2.56 per match for the entire tournament, down 9% from the 2.81 for 2015 and 2019. Amazingly, in the group stage, scoring was even tighter, down 12% from 2015 to just 2.65 a game in 2023 vs. 3.00 just eight years prior.
If you’re a Greek football fan, you better have a mobile phone. You will need one to get into a stadium.
After repeated failures to corral violence at matches, the Greek Sports Minister Yiannis Vroutsis explained to a parliamentary committee on Monday that a new system, to be implemented by 9 April, will require Greek fans to use a government-provided application to access stadiums:
“So far, we have not been able to do something that’s obvious: To identify people who are entering a stadium.
“With the help of a mobile phone, a person’s ID can be automatically cross-checked with a ticket. Anyone without a cellphone won’t get into the stadium.”
Greek stadia have been without fans since an attack on riot police on 7 December 2023 following a volleyball match that included the death of an officer after being hit by a flare. Stadia were closed to 12 February, but will reopen on 13 February.
Surveillance cameras will also be installed by 6 March, and Vroutsis said:
“From now on, when a supporter watches a soccer game, we will know his or her name, phone number, home address and assigned seat.”
The Associated Press reported additional measures will “include spot bans of supporters at stadiums following violent incidents, a national registry of members of soccer supporters’ clubs, and new rules banning stadium entry to minors under the age of 15 unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.”
● Ice Hockey ● Remember the IIHF men’s World U-20 Championship in Division III-A that Israel was not supposed too attend because it was too dangerous?
The event was held in Sofia (BUL) and concluded on Sunday, with the Israelis winning the tournament with a 5-0 record, outscoring their opponents by 41-14. Mike Levin (ISR) was the top scorer in the tournament with nine goals and 17 total points. By winning, Israel is now promoted to the IIHF Division II-Group B for 2025.
Attendance at the event totaled 1,775 across 15 games, for an average of 118 each.
● Modern Pentathlon ● The Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM) announced the approval of 12 Belarusian pentathletes, plus four coaches and a therapist to participate as “neutrals” in the UIPM World Cup in Cairo (EGY) in March. None were named.
No Russians were approved and the statement did not indicate that any applied.
● Swimming ● European Aquatics re-elected Portugal’s Antonio Silva as its president with all 46 federations present in favor, at its Saturday Congress in Athens.
Silva was a controversial candidate due to allegations made against him in Portugal over ethics issues, including registering intellectual property apparently belonging to the national federation in his own name. He has suspended himself from his Portuguese Swimming Federation role, and the federation has been instructed to dismiss him by the Portuguese Institute of Sports and Youth.
European Aquatics was informed of the allegations in Portugal against Silva, but allowed him to stand for election again as the issues were limited to Portugal only.
For our new, 920-event International Sports Calendar for 2024 and beyond, by date and by sport, click here!