Russian doping, and pick-up truck wisdom

Russian doping, and pick-up truck wisdom

Seems like it was only earlier this year that a great many voices were being heard to the effect that the World Anti-Doping Agency, and in particular its president, Craig Reedie, and director general, Olivier Niggli, were ineffective and caught up in this or that conflict of interest.

Now WADA has obtained (via a whistleblower) an electronic file that it says contains “all testing data” from Russia’s national doping lab conducted from January 2012 to August 2015. That’s thought to be thousands of drug tests run on Russian athletes. 

Kudos to WADA and, as well, to Reedie and Niggli.

With the file in hand, WADA on Thursday declined to lift its suspension of the Russian Anti-Doping Agency. 

At issue now is whether the Russians should take part — under the Russian flag, wearing the Russian colors, hearing the Russian anthem — in the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

 

'The story is to make it -- step by step'

'The story is to make it -- step by step'

MARRAKECH, Morocco — A couple weeks ago, it made headlines worldwide when the Israeli judo team was singled out at an International Judo Federation Grand Slam stop in Abu Dhabi.

The United Arab Emirates banned Israeli athletes from wearing their nation’s symbols, the blue and white colors and the Star of David, on their uniforms; the Israeli flag was not displayed; the Israeli national anthem was not to be played.

What drew comparatively little attention, meanwhile, were the gestures and photos, published on the IJF website, that wrapped up the tournament: Israeli under-100 kilo bronze medalist Peter Paltchik with the UAE Judo Federation president, His Excellency Mohammad Bin Thaloub Al Darei, and Aref Al-Awani, general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, the three of them arm in arm; and Israel Judo Association president Moshe Ponte, IJF president Marius Vizer, Al Darei and Naser Al-Tameemi, general secretary of the UAE Judo, Wrestling and Kickboxing Federation, all four hand-to-hand, as if they were breaking a huddle, U.S.-football style.

Along with the photos, there were also apologies — that a UAE athlete, after a loss, had not shaken hands with an Israeli on the tatami, as a judo mat is called.

And congratulations, too — to the Israelis for winning five medals.

Less drone-fest, more drones

Less drone-fest, more drones

There are 206 National Olympic Committees across our world. You know, Earth. The big blue ball that the NBA basketball star Kyrie Irving maybe thinks is flat. 

All the committees in good standing (read: not suspended) get together once a year. It's a big deal. Because of the sheer size of it, it's arguably the biggest-deal meeting of the Olympic year.

It happened this week in Prague.

What a waste of a big-deal opportunity.

In which the IOC all but announces the Russian team will be at the 2018 Games

In which the IOC all but announces the Russian team will be at the 2018 Games

Wednesday marked 100 days to go until the opening of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, and once again the International Olympic Committee made it as clear as the sort of ice that makes like a frozen sheet of glass in a mountain lake that the Russians will — as they should be — be at those Games.

So much noise in so many U.S. and other western media outlets about whether or not the Russians will, or won’t, be at the Games. So much political pandering from so many anti-doping agencies whose officials either assuredly do or, for that matter, should know better.

The Olympics are about inclusion. Full stop. 

The Russians will be in Korea. 

Enough already with the pole dancing

Enough already with the pole dancing

For several weeks now, the internet has been abuzz with stories about the prospect of pole dancing becoming an Olympic sport. Some of the more absurd accounts, like this one posted Tuesday on something called Medical Daily (what?), breathlessly declare that it is “possibly headed to 2020,” meaning the next edition of the Summer Games, in Tokyo.

Enough already.

A “sport” that is irrevocably linked to strippers has no chance. Say that again, and out loud: a “sport” that makes most people snicker, or worse, because of the obvious, blatant and in-your-face connotation is not going to be in the Olympics. For sure not 2020. Not -- ever.

There is one reason, and one reason only, these clickbait stories are making the rounds. Can you say — word being used on purpose here — titillating?

Beep, beep! Another voter anvil hits the IOC

Beep, beep! Another voter anvil hits the IOC

Here is a multiple-choice quiz. When someone says, “No way, dude,” is he or she referring to the odds of success of:

a) That oiled-up guy from Tonga who walked in the opening ceremony at the Rio 2016 Summer Games, Pita Taufatofua, suddenly appearing in the same outfit at the top of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games halfpipe to announce, as he locks himself into snowboard boots, that he will now throw down — watch out, Shaun White — an unprecedented trick involving corks, flips and other head-spinning gyrations;

b) George McGovern running for president of the United States in 1972;

c) Any city in Europe winning a ballot referendum on the notion of staging the Summer or Winter Olympics;

d) All of the above.

A loss as a 'disaster': US soccer out of the 2018 World Cup

A loss as a 'disaster': US soccer out of the 2018 World Cup

Every four years, I write some variant of this column, which drives my friends (and not) who are soccer crazies absolutely berserk, in significant measure because they know deep down in their soccer-crazy hearts that I am right, that no matter how much they might wish otherwise the United States is not a soccer nation.

This time, I don’t even have to wait four years, until 2018 and World Cup time. Three years will do just fine. 

In Cup qualifying, the U.S. men’s national team lost Tuesday night, 2-1, to Trinidad and Tobago at Ato Boldon Stadium (shout-out to Ato!). The U.S. guys are out of next summer’s tournament in Russia. 

So Brazil is suspended, and the Russians ...

So Brazil is suspended, and the Russians ...

The International Olympic Committee is fed up to here — no, way past that, up to, like, there — with the now-arrested Carlos Nuzman, head of the Rio 2016 Games and the Brazilian Olympic Committee.

In its zeal to appear decisive in the wake of Nuzman’s Thursday arrest in Rio, the IOC on Friday announced it was suspending both Nuzman and the Brazilian Olympic Committee, which goes by the acronym COB.

Zeal is rarely constructive.

Why? When you act in haste, you generally don’t think through all the consequences of what you’re doing.

16 bars of gold

16 bars of gold

It was only a little more than a year ago, standing center stage on a wet and windy night at historic Maracanā Stadium, that Carlos Nuzman, president of the Rio organizing committee, declared at the closing ceremony of the 2016 Summer Games, “I am the happiest man alive.”

He added, “Let’s celebrate together this great victory, this triumph of sport, of youth.” Knowing what we know now: that is what is called chutzpah. Nuzman, authorities said Thursday, had 16 gold bars in a safe in Switzerland.

The real story of Rio, and perhaps the Tokyo 2020 Games as well, is now going to be written, and the International Olympic Committee — which bought itself time with the award of Paris for 2024 and Los Angeles for 2028 — is already looking out to the 2026 Winter Games, but the essential disconnect that is Nuzman and the IOC response to his arrest is at the core of why the institution is enduring such profound turbulence.

 

Anita DeFrantz's Olympic life

Anita DeFrantz's Olympic life

Anita DeFrantz grew up near Indianapolis. If your perception of Indiana is all “Hoosiers” basketball and corn fields swaying in the midwestern summer sun, know, too, that Indiana was once a Ku Klux Klan mainstay. And that when she was just 3 — this was in the 1950s — Anita’s parents took her and her brother out for a drive just outside Greeenwood, Indiana, where, after walking through the snow, her father read them this sign:

“Don’t be here after dark — nigger.”

This story opens “My Olympic Life,” Anita DeFrantz’s forthcoming memoir, written with Josh Young, and what she says about that experience when she was just a little girl explains almost everything.