The Sports Examiner

TSX REPORT: WADA says China swim doping case closed; FIG chief not interested in medal payments; high schooler sets 100 m record at 9.93!

Artist’s rendering of the entrance to the Team USA House at the Palais Brongniart in Paris (Image: USOPC-OnLocation).

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1. WADA stands firm: no reason to doubt CHINADA
2. Gymnastics: no interest in paying Paris medal winners
3. USA House opens to public for Paris 2024
4. IOC opens Artificial Intelligence project in London
5. Beijing Half top four disqualified over race antics

● The World Anti-Doping Agency issued a statement and held an online news conference in response to the German ARD documentary concerning positive doping tests for 23 Chinese swimmers prior to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021. It reiterated that it agreed with the Chinese anti-doping agency’s analysis and no penalties, but questions remain.

● The head of the International Gymnastics Federation said he had no interest in paying prize money to winners of the 18 gymnastics events at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, as World Athletics has said it will. However, the federation could certainly afford it!

● The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee is, for the first time, opening the Team USA House to the public for Paris 2024, at €325 (+ taxes) per day during the Olympic Games and €150 per day (+ taxes) for the Paralympics. The site will be the elegant Palais Brongniart, formerly the Paris stock exchange, dating from the time of Napoleon!

● The International Olympic Committee launched a major project to study the use of Artificial Intelligence as related to sport and to the Olympic Games. AI is already in use in technology applications such as timing and scoring and broadcasting, but a working group will look at its use for athlete identification, training and safeguarding uses, among others.

● The pathetic finish of the Beijing Half Marathon from earlier this month, where the three leading runners – from Kenya and Ethiopia – let the top Chinese runner go by and win, has been revised with those four top finishers all disqualified.

Panorama: Olympic Games 2040 (South African study group to observe in Paris) = Athletics (4: 22 countries qualify for Olympic Marathon Mixed Relay at Team Walk Champs; Miller screams to 9.93 high school 100 m record in Florida; Olga Fikotova Connolly passes at 91; two more doping positives for African distance runners) = Equestrian (jumping horse Chromatic BF dies after World Cup Dressage performance in Riyadh) = Swimming (Colts, Pacers and Fever join USA Swimming to promote Trials) = Wrestling (U.S. Freestyle star Cox retires) ●

WADA stands firm: no reason to doubt CHINADA

The German ARD investigative documentary “Die Akte China” – “The China Files” – aired on Sunday, raising questions about an early 2021 incident prior to the Tokyo Olympic Games in which 23 star Chinese swimmers tested positive for the prescription heart medication Trimetazidine, the same drug for which Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva tested positive for in December of that same year and was eventually banned for four years.

The program cited a 31-page investigative report from the Chinese Anti-Doping Agency (CHINADA), which clears the swimmers, saying that the low levels of the drug found in the swimmers was the result of traces in the kitchen where food was prepared for the group. The document raises questions:

● Although the report is from CHINADA, the ARD program says the investigation was carried out by the Ministry of Public Security, not the anti-doping agency.

● “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.”

● “WADA did not address the question of whether the scenario in the hotel kitchen was realistic or not. It was clear from the statement that WADA did not conduct an independent investigation in China and only decided not to investigate based on the CHINADA report.”

“The positive cases were correctly entered into WADA’s official ADAMS reporting system in March 2021 after a two-month delay attributed to a local Covid outbreak. However, instead of reporting an official anti-doping rule violation (ADRV), the internal Chinese investigation took place. In this way, the usual steps of publicly announcing the case and imposing an interim ban were avoided.”

● WADA decided not to challenge the outcome from CHINADA and did not undertake its own investigation.

In a statement and accompanying news conference on Monday, WADA acknowledged the ARD program and stood behind its findings:

“Following WADA’s review of the documentary, the Agency still stands firmly by the results of its scientific investigation and legal decision concerning the case. We are equally confident that WADA’s independent Intelligence and Investigations Department followed up on all allegations received, which were not corroborated by any evidence; and thus, did not meet WADA I&I’s threshold to open an investigation.

“Based on all available scientific evidence and intelligence, which was gathered, assessed and tested by experts in the pharmacology of trimetazidine (TMZ); and, by anti-doping experts, the Agency had no basis under the World Anti-Doping Code to challenge the China Anti-Doping Agency’s (CHINADA’s) findings of environmental contamination – a position that was also accepted by World Aquatics.

“To be clear, if any new evidence had come to light at any point, WADA would have reviewed this information as it would today.”

As far as WADA is concerned, the case is closed. However, there are lingering questions, especially how a prescription drug like trimetazidine – offered in very small 20 mg and 35 mg pills – gets into a hotel kitchen at all?

ARD asked forensic toxicologist Fritz Soergel (GER) about the contamination theory; he replied, “The concentrations that were allegedly found by the laboratory in China could actually only have arisen because the doping agent was administered weeks before.”

During Monday’s news conference, WADA General Counsel Ross Wenzel (GBR) said, “In the absence of any evidence of any sort of misconduct … I’m very confident we would have had close to a 0% chance in establishing” a case. He added:

“With respect to the concentration in the Kamila Valieva case, and I believe it’s public, it’s in the decision, it was 2.1 nanograms per ml; the vast majority of the concentrations in this case were significantly lower than that, but the fundamental point is not that one.

“The fundamental point is that in the Valieva case there was nothing to exclude that that was the end of an excretion, that the pharmacological dose of trimetazidine hadn’t been taken several days before. In this case, the fluctuating negative and positive values of those athletes that were tested on multiple occasions effectively excluded that pharmacological dose scenario, so that’s a significant difference with the Valieva case.”

Observed: WADA’s explanations fall flat because the normal procedures which are expected to be employed in such cases were not followed. The positives were reported in the WADA system, but no provisional suspensions were imposed by CHINADA and according to the CHINADA report, the entire matter was left to the Chinese authorities, not to the country’s anti-doping agency, as would normally have been expected.

The German athletes organization, Athleten Deutschland, asked:

“What conclusions can be drawn from the revelations about the effectiveness of WADA and the global fight against doping, especially in closed, authoritarian regimes?”

More precisely, what conclusions can be drawn from a Chinese government authority running the inquiry into the matter in place of CHINADA, which is supposed to have jurisdiction in these matters?

Moreover, Chinese athletes have had doping issues in the past, of course including six-time Olympic medalist Yang Sun, who tested positive for trimetazidine in 2014 and received only a three-month suspension as the drug was only recently added to the banned list. He was later banned for four years after a 2018 incident with a drug-testing team that he said were not properly credentialed.

These questions will not go away quickly and the Chinese team – and the International Testing Agency – will be highly scrutinized in Paris, and the ITA will be asked about how often (and where) Chinese swimmers were out-of-competition prior to showing up in Paris.

Gymnastics: no interest in paying Paris medal winners

The head of the Federation Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), Morinari Watanabe of Japan told Kyodo News that his federation will not be paying its Olympic medal winners in Paris, as will World Athletics:

“The FIG uses this revenue to support the development of gymnastics around the world, and in developing countries in particular.

“Many developing countries do not have enough gymnastics apparatus, or are using out-of-date apparatus. Beautiful flowers need good soil to bloom. I believe that IF’s job is to invest in the soil in which my beautiful flowers can grow.”

Watanabe is an elected member of the ASOIF Council, the executive committee of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, which denounced the World Athletics’ payment plan in unusually strong language in a statement last Friday.

The FIG position is in solidarity with ASOIF, which insisted that “Paying prize money in a multi-sport environment goes against the principle of solidarity, reinforces a different set of values across the sports and opens up many questions.”

But the FIG position is also interesting from other perspectives:

● It pays very little prize money for its Artistic World Championships: for 2023, about $15,500-9,300-6,200 for teams 1-3 and $3,000 each for teams 4-6 in men and women, and CHF 5,000-3,000-1,000 for the All-Around medal winners and CHF 3,000-2,000-1,000 for the apparatus medal winners.

That’s about $80,000 for the teams, $19,800 for the All-Arounds and $66,000 for the 10 apparatus finals, or about $165,800 in total. For the Rhythmic Worlds, the total is CHF 93,000 or about $102,300, and for the Tumbling and Trampoline Worlds, about $75,600 with payouts in Swiss francs and U.S. dollars. All together: about $343,700 for all three.

In contrast, the World Athletics Championships paid $8.498 million in prize money for 2023 and the World Aquatics Championships offered $5.670 million in 2023 and 2024.

The FIG payout amounts are quite astonishing. Consider that the International Judo Federation offers €1,000,000 for its World Championships, to the medal winners at €26,000-15,000-8,000 for its 14 individual events and €90,000-60,000-25,000 for its team event! (€1 = $1.07 U.S.)

● FIG only has 18 events in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games: 14 in artistic gymnastics and two each in Rhythmic and Trampoline. Paying $50,000 as World Athletics will do for its winner would cost the FIG only $900,000 vs. $2.4 million for athletics!

● FIG can afford it: its 2022 financials showed CHF 56.8 million in assets and CHF 33.1 million in reserves. However, its revenue in non-Olympic years is only a little over CHF 12 million a year, and needs its Olympic television dividend to maintain healthy finances. It’s a terribly under-revenued sport, despite its Olympic popularity. (CHF 1 = $1.10 U.S.)

World Athletics, by contrast, had $54.9 million in 2022 revenues and $61.7 million in reserves. Both federations, as well as World Aquatics, will receive more than $35 million in IOC television revenue for the Paris 2024 Games.

USA House opens to public for Paris 2024

“Until today, Team USA House access was only sold through Paris 2024 hospitality packages, developed by On Location, which also include tickets to a sporting event of the attendees choosing. Beginning today, fans can purchase Team USA House access without a sporting event ticket for €325 (plus tax) for the Olympic Games and €150 (plus tax) for the Paralympic Games. These passes include all-day access, food and beverage options, entertainment, athlete appearances and more.”

The Team USA House concept began at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City and has been an invitation-only program for U.S. Olympians, team staff, sponsors and lots of guests, including prior American Olympians.

For Paris 2024, the USOPC has expanded the program considerably at the massive Palais Brongniart, opened in 1825 as the home of the Paris Stock Exchange, until 1987, and now a conference and events center. The first floor will be open to anyone who wants to buy a ticket, at €325 per day, plus 20% value-added tax (or about $415 U.S.) for the Olympics and about $192 U.S. for the Paralympic, including the VAT.

What will happen there? According to the announcement:

“Team USA House will host a main stage for medal celebrations, panels, and athlete appearances, all-day dining options including American favorites and a rotating selection of international cuisines, two bars, a dozen large monitors to watch Team USA go for gold, and interactive activities throughout the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“There will also be an official Team USA Shop, operated by Fanatics, which will be open at Team USA House during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Team USA pop-up shop will have exclusive Team USA and LA28 merchandise from Nike, Ralph Lauren, Oakley, New Era, Mitchell and Ness, and Fanatics, and will include custom Team USA and Paris 2024 pins, a fan tradition at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“There will also be exclusive programming including special guest athlete appearances; medal celebrations with Team USA athletes fresh off the podium from their wins; daily trivia games; theme nights, and more.”

The Team USA House hours are noon to midnight from 26 July to 11 August, and then again for the Paralympic Games, which runs from 28 August to 8 September.

There is a second, “VIP Floor,” with enhanced food and beverages and some private parties, not accessible to the public. Passes will be issued to athletes and guests, U.S. Olympic alumni, National Governing Bodies and USOPC staff. Donors to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Foundation can also obtain access through specific hospitality packages; individual tickets to the VIP Floor for those who qualify are €525 plus 20% VAT or about $672 U.S., per person, per day.

Observed: This is a nice amenity for those who want to mix with current and former athletes and others from the U.S. Olympic Family during the Games in Paris. It isn’t cheap, but it isn’t designed to be: it’s a fundraiser, after all.

Navigating to the actual sales site for Team USA House tickets is difficult (hence no link); perhaps it will become easier to find as the Games get closer.

IOC opens Artificial Intelligence project in London

Launched with considerable fanfare, the International Olympic Committee introduced its new project – the “Olympic AI Agenda” – to explore the possibilities and problems of AI last Friday in London, outlining multiple areas of study:

● Talent Identification
● Athlete Training
● Sports Equipment
● Judging and Refereeing
● Safeguarding in Sport
● Organizing the Games
● Broadcasting the Olympics
● Enriching Historical Images

IOC President Thomas Bach (GER) made the point that the central focus of the Games will remain:

“At the centre of the Olympic AI Agenda are human beings. This means: the athletes. Because the athletes are the heart of the Olympic Movement. Unlike other sectors of society, we in sport are not confronted with the existential question of whether AI will replace human beings. In sport, the performances will always have to be delivered by the athletes. The 100 metres will always have to be run by an athlete – a human being. Therefore, we can concentrate on the potential of AI to support the athletes.

“AI can help to identify athletes and talent in every corner of the world. AI can provide more athletes with access to personalised training methods, superior sports equipment and more individualised programmes to stay fit and healthy. Beyond sporting performance, AI can revolutionise judging and refereeing, thereby strengthening fairness in sport. AI can improve safeguarding in sport. AI will make organising sporting events extremely efficient, transform sports broadcasting and make the spectator experience much more individualised and immersive.”

Already in play are ways to make existing technology applications better:

● From Swiss Timing chief executive Alain Zobrist (SUI): “AI technology is already being integrated into OMEGA’s timekeeping systems at the Olympic and Paralympic Games and allows us to analyse and understand athletic performances much deeper than ever before. We’re excited about where the innovation can go next in terms of data storytelling and judging support.”

● From NBC Olympics & Paralympics Production Executive Producer Molly Solomon (USA): “AI can enrich our presentation through data analysis, with graphics and enhanced video, personalisation and predictive analysis. It can also help navigate the plethora of content the Olympic Games provide, connecting fans with the events and athletes they love, which will result in deeper engagement and spending more time on our platforms.”

A 90-minute discussion covered eight areas of possible AI intervention and support and an 18-member working group has already been formed to explore more concepts. No date was noted for a follow-up report or findings.

Beijing Half top four disqualified over race antics

The ridiculous finish of the Beijing Half Marathon on 14 April, in which the three leading runners – two Kenyans and an Ethiopian – allowed China’s Jie He to pass by and win the race in the final 200 m was addressed on Friday as all four were disqualified.

The race organizers said in a statement that the video of the finish showed Kenyans Robert Keter and Willy Mnangat and Ethiopia’s Dejene Hailu Bikilaactively slowed down in the last 2 kilometers and as a result He Jie won the men’s championship.”

He won in 1:03:44, with the other three finishing one second behind. Now, all four have had their results nullified and their placements and prizes forfeited.

The Xtep sports apparel company sponsored both the race and He as one of its athletes, and apparently hired the three Africans as pacemakers, but did not tell the race directors, who gave them elite-runner status instead of labeling them as pacers. Indeed, they would have gone 1-2-3 except for slowing down and letting He pass.

The race directorate said that the race management company, Zhong’ao Lupao Beijing Sports Management, had been removed as operator of the Beijing Half going forward and that Xtep has been banned from sponsoring any further races this season.

Xtep said in a statement, “We bear a great responsibility for this, fully accept the punishment decision made by the organizing committee.” It promised to “reflect seriously and conduct a deep review” to “ensure such incidents do not happen again in the future.”

The committee disqualified the operator from hosting the Beijing Half Marathon and banned Xtep from sponsoring any more races this season.


● Olympic Games 2040 ● A private-sector research team called “CapeTown2040″ has announced an observation mission to the Paris 2024 Games to inspect how Paris has adapted itself to host the event. It’s a think-tank effort so far, currently focused on determining how the South African city might fit as an Olympic host.

No African city has ever hosted the Olympic Games; South Africa broke ground in 2010 by hosting the FIFA World Cup.

● Athletics ● At the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships in Antalya (TUR) on Sunday, 22 teams qualified for the Olympic Marathon Mixed Relay, with five nations earning a second team.

Francesco Fortunato and Valentina Trapletti of Italy were the winners, in 2:56:45, well ahead of Koki Ikeda and Kumiko Okada (JPN: 2:57:04) and Alvaro Martin and Laura Garcia-Caro (ESP: 2:57:47). The U.S. team of Nick Christie and Robyn Stevens finished 41st (3:25:53) and did not qualify.

In the senior-level 20 km races, Sweden’s four-time Worlds medal winner Perseus Karlstrom taking the 20 km in 1:18:49, ahead of Spanish walkers Paul McGrath (1:19:14) and Diego Garcia Carrera (1:19:51). Two-time Worlds gold medalist Kimberly Garcia of Peru won the women’s 20 km in 1:27:12, followed by Zhenxia Ma (CHN: 1:27:55) and Erica Sena (BRA: 1:29:22).

More on the sensational world-leading 9.93 100 meters from new U.S. star Christian Miller from the Pure Athletics Invitational Saturday in Clermont, Florida.

Miller, still 17, rode a legal, +1.6 meters-per-second win to the victory, erasing his previous best of 10.06 from 2023 and setting a new American Junior Record, taking down the 9.97 from Baylor’s Trayvon Bromell from 2014. Miller is now no. 3 all-time on the World Junior all-time list.

A senior at Creekside High School in St. John’s Florida, he also lowered the U.S. high school mark and became the first wind-legal sub-10 man in prep history. He smashed the prior best of 10.00 by Trentavis Friday (Cherryville High, North Carolina), also from 2014.

Miller has committed to attend the University of Georgia. Wrote triple World Champion Noah Lyles on X (ex-Twitter): “If you are a HS runner and you want to run 9 second you just come on down to clermont.”

Sad news of the death of Olga Fikotova Connolly at 91 on 12 April, one of the unforgettable Olympians whose love affair and finally marriage to American Hal Connolly was a Cold War sensation in 1956.

As Czech Olga Fikotova, she won the Olympic gold in the discus at Melbourne in 1956 and met and fell for Connolly, the Olympic hammer gold medalist from the U.S. The romance between a U.S. strongman and a Warsaw Pact discus star was international headlines at the time, and they married in Prague in 1957.

She came to the U.S. and she and Hal raised four children, with both continuing their athletic careers. Hal made the U.S. hammer team in 1960-64-68 and Olga competed for the U.S. in four more Games, in 1960-64-68-72. Neither won another Olympic medal.

They divorced in 1975, but Olga continued with her career in education, physical fitness and sports. Hal passed in 2010, and Olga is survived by her four children, Mark, Jim, Merja and Nina and grandchildren Van Freund, Denali and Cianni Connolly.

More doping sanctions from the Athletics Integrity Unit, including Ethiopian women’s steeplechaser Zerfe Wondemagegn – fourth at the 2023 World Championships – banned for five years from 20 October 2023 for the use of erythropoietin (EPO) and testosterone.

Kenyan Celestine Chepchirchir, a 2:20:10 women’s marathoner from 2022, was sanctioned for three years from 26 March 2024 for using testosterone.

● Equestrian ● Sad news last Friday from the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) from the FEI World Cup Final in Riyadh (KSA):

“It is with great sadness that we announce that the US [showjumping] horse Chromatic BF, ridden by Jill Humphrey, has passed away during the FEI World Cup Final.

“Chromatic BF had returned to the stables after competition on the evening of 18 April and unexpectedly collapsed. He was immediately attended to by the US Equestrian veterinary staff and FEI veterinarians but was unable to be resuscitated.

“In line with the FEI Veterinary Regulations, samples have already been taken from the horse, and a full postmortem in line with FEI protocols will be conducted.”

Humphrey and the 13-year-old Chromatic finished third in the Jumping World Cup Final II on the 18th, remarkable for a horse who entered competition only in the fall of 2023. Owner Katharine Branscomb wrote on Facebook:

“I am writing this to try to clarify what has already begun to travel as rumours surrounding events that happened here in Riyadh involving Chromatic after tonight’s spectacular performance. After hacking normally after the class, Chromatic returned to the barn happy and calm attended by his lifetime caretaker Pepe Rodriguez and Jill. After resting and refreshment, he was given a routine recovery shot of electrolytes by the USET team veterinarian. Upon returning to his stable to be wrapped, blanketed, and put away for the evening, with me present the horse began seizured and collapsed in the stall. He was immediately treated and examined by both the USET and FEI veterinarians and was pronounced dead shortly after.

“As owner and breeder, I want it clearly stated that no one was at fault. The horse did not suffer and there is no evidence that his passing was in any way related to his strenuous and spectacular performance with Jill well over an hour earlier or the routine injection by the veterinarian. A full autopsy report will be provided to me at some point. But what I HOPE people will take away from this freak accident and great tragedy is that it was a night of tears – tears of joy and tears of loss. If I would ask anything of those of you that knew or celebrated him, let’s remember him for how he lived and not for how he died.”

● Swimming ● With a couple of months to go before the U.S. Olympic Trials at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, USA Swimming announced “Centennial Partners” agreements with the Indianapolis Colts of the NFL and Pacers Sports and Entertainment, owners of the Indiana Pacers of the NBA and Indiana Fever of the WNBA, which just drafted Iowa star Caitlin Clark.

The deals come with tickets and branding, but will no doubt have both organizations reaching out to their ticket buyers and fan bases to support the Trials, which begin on 15 June. That’s a win for USA Swimming as it tries to fill a 30,000-seat facility, the largest ever for the Olympic Trials in swimming.

● Wrestling ● Five-time Worlds medal winner and Tokyo men’s 86 kg Freestyle bronze medalist J’den Cox retired after his loss in the men’s 97 kg Freestyle Challenge semifinals at the U.S. Olympic Trials last week. Following a 2-2 loss to Kollin Moore on criteria, Cox, 29, left his boots in the center of the mat.

Cox was a three-time NCAA Champion for Missouri at 197 lbs. (~ 89 kg), and was World Champion at 92 kg in 2018 and 2019, third in 2021 and runner-up in 2022. He had previously won a Worlds bronze at 86 kg in 2017.

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