Edwin Moses

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.

Sustainability? Legacy? LA 1984 revisited

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No one likes I-told-you-so’s, and if there is a good lord up above, he — or she — knows full well that others find it tiresome, indeed, to hear Americans boasting about anything. So this is not — repeat, not — that column. There’s no point. At the same time, it’s just plain dumb to ignore reality. So, now, with International Olympic Committee extolling a renewed commitment to “sustainability” and “legacy,” and with the true believers this week celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 1984 Games that changed everything, it’s entirely reasonable to look anew at those Los Angeles Olympics. Because they didn’t just save the modern Olympic movement — they set the standard for sustainability and legacy, too.

Also this: if in more recent Olympic bid campaigns, U.S. efforts have gotten knocked down in part because American cities are different — the whole notion of 50 states means the federal government itself won’t underwrite a bid the way national governments in other countries will — it’s only fair now to note for the record that the LA Games, while often touted as privately run, absolutely included significant public monies.

Rafer Johnson with the torch at the 1984 30th anniversary party. That's Mary Lou Retton at the right // photo courtesy LA84 Foundation

It’s easy, perhaps even understandable, for others elsewhere to want to beat up on the United States, the world’s only superpower.

However, when it comes to the Olympics, and issues of sustainability, legacy and public-private partnership, the question — as the historical record proves without a shadow of a doubt — is, why the knock on the USA?

You’d think the American way would be celebrated as a model.

The planning that went into the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, for instance, was always meant to transform the U.S. into a winter-sports nation — with major universities in and around town and world-class venues just up Interstate 80 in Park City, Deer Valley and a few minutes beyond in Soldier Hollow. The proof has come in the medals count in Vancouver and Sochi.

If in Olympic circles no one much likes to talk loudly about Atlanta — the main Olympic Stadium, when all is said and done in two years, will have served as the home for the baseball Braves for nearly 20 years. There's a legitimate argument about whether 20 years is enough -- but compare 20 years of day-in, day-out baseball to, for instance, the Bird's Nest in Beijing or the Olympic Stadium in Athens.

And then, of course, there is Los Angeles — where on Monday evening, at the LA84 Foundation grounds, they held a low-key party to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the opening ceremony.

Just as he did on July 28, 1984, Rafer Johnson carried the torch. This time, though, it wasn’t up the steeply angled staircase that had been built at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It was only a few easy, level steps.

“Tonight was fantastic,” Johnson said as he posed for photos with Peter Ueberroth, who oversaw those 1984 Games. “No stairs.”

The gymnast Mary Lou Retton was on hand. The hurdler Edwin Moses. Dozens more athletes from 1984. Anita DeFrantz, the senior IOC member to the United States and the foundation president, herself a bronze medalist from the 1976 Montreal Games.

Even Sammy Lee, the gold medal-winning diver from 1948 and 1952.

It was a celebration — and there was, upon reflection, much to celebrate.

Peter Ueberroth at the 1984 30th anniversary celebration // photo courtesy LA84 Foundation

The foundation was created with 40 percent of the $232.5 million 1984 surplus.

Since 1985, the foundation has invested $220 million into Southern California youth sports. This includes $103.3 million in direct grants, plus spending on foundation-initiated youth sports programs, coaching education, research projects, youth sports conferences.

The foundation has developed a major sports library and digital collection, and has published reports on, among other topics, the prevention of ACL injuries, the educational benefits of youth sports, increasing Latina sports participation and tackling in youth football.

The foundation’s grants have served three million young people (under age 17). Some 1,100 organizations have received grants. About 80,000 youth sports coaches have been trained.

Simply put, is there another institution in the world, anywhere, that has done anything like the LA84 Foundation?

Remarkably, it has done even more — its definition of “legacy” incredibly expansive.

LA84 has made over $20 million in infrastructure grants. That investment, in turn, has leveraged another $100 million from other funders. That money has meant nearly 100 facilities have been refurbished or built from the ground up.

Among the most notable projects: the John Argue Swim Stadium at Exposition Park across from the University of Southern California, in which the 1932 Olympic Swim Stadium was refurbished, and the construction of the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center in Pasadena, California.

LA84 has an ongoing partnership with the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. To date, 30 baseball fields have been built.

That $232.5 million figure has long been a source of fascination, if not more.

In 1978, Los Angeles voters, by a wide margin, voted against public funding for the Games. And as the official report of the 1984 Games notes, the federal government turned down a $200 million grant request from the LA84 organizing committee in the "early" planning stages.

Even so, there absolutely was public spending on the Games.

For instance:

-- The federal government spent $30 to $35 million for security; other federal agencies projected another $38 million in spending, which was accounted for through additional appropriations or by reduced spending in non-Olympic areas. The LA84 organizing committee budgets do not account for these federal funds.

-- The state of California would claim $14.3 million in unreimbursed Olympic costs but only $3.6 million represented a special appropriation.

-- The organizing committee paid for policing in Los Angeles and other Southern California cities.

Overall, the $232.5 million surplus is, as it should be, strictly a reflection of the organizing committee's budget. Even so, if you were to figure in federal, state and local spending, there's still no question the organizing committee would have finished the 1984 Olympics way into the black.

Finally, this:

On November 1, 1984, the LA Times published a story whose headline declared, “Giant Olympic Surplus Spills Over Into Anger.” At that point, the surplus was being estimated at perhaps $150 million — the $232.5 million figure would not yet be known — and the city attorney in Fullerton, California, was bemoaning the money it had paid out to hold the Olympic team handball events at the Cal State campus there.

It would be a fascinating measure of legacy, indeed, to weigh the costs to taxpayers in or before 1984 against LA84 Foundation grants to public entities in the 30 years since.

 

On the WADA presidency

MOSCOW -- Consider what just these few weeks have brought: A massive scandal in Turkey, with revelations of teenagers being doped. A rash of doping cases in Russia. Allegations that West Germany's government tolerated and covered up a culture of doping among its athletes for decades, and even encouraged it in the 1970s "under the guise of basic research."

Positive tests involving American and Jamaican track stars: Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell, Sherone Simpson and Veronica Campbell-Brown.

Meanwhile, the election for the presidency of cycling's governing body, the UCI, is, after years and years of the sport's drug-ridden history -- and to describe it this way is perhaps even too gentle -- fractious.

In the United States, Major League Baseball moved to suspend more than a dozen players because of doping violations but the biggest star of all, Alex Rodriguez, with $95 million at stake, is fighting the matter vigorously.

IAAF Centenary Gala Show

The reason Edwin Moses, the two-time Olympic gold medalist, is now in the running for the presidency of the World Anti-Doping Agency, is elemental: "I believe I am the right person to help protect clean athletes' right to compete. That," he said, "is what it is about, ultimately."

Moses, 57, entered the race to become the next WADA president in late July, becoming the third -- and final -- candidate for the job. Also in the contest: International Olympic Committee vice president Craig Reedie of Great Britain and former IOC medical director Patrick Schamasch of France.

Moses is indisputably one of the greatest track and field stars of all time. He won the 400-meter high hurdles at both the 1976 and 1984 Summer Games. He won 122 consecutive races from 1977-87.

Since his retirement from competitive running, he has been especially active in the anti-doping movement, serving since September, 2012, as chairman of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

The three would-be WADA presidents had until Tuesday to submit position papers to the IOC; it's now the Olympic movement's turn to nominate a successor to former Australian government minister John Fahey, who has been in the job for six years.

At a meeting here Friday in Moscow, the IOC's policy-making executive board is due to nominate one of the three. That nominee will be put up for formal election at the World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg Nov. 12-15.

Schamasch -- no one doubts for a second his technical expertise -- is considered a long-shot.

Moses got a late start. He knows that. Even so, if the anti-doping campaign is supposed to be all about athletes, who better than one of the most superb athletes of all time -- who since has virtually done it all -- looking out for athletes?

Moses earned an M.B.A. from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. His undergraduate degree, from Morehouse College in Atlanta, is in physics. He serves now as director of the Laureus World Sports Academy, the association of sports starts that seeks to use the positive influence of sport as a tool for social change worldwide. He has served the IOC on its athlete, medical and ethics commissions and on various U.S. Olympic Committee panels as well.

"I think the position needs a person of strong will," Moses said in his first public comments since the IOC announced he was in the race, adding a moment later, "There aren't a lot of people with the experience I have had at every level."

Even so, to know the IOC is to recognize the subtle if unmistakeable signs that Reedie -- himself accomplished, sophisticated, experienced, and particularly in the ways of international sports politics and diplomacy -- may have the nomination all but sewn up.

Within the IOC, there is considerable feeling that it -- the IOC -- should play a more direct role in its dealings with WADA.

Ser Miang Ng of Singapore, currently the IOC's senior vice president, said at a press briefing Monday in London, "I feel there needs to be a shift in the IOC's stance with WADA. Perhaps the IOC should fund a higher percentage of the finance, say two-thirds, which would then justify WADA being more directly led by sport, by the IOC and by the IFs," that is, the international federations.

The IOC set up WADA in 1999. The IOC and the federations currently provide 50 percent of WADA's annual budget. Governments fund the other half. WADA's 2013 budget: $26 million.

In recent months, the federations in particular have intensified their criticisms of WADA, saying it spends millions of dollars annually on drug-testing but doesn't routinely catch the most serious cheaters. The return rate has for years hovered at about 1 percent given the usual test methods.

A more-expensive test, the carbon-isotope test, catches cheaters at a rate of about 5 percent, statistics WADA made public at the end of July suggested. But each carbon-isotope test costs about $400. Where such funding would come from is uncertain.

Moses said he understands fully and fundamentally what is what.

"I'm optimistic about it," he said. "That's the approach I'm taking …

"What I can do is lay out a philosophy: to give the athletes the confidence that the war against doping in sport is the most important aspect of competition and all the resources are being put to the task; to give these athletes the assurance that when you compete, no matter who you are, no matter what country you come from, that if you are using illegal substances you are going to be caught and sanctioned heavily."

 

The pull of history over the 400-meter hurdles

LONDON -- Virtually everyone, even those who have only a passing knowledge of track and field, knows Edwin Moses. In the 1970s and 1980s, Moses was unbeatable. Literally. He won 122 straight races in the 400-meter hurdles. He won Olympic gold in the event in Montreal in 1976 and again in Los Angeles in 1984; surely the U.S.-led boycott of the Games in Moscow in 1980 was the only thing that prevented him from gold there, too. In 1988, in Seoul, Moses won bronze.

On Monday night, Angelo Taylor -- out in Lane 4 -- felt the weight, the pull, of history. The Olympic champion in the 400-meter hurdles in 2000 in Sydney and again in Beijing in 2008, he had the opportunity to tie or even surpass the great Edwin Moses.

There is a reason the late filmmaker Bud Greenspan used to say that the most interesting stories at the Olympics arrive in fourth or fifth place.

Read the rest at NBCOlympics.com: http://bit.ly/RSzxO2

Where track and field is sexy and knows it

DONETSK, Ukraine -- In his time, it was enough that Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile. People cared, and a lot. Back then, track and field mattered. In their day, the likes of Edwin Moses, Carl Lewis, Florence Griffth-Joyner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee could just run fast and jump far. A great many people found track and field itself relevant and interesting.

Now, track and field lives on the margins of professional sport, especially in the United States, except for one week every four years at the Summer Olympics, when it commands Super Bowl-like attention. As ratings and attendance figures at other times have demonstrated conclusively, it's not enough anymore to just to run and jump -- or even throw.

So when Kylie Hutson, a rising American pole vaulter, took her runs Saturday night here at the 23rd annual running of the "Pole Vault Stars" to the strains of LMFAO's  "Sexy and I Know It," playing to the crowd because she's sexy and she knows it -- hey, it was showtime.

Brad Walker, the 2007 world champion, ran the runway to perhaps the one G-rated sentence in the song "Move Bitch" from Ludacris. The noise shook the roof. The crowd roared.

Traditionalists may cringe. But this is the direction track and field inevitably has to move, a combination of sport and entertainment, if it wants to engage the paying public.

The Druzhba sports hall in Donetsk holds roughly 4,000. To get there, fans had to brave temperatures of minus-20 centigrade, or minus-4 Fahrenheit. The place was packed; at the start, the lines at the concession stands were three deep. The show went on for three hours, the vaulters going off on brown runways set off against a blue background, one of the guys, then one of the women, at the height of the action a vaulter going off every 90 seconds, all the time the music kicking. For three solid hours the Druzhba was an all-in track-and-field house party.

Generally, a standard-issue track meet comes off like an out-of-control circus. For the average fan, there's too much going on, all of it seemingly at one time. The genius of an event like Pole Vault Stars is that it's a break-out deal, pole-vaulting only; there aren't any competing distractions on a surrounding track; moreover, you don't have to be a track and field geek to understand what's going on.

That's what makes the concept so easily transferrable:

Why not lithe female high jumpers in Las Vegas? Studly male shot putters in downtown Manhattan?  (On Wall Street?) Why not street races down Michigan Avenue in Chicago or Bourbon Street in New Orleans?

In England, they already hold a street race in Manchester. At the Diamond League meet in Zurich last September, the shot put events -- men's and women's -- were held in the entrance hall of the main train station.

Track and field has to think like this, out of the box, to get to the ultimate goal: to make the sport once again not only relevant and interesting to the average fan. That is, must-see. For American supporters, the aim has to be to pack a place like Cowboys Stadium -- with that big-screen TV -- by the 2020 or 2024 U.S. Olympic Trials, and one day to bring the world championships to the United States.

It can be done. Usain Bolt has shown that there is space in a crowded sports landscape for a single track and field personality.

At the same time, there is much to overcome.

Moving beyond the sport's well-documented doping issues -- for decades, track and field has ceded the show to other sports.

The NBA, for instance, is Jack Nicholson and Spike Lee and, to invoke the legendary voice of Lawrence Tanter announcing the obvious between breaks at Staples Center, Laker Girls.

Name even one celebrity associated with recent editions of the U.S. Olympic track trials -- or, for that matter, the U.S. track and field season.

Still waiting …

During the Major League Baseball season, they put on sausage races at Miller Park in Milwaukee, and people care. No, really! They care so much that "Famous Racing Sausages" is trademarked.

The NFL, of course, offers up military flyovers and cheerleaders and, at the Super Bowl itself, the halftime rock-and-roll spectacle. Why wouldn't track and field want to be more like the NFL?

Or, for that matter, the UFC?

Who, a few years ago, had even heard of the UFC?

"Look at the UFC and what Dana White has done. He has marketed the hell out of his athletes," Walker said here late Saturday night. "We have tremendous athletes. Nobody knows who any of us are."

Added Jeff Hartwig, the 1996 and 2008 Olympian who was in Donetsk representing Hutson, "You can make the general public fall in love with you if you put money and time into it, and we," meaning track and field, "don't do either."

Track and field's credibility as a would-be major sport is not just limited to the United States -- though it is there that it may be most on the line. As just one example: The Millrose Games moved out of Madison Square Garden. Meanwhile, a number of European indoor meets this winter disappeared, including the seeming fixture in Stuttgart.

Mind you -- this is an Olympic year.

"A lot of competitions are dead," said Germany's Björn Otto, who finished a strong second here.

He added at a news conference, referring to Pole Vault Stars, "We need these competitions. It's promoting track and field as attractive for the world. And spectators can see that."

This meet began in 1990, started by Sergey Bubka, the 1988 Seoul Games pole-vault gold medalist who went to high school in Donetsk. "For me," Bubka said, "we must offer sport as a combination -- with excitement, sport as a show. It gives a different impact. When you do this, the people love it."

Bubka is now a vice-president of track and field's international governing body, the International Assn. of Athletics Federations, and is on a short list of those believed to be positioning themselves for the succession -- whenever it might occur -- of the elderly IAAF president, Lamine Diack. Bubka is also an International Olympic Committee member and president of the national Olympic committee of Ukraine.

Asked if the pole-vault meet might be a play to advance his political interests, Bubka demurred. "What kind of promotion for myself? I didn't need that. I dreamed to do well, to promote my city. It was Soviet times. It was my dream to give the people two to three hours of entertainment."

Which has shown staying power. Samsung has become the title sponsor. Coca-Cola and others are also in, their executives saying they were happy to be on board because the Donetsk event delivers a family friendly audience.

Bubka, meanwhile, is forever tinkering with the format: "It's my baby and every year we try to do something different."

The show Saturday night featured mock-ups of both the Parthenon and Big Ben, tributes to the Olympic Games' Greek heritage and this summer's London Games, and a dance-number opening ceremony.

In all, 24 athletes took part, including the two Americans.

There were vaulters from Cuba, Brazil and all over Europe. Each of the vaulters got to choose his or her own music. Four picked the French artist David Guetta; in a sign of the opportunity just waiting there, virtually everyone else chose an American artist or a U.S.-based musical act, the choices ranging from Eminem to Rihanna to Jennifer Lopez.

This was a no-slouch field.

Renaud Lavillenie of France, the 2009 and 2011 world championships bronze medalist, won the men's competition at 5.82 meters, or 19 feet, 1 inch. Otto, recovering from Achilles' injuries, made the same height but took second on count backs.

Germany's Malte Mohr, the 2010 world indoor silver medalist, came in third.

In recent years, Russia's Yelena Isinbayeva, the Beijing 2008 gold medalist, had ruled the women's competition in Donetsk -- indeed, setting eight world records here from 2004 to 2009. She was a no-show this year, having jumped at a meet just three days before in Bydgoszcz, Poland -- going 4.68, or 15-4 1/4.

That opened it up for Jiřina Ptáčníková of the Czech Republic, fifth at the 2010 world indoors, who jumped 4.70, or 15-5, a personal-best and a national indoor record.

"I like music," she said afterward. "It's special -- to have a track and field meeting set to music is special."

Cuba's Yarisley Silva, her silver navel piercing shaking with every step, took second, at 4.60, or 15-1, also a national record. Hanna Shelekh, a local, just 18, the third-place finisher at the Singapore 2010 Youth Games, took third Saturday, also at 4.60, a Ukrainian record.

Hutson finished fifth in the women's competition at 4.50, or 14-9; Walker, sixth in the men's field at 5.62, or 18-5 1/4.

"When you see its in person, you see how successful it can be," Walker said afterward, "it clicks."