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≡ THE 5-RING CIRCUS ≡
1. WADA takes Valieva case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport
2. Ecuador’s World Cup place confirmed as Castillo held eligible
3. Orlando selected to host 2024 U. S. Olympic Marathon Trials
4. Varnier to be Milan Cortina 2026 chief … with a warning
5. Telemundo to offer wall-to-wall World Cup coverage
The World Anti-Doping Agency, tired of waiting for the Russian Anti-Doping Agency to act on the months-long inquiry into skater Kamila Valieva’s positive doping test prior to the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, has pulled the case out of Russia and to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Under the World Anti-Doping Code, Valieva will be presumed to have been cleared by the Russians and will try to prove otherwise. The Court of Arbitration for Sport announced that Ecuador will not be replaced at the FIFA World Cup by Chile or Peru, as wing Byron Castillo was determined to be eligible to play for Ecuador in the qualification phase. Orlando was selected to host the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, the first time the event will be held in Florida. The floundering Milan Cortina 2026 organizing committee will get a new chief executive in Andrea Varnier, an experienced entertainment executive who was a key staff member of the Turin 2006 organizing committee. He is charged with reviving the domestic sponsorship sales program and energizing the organization of the Winter Games. Comcast’s Telemundo has the U.S. Spanish-language rights for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and will deluge viewers with coverage on television and online, not only with live match coverage from Qatar, but pre-match and post-match shows, an hour-long discussion program at the end of each match day and a daily wrap-up show at midnight Eastern time throughout the tournament.
WADA takes Valieva case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport
“Despite putting RUSADA under formal notice to resolve the Kamila Valieva case promptly, no progress was made. Therefore, I can confirm WADA has now officially referred it directly to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.”
That’s a tweet from World Anti-Doping Agency President Witold Banka (POL) on Tuesday, removing the slow-moving case that has held up the results of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games Figure Skating Team Event since February, from the Russian Anti-Doping Agency, under Rule 13.3 of the World Anti-Doping Code (2021):
“Failure to Render a Timely Decision by an Anti-Doping Organization
“Where, in a particular case, an Anti-Doping Organization fails to render a decision with respect to whether an antidoping rule violation was committed within a reasonable deadline set by WADA, WADA may elect to appeal directly to CAS as if the Anti-Doping Organization had rendered a decision finding no anti-doping rule violation.”
Inevitably, the Valieva case was going to end up at the Court of Arbitration for Sport anyway, so the RUSADA Disciplinary Committee hearing has essentially been skipped. How did we get here?
● Valieva, who emerged as the favorite in the women’s figure skating competition at the Beijing Winter Games after winning at the European Championships, failed an in-competition doping test on 25 December 2021 as she tested positive for the banned heart drug trimetazidine.
● However, the positive finding was not announced until 7 February 2022, just after Valieva – then 15 – had won the women’s portion of the Olympic Team Event and Russia had won the overall event, with the U.S. second and Japan third (and Canada fourth). The delay, from the anti-doping lab in Stockholm (SWE) was blamed on a lack of available technical staff due to Covid restrictions.
● Valieva was provisionally suspended on 8 February and the medal ceremony for the Team Event was postponed. After multiple appeals, Valieva was eventually allowed to skate in the women’s competition and finished fourth.
So the issue has been the Team Event, with the official results still not confirmed and no medals awarded. Thus, WADA has stepped in, after the Russian Anti-Doping Agency indicated on 14 September that its inquiry into the matter – that started in February – was complete and that a hearing would be held in October. But so far, no hearing.
WADA will request all of the information compiled by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency for the CAS hearing, and if it does not provide it, RUSADA could once again be suspended, again removing Russia from international competitions (in addition to the International Olympic Committee’s ban over the invasion of Ukraine). RUSADA said in a statement that it “is conducting the results processing procedure in accordance with the requirements of international standards.”
So the issue has been joined and WADA will move forward to appeal what is now an assumption under the World Anti-Doping Code that Valieva did not commit an anti-doping violation. Stay tuned.
Ecuador’s World Cup place confirmed as Castillo held eligible
The last-ditch effort to dislodge Ecuador from the 2022 FIFA World Cup failed, as the Court of Arbitration for Sport announced Tuesday that appeals by Chile and Peru were upheld in part, but not to allow either to join the tournament.
The furor was over wing Byron Castillo, who was born in Colombia, but played for the Ecuadorian team during eight of its World Cup qualifying matches. Both Chile and Peru claimed that Ecuador should be disqualified or forfeit the games Castillo played in and they should be advanced to the World Cup tournament. The CAS arbitrators found:
“The [Federacion Ecuatoriana de Futbol] did not violate Article 22 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code because the Player was eligible to participate in the preliminary competition to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Since the nationality of a player with a national association is determined by national laws (subject to time limits in case of a change of sporting nationality, which was not the case here), Byron Castillo was eligible to play for the FEF in the preliminary round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 considering that the Ecuadorian authorities acknowledged Byron Castillo as an Ecuadorian national.”
However, the Ecuadorian federation was found to have provided false information about Castillo in violation of FIFA rules, in that his date and place of birth was wrong, although it may have been Castillo who provided the incorrect details. Nevertheless, Ecuador was penalized three points in the qualification for the 2026 FIFA World Cup and required to pay a fine of CHF 100,000.
Why not penalize Ecuador the three points now, which would elevate either Chile or Peru? The announcement stated:
“The Panel determined that the 3-point deduction should not be imposed in the present preliminary competition to the FIFA World Cup, but rather in the next edition, considering that the Player was eligible to play in the preliminary competition to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and that such competition has not been affected by the aforementioned rule violation by the FEF.”
Ecuador was drawn into Group A and will play Qatar in the opening match of the World Cup on 20 November.
Orlando selected to host 2024 U. S. Olympic Marathon Trials
USA Track & Field and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee announced Orlando, Florida as the host for the 2024 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, with Chattanooga, Tennessee apparently the only other potential host.
According to the announcement: “The top three female and male place finishers in the Olympic Trials who have met qualifying performance standards will self-select for the 2024 USATF Olympic squad.”
The race is slated for 3 February 2024, with average highs in Orlando of 71-72 F and lows of 52-53 F, which could be fine assuming an early-morning start. The weather this year was warmer, with a high of 85 and a low of 59. Sunrise will be about 7:15 a.m.
Humidity will be the question, although early February tends to be the driest time of the year.
In June, World Athletics announced:
“Any national Olympic committee may choose to reallocate a quota place to an unqualified athlete, provided the athlete has achieved at least a 2:11:30 (men) or 2:29:30 (women) eligibility performance within the qualification window.”
This appears to mean that as long as the U.S. has three marathoners who have met the not-yet-announced qualifying standard – whether men or women – they can be replaced by others (i.e., who finish in the top three at the Trials), as long as they have run at least 2:11:30 for men or 2:29:30 for women.
The entry standards for the 2023 World Championships in Budapest are 2:09:40 for men and 2:28:00 for women; half the entries are hoped for on time and the remainder from the World Athletics world rankings. In 2022, just four American men have run faster than 2:09:40 and seven faster than 2:11:30; the women have done better, with eight faster than 2:28:00 and 10 at 2:29:30 or faster.
As for getting into the Trials in Orlando, the USATF entry standards are 2:18:00 for men (or 1:03 for the half marathon) and 2:37:00 for women (or 1:12:00 for the half).
Varnier to be Milan Cortina 2026 chief … with a warning
In the face of disappointing domestic marketing results and a perceived lack of activity by the organizing committee, 59-year-old entertainment executive Andrea Varnier will be the new chief executive of the 2026 Milan Cortina Olympic Winter Games organizing committee.
He’s no stranger to the Winter Games, having been the Image and Events Director for the Winter Games organizing committee for Turin 2006, and then continuing his involvement as a consultant on ceremonies to the IOC. He headed a television production company in Rome, and most recently has been the chief executive of Costa Edutainment S.p.a., the leader in Italy in amusement parks and aquariums.
He will be expected to move things forward quickly. New Italian Sports Minister Andrea Abodi said at a sports conference on Tuesday:
“Tomorrow we will communicate the name of the new CEO, but as early as the day after tomorrow or in any case by the end of the week he must understand what to do.
“I tried to identify a profile starting from the characteristics of the person, not choosing the absolute best but the best relative, because the Olympic events need a deep knowledge. The timing is tight.”
Abodi further noted that the government will need to be closely involved, especially in oversight of the building projects attendant to the Winter Games. Said Italian National Olympic Committee chief Giovanni Malago:
“Now we can no longer make mistakes. We remember that the Fondazione Milano Cortina has nothing to do with the works [construction], but without them it is as if we have not started the game. Now we must to work as a team, to avoid personalities and there are all the conditions to do well.”
Telemundo to offer wall-to-wall World Cup coverage
American fans are used to major events being covered from every angle, such as with ESPN’s “Mega-Cast” of major college football playoff games, and Spanish-language fans will get a heavy dose of FIFA World Cup coverage from Qatar from Comcast-owned Telemundo.
Where networks around the world have been moving their announcers and crews back home and using satellite technology to its fullest, Telemundo has gone back to being on-site:
● All 64 games of the tournament will be covered live by on-site announce teams, with an NFL-style video-review room with commentary from experienced referees;
● Ten additional positions will be set up around Doha, with four sets and stand-up positions, with the main set inside the Souq Waqif Marketplace;
● Then there are the shows around the matches:
(1) “Hoya de la Copa” (Today at the Cup): a 30-minute preview and review show covering each match;
(2) “Debate Mundial” (World Cup Debate): a 60-minute discussion program after the final match of each day;
(3) “Zona Mixta: Edicion Mundial” (Mixed Zone: World Cup Edition): daily at midnight Eastern time.
The coverage total across all platforms will comprise more than 2,000 hours during the month, produced by an on-site and U.S. team of 650. A free “Copa Mundial 24/7 Virtual Channel” will also be available on the Peacock streaming service.
Observed: It will be fascinating to see how the ancillary taking-heads shows do in terms of viewership and how this might influence NBC’s coverage of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. The network is well aware of the steady decline in Olympic viewing, but the combination of iconic Paris and a friendlier time zone to the U.S. than the 2020 Tokyo Games is hoped to create a ratings rebound.
But NBC’s Olympic coverage is very much directed to live events and replays of events not held in a favorable time frame for American viewers. Relatively little time is devoted to Games chatter now, although there has been some in the past. If the Telemundo programming does well, it could shape new thinking about programming for Paris.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
● Olympic Games 2024: Paris ● Good news for athletes and for the Paris 2024 organizers, who announced the signing of French food giant Danone as an Official Partner, to supply dairy and vegetable products to the Games.
Paris 2024 sponsorships are being closely watched as the organizers struggle to manage their budget under the weight of inflation and supply-chain issues. While the IOC already has a partner in this category in the China Mengniu Dairy Company (which has partnered with Coca-Cola to take the beverage area), Mengniu has no operations in France and an exception was made, reportedly with Danone to market its Olympic ties only in France.
● Athletics ● What happened to Brazil’s Daniel Do Nascimento, who stormed to the lead at the New York Marathon on Sunday, then crumpled to the ground after mile 20 and did not finish?
LetsRun.com reported that he is fine, according to his agent Gianni Demadonna (ITA), who said that he was taken to a hospital, suffering from a low blood sugar count and dehydration. He was released after about 90 minutes. Demadonna noted, “The problem was that he underestimated the humidity and the warm[th] of NY today and in any case he open[ed] too fast.”
Nascimento, 24, was running his sixth career marathon, all in 2021 and 2022. He did not finish at the Tokyo Olympic Games, but was third at the 2022 Seoul Marathon in a national record of 2:04:51, then finished eighth at the Eugene World Championships in 2:07:35 before trying New York.
Great work by Runner’s World, which checked out the shoe choices of the top-10 finishers at the New York City Marathon!
Among the men, it was Nike (5), adidas (3) and Asics (2) in the top 10. For women, the brand choices were Nike (4), adidas (1), Hoka (1), On (1), Asics (2) and Under Armour (1).
The problems suffered by some Kenyan athletes trying to get visas into the U.S. for the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene have not been forgotten, especially the travails of sprint star Ferdinand Omanyala, who arrived less than a day before his first race and was eliminated in the semis.
Nandi County is one of the hotbeds of running in Kenya and its governor, Stephen Sang, has proposed to federal sports secretary Ababu Namwamba that Kenya’s national-team athletes should be issued diplomatic passports to aid their travel:
“Look at what happened with Omanyala. He is a great athlete in this country but the stories that surrounded his travel to Oregon were a shame. Our elite athletes have made a huge impact in our country and it’s time they were issued diplomatic passports.”
Namwamba promised to bring it up at the Cabinet level and if approved, to see that enhanced passports are issued. Start of a trend?
● Boxing ● The ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes has reached professional boxing, as the World Boxing Council announced that it would not sanction fights involving fighters from those countries, or matches to be held in either country.
This is an extension of the WBC ban on fights held in Russia, imposed in February after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The other professional boxing organizations – World Boxing Association, World Boxing Organization and International Boxing Federation – all imposed that sanction as well.
● Gymnastics ● The FIG World Artistic Championships in Liverpool (GBR) drew modest interest for its one appearance on NBC last Saturday. Starting at noon Eastern time, just before the kickoff of NFL games, the 90-minute Worlds highlight show drew 682,000 viewers.
All of NBC’s other coverage was on its Peacock streaming service.
● Swimming ● Italy’s Paolo Barelli was a power in swimming for years, as the head of the European Swimming League (LEN) and as a member of the FINA Bureau. Voted out of both groups, he has been suspended for two years by FINA’s independent Ethics Panel for “multiple rule violations of the FINA Constitution and the FINA Code of Ethics.”
The panel found that Barelli unilaterally signed an agreement that reduced the hosting fee due from the Italian swimming federation for the 2022 European Championships from €1.5 million to €500,000, while he was serving as President of both organizations!
Further, Barelli billed €495,587.22 (about $499,557 U.S.) in expenses to the Italian National Olympic Committee, despite have already been reimbursed through a grant by the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance. A court has ordered him to refund the second payment to CONI.
The FINA sanctions are in addition to, and not in place of, other actions against Barelli relating to these incidents.
● Tennis ● The Women’s Tennis Association allows Russian and Belarusian players to compete, but as neutrals and both countries had players in the championship matches of the WTA Finals in Ft. Worth, Texas.
France’s no. 4-ranked Caroline Garcia defeated no. 5 Aryna Sabalenka (BLR) in the Singles final by 7-6, 6-4, for her fourth title of the year. In the Doubles final, Russian Veronika Kudermetova and Belgium’s Elise Mertens won over the Czech pair of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, 6-2, 4-6 and 11-9.
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