The Sports Examiner

TSX REPORT: WADA on offense with Q&A on Chinese doping; France rejects Russian volunteers for Paris; Montreal wants Torch Relay spot!

Tourisme Montreal’s cheeky demand for a part of the Olympic Torch Relay!

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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡

1. WADA issues Q&A on 2021 Chinese doping positives
2. France refuses visas to Russian volunteers for Paris 2024
3. FEI forum: changes must come to equestrian championships
4. ISU Congress proposal reduces figure skating jumps
5. Montreal’s newest publicity stunt: demanding the Olympic Flame

● The World Anti-Doping Agency is back on offense on the 2021 Chinese doping matter, issuing a detailed “question-and-answer” document on Tuesday. It’s comprehensive, but still leaves questions unanswered.

● A story by the Russian news agency TASS says that 20-plus Russian citizens who volunteered to help at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games have been refused entry by the French authorities.

● At the annual FEI Forum in Lausanne, concern was raised over the future of FEI championship events, especially as to costs for people, horses and broadcasting. A change from asking for formal bids to informally soliciting interest – a la the IOC for the Olympic Games – could be coming.

● Proposals submitted for June’s International Skating Union Congress in Las Vegas include a reduction in the number of jumping elements in figure skating from seven to six in the Free Skate for Singles and from three lifts to two in Pairs. Why? Less athletics, more artistry.

● The agenda and proposals list for June’s International Skating Union Congress include a reduction in the number of “jumping elements” from seven to six for Singles and from three lifts in Pairs to two, to try and add some more choreography to the Free Skate programs.

● In a cheeky, but well-played publicity stunt, Tourisme Montreal demanded that – given its huge French-speaking population – it should have part of the Paris 2024 Torch Relay. Nice try!

World Championship: Ice Hockey (U.S. and Canada undefeated in IIHF men’s U18s) ●

Panorama: Athletics (Echevarria to return for Cuba in long jump; refugee team’s Lohalith suspended for doping) = Basketball (women’s superstar Parker retires) = Football (FIFA collaborating with Miami Dade College) ●

1.
WADA issues Q&A on 2021 Chinese doping positives

The World Anti-Doping Agency is on the offensive, issuing a detailed “question-and-answer” document dealing with the heavy criticism it is receiving over its perceived lack of follow-up to 28 doping positives from the heart medication trimetazidine at a January 2021 swim meet in China.

The key facts, per WADA:

● “There were 28 Adverse Analytical Findings (AAFs) for the prohibited substance,
trimetazidine (TMZ), involving 23 different swimmers, which means that a small number of them tested positive more than once.

● “In early April 2021, CHINADA informed WADA that it had initiated an investigation, involving the public health authorities, into the source of TMZ found in the samples. There were strong indicators that these cases could be a case of group contamination considering the following factors:

“– There were 23 swimmers, and 28 positive samples. All tested positive at the same time for TMZ at consistently very low levels (pg or low ng/mL range).

“– The swimmers were from different regions of China, with different coaches and from different swimming clubs.

“– The swimmers were in the same place at the same time when the positive samples arose.

“– A number of these swimmers were tested on multiple occasions during the swim meet. Some of them were tested on two or even three occasions on consecutive days. For several swimmers, the results varied from negative to positive within a few hours, which is not compatible with a doping scenario of deliberate ingestion nor with micro-dosing. …

“On 15 June 2021, WADA was notified of the decision by CHINADA to accept that 23 swimmers had tested positive in early 2021 for TMZ, after inadvertently being exposed to the substance through food/environment contamination as a result of TMZ detected in the kitchen (including spice containers, the extraction fan above the hob and the drains); and that, they would not move forward with Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV) cases. This decision was also provided to World Aquatics (formerly FINA) at the same time as WADA, as required under the rules.”

WADA reviewed the case file, World Aquatics reviewed the case file and WADA sent the materials to outside counsel for review. All three decided there was no appealable case and allowed CHINADA’s contamination theory to stand, with no sanctions for the swimmers.

In view of the furor which has ensued, WADA has engaged former Canton of Vaud Attorney General Eric Cottier to review the matter. That’s where we are.

Observed: WADA believes it is in the right here and is strongly defending its position, which is its right, of course.

The unresolved issues – which were not addressed in the Q&A – come from the German ARD documentary “The China Files,” which stated that the CHINADA report that cleared the swimmers was created by the Ministry of Public Security, not the anti-doping agency. Moreover:

“The report states that more than two months later, investigators inspected the [hotel] kitchen and found traces of trimetazidine in the extractor hood, on spice containers and in the drain.”

So, the inspection which cleared the swimmers took place months after the incident, and WADA did not investigate the situation on its own, but agreed to take the CHINADA report at face value.

Perhaps an investigation 2-3 months after the fact would have been worthless, but having a report that was ostensibly from a national anti-doping agency that was – if it was – in fact written by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, is troubling.

WADA may not have been able to successfully prosecute the 23 swimmers involved in the January 2021 doping incident. But what appears to be a too-trusting attitude, dealing with an admittedly difficult security apparatus in China, has caused substantial doubts that still need to be either dispelled or further explained.

2.
France refuses visas to Russian volunteers for Paris 2024

“Yesterday, I received an official letter saying that France’s authorities turned down my application for being a volunteer at the Olympic Games.

“I contacted more than 20 Russians whom I worked at several Olympics with and who also filed volunteer applications. All of these people, who have vast expertise, have been denied as well.”

That’s from an unnamed individual who contacted the Russian news agency TASS, explaining that she and others she contacted have been refused entry into France by the French government for volunteer positions for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. According to the TASS story, the unidentified prospective volunteer added:

“The Organizing Committee wrote to me that it is unaware of the reasons why the French authorities have turned down my application. Under France’s domestic security code, the Organizing Committee referred my data to the relevant administrative body for a check. I could have been accredited only after its approval, but, regrettably, my application was declined.

“I am very upset to receive the refusal. Bearing in mind the fact that many volunteers from Russia took part in Olympics before, I think that all applicants with Russian passports have been denied accreditation.”

The Paris 2024 organizers had said in 2023 that the volunteer process, with 45,000 to be selected, was open to all nationalities. But, of course, the French government has the last word on entry into the country.

3.
FEI forum: changes must come to equestrian championships

A fascinating session of an “FEI Championships Review” was held on Tuesday during the annual, two-day FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne, exploring the issues surrounding major equestrian events in the wake of the implosion of the World Equestrian Games, last held as a single event in 2018 in Tryon, North Carolina.

The presentation noted the federation’s “major” championships as the FEI World Championships, the FEI European Championships and the FEI World Cup Finals in dressage and jumping. Minor championships include other continental championships, youth championships and young horses championship events.

As for the World Equestrian Games, split into two parts for 2022, Italian federation Secretary General Simone Perillo said that “while the WEG concept is fantastic, with all the disciplines together, it is economically unsustainable, but it’s critical to keep the value of team sport alive” and he proposed “a complete reversal of the economic model to avoid equestrian becoming an individual sport.”

A review of the current attractiveness of the FEI’s events showed a “relatively low number of bids for major FEI Championships indicates that there are some issues with the current FEI Championships model that might need to be addressed.

This means a change could be made along the lines of what the International Olympic Committee has done, moving away from asking for bids by a specific deadline to more of a “direct dialogue” model to encourage national federation and possible hosts to consider hosting events.

The current model for the “World Equestrian Games” asks possible hosts to submit proposals for one or more disciplines instead of requiring one site to host everything. The big cost items continue to be accommodations and meals – for people and horses – as well as broadcasting, although new technologies are bringing the broadcasting costs down.

The outcome:

● “To close the session, delegates requested a long-term plan for major FEI Championships as the number one tool to show equestrian sport to the world. A transfer of knowledge between former and future hosts would allow bidders to work together to develop more comprehensive and cost-effective bids.”

● “[FEI Deputy Legal Director] Aine Power [IRL] explained that the next steps would be to report back to the FEI Board at the June in person meeting with a strategy to be developed for presentation to the FEI Board at its November 2024 Board Meeting during the FEI General Assembly.”

Observed: These discussions are important and are happening everywhere. Since scale is always an issue and shared expenses are repeatedly seen as desirable, it will be fascinating to see if International Federations look to each other to seek out potential partners to work together.

In Germany, a collection of multiple national championships into a single, co-produced, four-day, multi-sport entity called “Die Finals” has been popular. In 2023 – the fourth edition – 18 sports were massed into the program, with 210,000 total spectators and 25 hours of national television coverage on national channels ARD and ZDF.

That could be the basis for discussions between International Federations seeing limited interest in their championship events, perhaps coordinated at the start by the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF). Interestingly, the newly elected head of ASOIF is FEI chief Ingmar De Vos of Belgium!

4.
ISU Congress proposal reduces figure skating jumps

A potentially significant rule change has been listed in the proposals for rule changes by the International Skating Union at its upcoming Congress in Las Vegas, Nevada from 8-14 June, reducing the maximum number of jumps in figure skating competitions.

For the men’s and women’s Singles Free Skate, proposal 239, from the Singles & Pair Skating Technical Committee would require a “well-balanced Free Skating program” to include:

● “maximum of six jump elements (one of which must be an Axel type jump);

● “maximum of three spins, one of which must be a spin combination, one a flying spin and one choreographic spin;

● “maximum of one step sequence;

● “maximum of one choreographic sequence.”

This would reduce the number of jumps from seven to six, and introduces the “choreographic” spin, which must be related to the music.

Proposal 240 on jump combinations and jump sequences further reduces the maximum number of jump combinations from three to two in the Free Skate.

In Pairs skating, a similar new rule proposal (245) would reduce the number of lifts from three to two and add a “choreographic lift” and eliminate the “pair spin combination” in favor of a “choreographic pair spin.”

Why? According to the reason posted for proposal 245: “to encourage the creativity and to have more entertaining programs.”

This is a clear move by the ISU Technical Committee to try and reduce the overwhelming role of athleticism in Free Skate program and try to introduce some more artistic elements. Many competitors and commentators have noted that the Free Skate programs are essentially jumping exercises and little else. These rules, if agreed to, will temper that balance, at least somewhat.

The issue of age and skating came up again. Following the Kamila Valieva doping incident at the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games – she was 15 at the time – the ISU passed a rule which mandated a gradual increase to a minimum of 17 years of age.

Proposals 45 and 46 from the ISU Council clarify the new standard for both figure skating and speed skating, requiring:

“In International Senior Competitions, ISU Senior Championships and the Olympic Winter Games, only Skaters may compete who have reached at least the age of seventeen before July 1 preceding the Events.”

However, U.S. Figure Skating proposed a lower limit of age 16 for Pairs for 2024/25 onwards and 17 for Singles and Ice Dance. This drew a negative response from the ISU Council, which noted, “The Council is not in favor as the age increases were overwhelmingly accepted after extensive discussion at the 2022 Congress. It is also a matter of the reputation and image of the ISU in the sporting and wider world.”

A Dutch proposal (37) asks for sponsor markings to be allowed on the outside of the skates, so as to receive some attention from the live and television audiences:

“At this moment, there are no possibilities for sponsor markings and exposure during the competitive performance in figure skating. This is only possible during the Kiss & Cry moments and a few other moments beside the competitive performance. However, the media coverage is mostly focused on the competitive performance. To stimulate the financial situation in smaller figure skating countries, and the level playing field, it would help enormously to create sponsor exposure and visibility also during the competitive performance.

“Sponsor exposure will lead to a better financial situation and more professionalism in the sports. We are aware that a marking on the dress or suit won’t fit, but a marking on the boot seems to be possible.”

There are other concerns, notably in Short Track, where proposal 35 states:

“The World Cup Short Track Speed Skating is suffering from lack of finances. In order to provide for better access to Sponsors, a World Tour like in other International Sports Federations shall be introduced.”

The proposal calls for a “World Tour” for Short track vs. the current “World Cup” title, with a new format to be specified before each season.

However, the Korean federation is asking for a new event, a Short Track World Team Championships, with $326,000 in prize money. The ISU Council was not impressed, commenting:

“The Council is not in favor. Referring to its own proposal for amendment of Rule 100, the Council feels that the urgent priority for Short Track Speed Skating is to increase the interest and reputation of the existing ISU Events, including team competition elements, rather than establishing new ISU Championships. Furthermore, the indicated budget for implementation, without evidence of potential related TV rights and advertising incomes, would require a significant addition to the overall ISU budget.”

5.
Montreal’s newest publicity stunt: demanding the Olympic Flame

A clever publicity effort by the City of Montreal’s tourism arm is now up on its Web site with the title: “Pass the flame to Montreal.”

The front-page takeover further states:

“Montreal has more French men and women than almost half of the cities crossed by the flame. It goes without saying that we were surprised not to be considered in the relay route”

The Olympic Torch Relay will hit French soil on 8 May, when it arrives on the tall ship Belem in Marseille, with a huge crowd expected to meet it there. During its trip throughout France and to overseas French departments – including French Guiana, Reunion Island and French Polynesia (Tahiti) – the Olympic Flame will crisscross the world … but it not planned to land in other countries.

French-speaking Montreal is Canada’s second-largest city at 1.76 million, with a metro population of 4.29 million, both second only to Toronto. In fact, it is larger than every city in France except Paris.

Tourisme Montreal has a video, promoting the city’s tourism attractions (of course) and reminding viewers of the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, with many of the facilities still present and in use.

“This request is symbolic,” the site notes, but asks visitors to share a tourism promotion video of the city anyway.

Cute, and well played.

≡ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP ≡

● Ice Hockey ● The IIHF men’s U-18 Worlds are getting serious in Espoo and Vantaa, Finland, with the U.S. and Canada the pool winners.

The defending champion Americans went 4-0 and won their games by a combined total of 33-7. Canada was also 4-0 in Group B, with a similar, 31-7 scoring margin. They will lead the playoff seedings for the quarterfinals on Thursday:

● U.S. (4-0) vs. Switzerland (1-3)
● Finland (3-1) vs. Sweden (2-2)

● Canada (4-0) vs. Latvia (1-3)
● Czech Republic (2-2) vs. Slovakia (1-3)

The semifinals will be on Saturday (4th) and the medal matches on Sunday the 5th.

≡ PANORAMA ≡

● Athletics ● Interesting story from Pan Am Sports, that superstar Cuban long jump Juan Echevarria is returning to competition for Cuba, to be coached by Cuban legend Ivan Pedroso, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist and four-time World Champion.

Echavarria, still just 25, last competed in 2021, when he was the Olympic silver medalist in Tokyo, after winning the World Indoor Championships gold in 2018 and the 2019 Pan American Games. With his best of 8.68 m (28-5 3/4) from 2018, he still ranks 11th all-time and has a scary windy best of 8.92 m (29-3 1/4 but +3.3 m/s) from 2019. He has been living in Portugal and was widely expected to change allegiance, but he wrote on Instagram:

“I have fulfilled my dream of joining the great Ivan Pedroso’s team. This would not be possible without all the work done by my previous coaches to whom I owe being here. Thank you for the journey together. And from today we will work for more dreams, the first to achieve the mark required for the #Paris2024 Olympic Games, with the desire to compete and continue giving triumphs to #Cuba.”

Another provisional suspension for doping, this time of Athlete Refugee Team member Anjelina Nadai Lohalith from South Sudan, now living in Kenya, for the use of trimetazidine, the same substance as used by now-banned Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva.

The allegation was issued on Tuesday; Lohalith participated in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio as a member of the Refugee Olympic Team in the 1,500 m, running in the first round.

● Basketball ● Two-time Olympic gold medalist Candace Parker (USA) announced in an Instagram post on Sunday that she has completed her basketball playing career:

“I’m retiring.

“I promised I’d never cheat the game & that I’d leave it in a better place than I came into it. The competitor in me always wants 1 more, but it’s time. My HEART & body knew, but I needed to give my mind time to accept it.”

She explained that, at 38, her health was becoming a significant issue:

“This offseason hasn’t been fun on a foot that isn’t cooperating. It’s no fun playing in pain (10 surgeries in my career) it’s no fun knowing what you could do, if only…it’s no fun hearing “she isn’t the same” when I know why, it’s no fun accepting the fact you need surgery AGAIN.”

And she is hardly done with the game:

“In the mean time, know IM A BUSINESS, man, not a businessman. This is the beginning…I’m attacking business, private equity, ownership (I will own both a NBA & WNBA team), broadcasting, production, boardrooms, beach volleyball, dominoes (sorry babe it’s going to get more real) with the same intensity & focus I did basketball.”

She finishes as one of the greatest players ever in women’s basketball, playing primarily as a forward for the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA from 2008-20 and later for the Chicago Sky and Las Vegas Aces. She was on three WNBA champion teams, a seven-time All-WNBA First Team selection, a two-time Most Valuable Player and Olympic gold medalist with the U.S. in 2008 and 2012.

● Football ● FIFA announced a collaboration agreement with Miami Dade College, a unit of the Florida College System, with eight campuses and more than 47,000 enrollees, which will “give students chance to intern at FIFA’s Miami office” and have the “FIFA Museum to loan exhibits to Miami Dade College to bring beautiful game closer to local community.”

FIFA’s headquarters for the organization of the 2026 FIFA World Cup is in Coral Gables, Florida, in the Miami-Dade area. Miami Dade College offers Bachelor’s Associate of Arts and technical degrees at the campuses and more than 20 outreach centers.

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