In which transparency explains: there was no 'bullying'

In which transparency explains: there was no 'bullying'

To be honest, this space is having a very hard time understanding why Beckie Scott complained about being “bullied” and Edwin Moses said he was told to “shut up,” allegations found to be without merit in a lengthy report made public Wednesday about backstage World Anti-Doping Agency politics.

Politics involves some measure of rough and tumble. Sports politics is for sure politics. 

As a graduate of the Northwestern journalism school whose first jobs in the business were in Chicago, where politics are not for the meek, this whole thing has seemed like one big episode from the theater of the absurd. 

This episode at WADA has drawn worldwide headlines for months.

That’s perplexing.

It simply does not reflect well on what in a related context in the report, issued Wednesday by the Covington and Burling law firm, is called the “North American” perspective on the long-playing Russian doping saga.

Just because the sports car is red doesn’t mean it’s gonna go fast

Just because the sports car is red doesn’t mean it’s gonna go fast

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Along with death and taxes, we experience other certainties.

LIfe also brings us American DQs — and other gruesome weirdnesses — in high-profile relays.

Why this is so remains an enduring mystery. Well, not really. It’s institutional and cultural. But as Sunday night’s close to the fourth edition of the IAAF World Relays proved yet again, it is very much so — so much that after two more DQs and a loss in the men’s 4x1 the happiest person in the U.S. track and field scene, as the jest in the press room went, in a nod to the politics that chronically beset American relays, was assuredly Carl Lewis.

Good news:

It’s May. The world championships aren’t until the fall, in Doha, Qatar, and all of 2019 is but a prelude pointing toward the big show, Tokyo and 2020. t’s eminently possible this can — could, should — get sorted out by this fall and, presumably, by next summer. Ronnie Baker isn’t here. Christian Coleman isn’t here. 

Bad news:

When it comes to the United States in the relays, as literally episode upon episode has made plain, Groundhog Day can happen anytime.

Historic breakthrough: Iran judo to end boycott against Israel

Historic breakthrough: Iran judo to end boycott against Israel

For decades, Iran’s athletes have refused to compete against Israelis. No matter the sport, no matter the situation.  

In a historic breakthrough, on Saturday the International Judo Federation announced that for Iran’s judo athletes the boycotts would be no more.

Iran’s Olympic committee and its national judo federation, in a letter dated Thursday and made public Saturday, agreed to “fully respect the Olympic Charter and its non-discrimination principle.” 

In a statement posted on its website, the IJF said the letter came after talks that followed the “disturbing phenomenon” involving the “sudden ‘injury’ or failure of weigh-in of Iranian athletes,” a “phenomenon which is linked by many observers to the possible obligation of the given athletes to compete against certain countries.” 

The IJF, it said, “decided to step up in order to protect the right of athletes to fair competition.” 

World Relays: at an inflection point

World Relays: at an inflection point

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Journalism is storytelling, and storytelling necessarily involves tension, and from the get-go an irreconcilable tension dictated the way local organizers and track and field’s international governing body approached this fourth edition of the IAAF World Relays.

The Japanese hosts necessarily and understandably viewed these Relays at 72,327-seat International Stadium — site of the 2002 World Cup soccer final that saw Brazil defeat Germany, 2-0 — as a test event for next summer’s Tokyo Olympics. Tokyo is maybe 35 minutes away. At a Friday news conference, Hiroshi Yokokawa, president of the Japanese track and field federation and member of the IAAF council, said, “The road [on which] we are now standing is heading straight to the Tokyo 2020 Games.” Koji Murofushi, the 2004 Athens hammer throw gold medalist who is the Tokyo 2020 sports director, called the Relays a “milestone for the Tokyo 2020 Games.” Even the athletes understood the direction, Ryota Yamagata, who ran on the Japanese men’s silver-medal 4x100 relay at the 2016 Rio Games, declaring at that same briefing, “We want to have a good start to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and 37[-plus] seconds is a good benchmark.”

Compare to the words of IAAF president Seb Coe.

The Relays, Coe said at that very same news conference, make for a “suffusion of fun and innovation.”

In the matter of '46 XY DSD' cases: the IAAF is right

In the matter of '46 XY DSD' cases: the IAAF is right

In the complex, emotionally charged matter of 46 XY DSD cases: the IAAF is right.

There. I said it.

If you already feel like sending hate mail, roger. But, and for emphasis: the IAAF is right.

Let’s be straight-up: Caster Semenya’s many vocal supporters have sought to focus the story on Semenya alone. That’s not right or fair. There are others similarly situated, including for instance — as was recently acknowledged — the Rio 2016 800-meter runner-up Francine Niyonsaba. So the IAAF is hardly targeting Caster Semenya. 

What seeking to make this matter all about Caster Semenya does, however, is what a great deal if not almost all of the reportage about this matter has done: cast Semenya as the sympathetic if not profoundly empathetic protagonist in a classic narrative thread, the individual against the institution. 

What’s often missing completely from that storytelling — or buried way, way down at the bottom, because in today’s overheated social media-driven cauldron of outrage, very few want to speak up — are other voices, those who have their own dreams, too, literally millions of girls and women around the world, and here is where the IAAF is 100 percent dead-on right to go to court to ask, what about them?

The real story: a billion-dollar surplus

The real story: a billion-dollar surplus

he Los Angeles 2028 organizing committee on Tuesday released an inflation-adjusted budget, and in the rush to pounce on the new number, $6.9 billion, every single outlet missed the story.

The story is this, and it’s all there in black and white, though my colleagues in the press either don’t want to embrace it or simply can’t believe it, almost surely because they have been so thoroughly accustomed to Olympic finance horror stories: the fundamental truth is that Los Angeles and California are different, and so in 2028, as in 1984, LA will be the Games changer, meaning absent an act of God like an earthquake that turns abruptly turns Las Vegas into beachfront resort, LA28 is going to clear an absurd amount of money.

Like, an anticipated surplus of a billion dollars. 

On a budget of $6.9 billion. 

There is a place for caution and tempered expectation and all of that.

There is also reality. 

Yang Ho Cho, 1949-2019 : an appreciation

Yang Ho Cho, 1949-2019 : an appreciation

Death is part of life. We all know. 

Still, when it comes so unexpectedly, it’s a shock.

All the more so in the case of a genuinely good person, a fundamentally decent human being who cared about things that matter and sought to make — in his years, too short — our broken world better. 

This was Yang Ho Cho. He died in Los Angeles a few days ago. He was 70.

There's only one story here and it's not a horse race

There's only one story here and it's not a horse race

Absent some freaky event between now and then, in late June, at its annual assembly the International Olympic Committee almost surely will award Stockholm the 2026 Winter Olympics. There’s a joke for this 2026 race that’s apropos. In the aftermath of this week’s news of government support in Sweden for the project, there now seems little sense in waiting more than two months to tell it.

So here goes: who does the IOC want to win for 2026?

1. Stockholm

2. Anyplace not named Milan

3. Milan

The problem with pretty much all the journalism on the 2026 Winter Games race is that it totally has missed the blindingly obvious point. Which is — see above. 

Cue the Vangelis: cross-country for Paris 2024

Cue the Vangelis: cross-country for Paris 2024

Yes, yes, yes, Chariots of Fire, the 1981 movie that won four Oscars in telling the story of track and field at the 1924 Paris Olympics, is all about the sprints, not cross-country. 

OK, OK, OK, Chariots of Fire is about the Olympics but something bigger. It’s a story about British athletes at those 1924 Paris Olympics, one who is a devout Scottish Christian running for the glory of God, the other an English Jew and what it takes to overcome prejudice.

People, we need not quibble here with details. 

When people think about Paris and the 1924 Olympics, what do they think of? The iconic beach running scenes from the movie, right? The sunlight! The sand! The sea foam! Especially since Mr. Bean — Rowan Atkinson — had great fun with the whole thing during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Games.

Those beach scenes are, more or less, kinda-sorta, cross-country running. Good enough, anyway. At least for this point: 

The 2024 Games will be 100 years since the Games were last in Paris. As things happen, those 1924 Games were also the last time cross-county was on the Olympic program.

Paris 2024 organizers want cross-country back. So does track and field’s world governing body, the IAAF. 

Out of the game -- because, again, it seems too much to get in to the United States

Out of the game -- because, again, it seems too much to get in to the United States

The United States Olympic Committee has been all but consumed for months by the fallout from Larry Nassar’s crimes. 

Virtually every single person in the Colorado Springs leadership team is new. The focus has seemed to be primarily if not entirely on gymnastics and on other domestic matters.

Now comes a reminder that a significant part of the USOC’s work is outward-facing, too. And here it has a huge mountain to climb, complicated by factors both of its own doing and by those beyond its control — in particular to policy and perceptions attributable to the 45th president of the United States.

Indeed, huge might be an understatement. 

In the aftermath of last week’s World Youth Weightlifting Championships in Las Vegas, shadowed by visa issues that complicated entry into the United States for some and in other cases all but made entry impractical or impossible, USA Weightlifting has announced it is — at least for the near future — out of the bid game for high-level championships.