doping · IOC · Olympic Sports · Olympics · Scandals · Weightlifting

Weightlifting Put on Notice

The IOC Executive Board met last week, and afterward, TBach gave a press release summarizing a lot of initiatives, including giving weightlifting a smackdown and putting the sport on notice.

What’s all this about? Well, doping’s been a slight issue in the Olympics lately, and weightlifters have been some of the biggest offenders. Retests going back to the 2008 Beijing games are still finding weightlifters who doped, which causes a lot of problems with medals and certificates being stripped, and then the athletes who are now getting awards for competition from eight years ago have lost out on a lot of opportunities, and then the IOC and the Olympics starts losing some integrity, and that’s not really how this org thinks they fly.

The IOC gave the International Weightlifting Federation until December to take care of the problem or at least have a plan for it. If they don’t, well, it might be adios for weightlifting as a sport in 2024. As a glimpse of what that might look like, in the IOC’s recently approved Tokyo 2020 program that removes one men’s event and wipes out 64 participants from those Games–a move that’s supposed to help them reach gender parity.

The IWF’s response is pretty timid–they’re shocked (surprise!) by the results of the retesting, and they’re going to get right on making that plan.

The European Weightlifting Federation, run by a guy who recently lost in the election to oust the incumbent IWF president (who just won his fifth term), was a little more critical on its website, saying that the cut in athletes was “just the first instalment [sic] of the price we will have to pay for years of inadequate management, which has showcased our sport as a doping factory run by private power.” You could hear that mic drop around the weightlifting world.

Good luck to them–changing the system can be pretty tough work, but the possibility of being ousted from the Olympics could make things a lot worse for the sport.

Corruption · IOC · Scandals

O-Minus 6: Let ’em Dope?

If you’ve got some time this weekend, listen to the BBC World Service’s Owen Bennett-Jones’ in depth podcast on the Olympic ideal. He and an expert panel explore doping and discuss whether it’d be better to just let everyone dope. If we just want to see the best spectacle in sports and the level playing field we idealize really isn’t there, why not just level it? Don’t people who have access to better equipment and training have the upper hand anyway?

It’s a really interesting discussion and gets you thinking about why we like sport and what we value about it.

Also, want to know the hollow victory for someone who wins an Olympic medal years after fact because a doper was stripped of theirs? One of the panelists could still be awarded a medal from Beijing–learn how much money that doping incident may have cost him. You’ll be shocked.

Corruption · IOC · Olympics · Rio 2016 · Scandals

O-Minus 7: How Many Russians Does it Take to Make a Delegation?

So the fallout over the Russian doping scandal continues. The track & field team got banned. The IOC said that clean athletes (as determined by national federation, not by them or anything) could come on down, but hey, guess what? It’s taking a little bit of time to figure out if there are any other doping athletes in their midst.

So far over 100 have been denied their Olympic opportunity. Along with all but one of the athletics team, some swimmers, modern pentathletes and rowers are staying home.

But the fencers, volleyball teams, triathletes and table tennis players are A-OK. They get added to the equestrians, shooters, tennis players, archers and judoka. Everyone’s probably happy that the judo players have been cleared, seeing as how that’s Putin’s sport.

Not surprisingly, Putin’s less than thrilled about the sitch and believes his country’s been unfairly targeted. Even the TASS news agency reports the Russian Olympics Committee president saying this will be the cleanest Russian team ever. Well, yeah, now.

In the meantime, the Russians who are cleared are heading to Rio, and they’re stuck with the stigma of their no-longer national teammates. They’re all going to get asked about the doping scandal, and every Russian who wins will be second-guessed.

For those of us at home, this story is quickly becoming sports business as usual. Inside the Games writes about a study showing that the more doping scandals there are, the less people care about the Olympics. Hell, one of the seminal books on the Olympics is no longer being updated because it’d be out of date before the Games, and the author would have to spend so much time rewriting past Games’ results due to medals being stripped from late doping discoveries.

All of this spells more trouble for the IOC. Sure, in a week they’re going to revel in the razzle-dazzle of the Opening Ceremony and marvel at the outstanding competion we’ll see–but will they be the real, authentic athletic performances that we want to see? Or will they be an illusion? And if it’s not real, perhaps it’s not worth watching.

That’s not what the IOC wants to hear, especially from a younger generation that craves authentic experiences. Hopefully this smaller Russian delegation, while not the numbers and the medal-winning opportunities that the country hoped for, will be the clean delegation the IOC needs.

Corruption · IOC · Scandals

O-Minus 11: Russia’s Lucky Break

The 2016 Olympics haven’t even begun and doping’s already been a hot topic (well, maybe continuing hot topic, since anti-doping agencies are still coming out with drugged results from Olympics past). To catch you up, many Russian athletes in many sports–including pretty much its entire track & field team–have been banned for doping. The problem seemed like a systematic state-sponsored program, so there was a push for the IOC to ban the entire team from coming.

And the IOC didn’t.

Well, they looked into it. And they were properly shocked. But they ultimately decided to pass the buck and let each individual sporting federation decide the Russians’ fate–and they’re supposed to do analysis on athletes’ doping testing records and make the ultimate decision on whether they can participate. By August 5.

Who’s shocked about this? The IOC did say they won’t accredit officials from the Russian Sports Ministry, and they said it’d be a good idea to move scheduled major winter sporting events out of Russia, but those are really small sanctions against a much larger problem.

Russia was pleased by the decision because it means that innocent Russian athletes don’t get punished. However, there’s a lot of outcry against the IOC’s statement because if the doping’s state-sponsored, the state should get punished. Is it fair to those clean athletes? No, but then neither were the USSR and USA Olympic boycotts.

What will be interesting is to see if any federations end up banning Russian athletes before Rio 2016–or if we’ll be reading about athletes who doped at Rio for years to come.

In other news, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has reinstated Rio’s drug-testing lab, which is good news, as it’ll be able to conduct tests during the Olympics, and the Games won’t be forced to send samples overseas for testing.

Olympic Sports · Rowing · Scandals

O-Minus 30: More Russian Woes

While Russia’s busy appealing the ban on its track and field athletes for Rio 2016 and over 50 of its athletes are applying to be allowed to compete independently, another Russian has been disqualified from the Games in an entirely different sport: Rowing.

Yep, FISA, the World Rowing Federation, has disqualified the Russian men’s quadruple sculls because one of its members, Sergej Fedorovtsev, a gold medalist from Athens 2004 no less, had tested positive for banned substances in both the A and B tests of a sample provided at an out-of-competition drug test. Because his urine didn’t pass, that entire four-man team’s results were nullified, meaning they won’t be competing in Rio in that event.

In a surprise response, Russia said he didn’t dope intentionally (you don’t say), and initially said they’re thinking of bolstering some of their other rowing teams with the other three rowers.

Instead, New Zealand benefits because they placed just after Russia, and they’ll get to go to Rio instead. Of course, they’re not counting their chickens before they hatch, because Russia’s appealing this one as well.

We’d love to hear from some rowers: How long can one remain at the elite levels? Can a gold medalist from 12 years ago still be Olympic caliber today? It could very well be possible–after all, Michael Phelps is swimming in his fifth Olympics. Biathlete Ole Einar Bjorndalen competed in six Olympics and won at least one gold medal in the last five. It’s possible, that’s for sure, but we’d love to hear from you about longevity in this sport. Drop us a line!


Brazil · Corruption · Scandals

O-Minus 31: Everyone’s Got Problems

So the other day, some body parts washed up on Copacabana Beach, which added more fuel to the fire for Rio being an an absolute disaster of a Games. Right now we have health concerns with Zika and polluted waters, a dire financial and political situation, unfinished construction and the general safety of, well, just about  everyone.

But seriously, we here at The Feverr are fairly sure that Rio will pull off the Olympics–maybe not perfectly, but the Games will happen. The athletes will do amazing things. The venues will work as much as they need to. People will have fun. The gangs will hopefully play nice (at least where the cameras are). We’ll all see Brazil in a brand-new light and will–perhaps momentarily–want to visit. Besides, it’s not like every other Olympics has a segment of people crying Olympic doomsday. Let’s take a look at past ways the Olympics were going down:

London 2012: SO many potential problems: Potential security blunders! Transport and roads not being able to handle the crowds! No one could get tickets! Environmentally unfriendly! You know what? Pretty decent Games. Sure, the ticket problem was an issue–some empty-looking stands caused some rage. And the London 2012 logo might be one of the worst ever. But overall? Team GB showed us a great time!

Beijing 2008: Smog city! Human rights issues galore! A clampdown on media! Underage gymnasts! But Beijing cleaned up enough to get the Games done–although it was still the most polluted Games on record. The city also expanded its public transportation system, in part because of the Olympics, which could have a positive impact on the environment. In terms of human rights, some world leaders threatened to boycott the Opening Ceremonies, but that plan fell through. All in all, China’s big coming out party to the world, was OK–and while there’s a lot left to be desired, nothing major broke. (not surprisingly, the IOC said it was a great Games). If you’re going on pure spectacle, the shiny new stadiums and mind-blowing Opening Ceremonies had big crowd appeal. The city probably did some regression in terms of rights, etc., after the Games, and it can definitely improve for when it hosts the Winter Olympics in 2022, but it probably also came a long way from where it started back in 2001 when it was awarded the Games.

Athens 2004: Oh, Athens. We’ve seen what happened to you. And we saw some big doping issues. But there was hope that 2004 could help bolster your economy and perhaps fix some pollution. Sad to say, the country that was not quite ready to host the 1996 100th anniversary of the modern Olympics, was not prepared to host in 2004–at least, not the spectacle and so many facilities the modern Olympics had become (we can talk about the need for so many venues in a different post). Although the Games were lovely, Rio may likely see the same fate: A lot of debt and crumbling, unused venues that no one can maintain.

Sydney 2000: Hey, Sydney, the IOC wanted a “Green Games,” and yours was located on a big unused industrial area/garbage dump with toxic waste. You made it look great though and turned an eyesore into a really nice, still well-used area. There were also ticket and other bribing scandals. Ultimately, though, the Games were a pretty big hit, with the entire world yelling Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oy! Oy! Oy!

Do we think Rio will pull this off without a hitch and smell like roses years down the road? No, we’re not that naive. But we think the Games will work. Just like Brazil pulled off the World Cup in 2014, this sporting spectacle will have its place in the spotlight (or “sportlight,” as I almost typed). What happens afterward? Maybe that’s up to us.

Brazil · Rio 2016 · Scandals

O-Minus 48: Rio: We’re Broke

Where’s the torch? Boa Vista, Roraima – this is the state capital, and it’s in the vicinity of the Venezuelan border.

The governor of the state of Rio announced that the state’s pretty much broke right now and needs some help, or else.

Who is surprised about this? Really? You are? I’m not, but then, I lived in Illinois for 15 years, and that state is perpetually broke and without a budget. The state of Rio gets a lot of its revenue from oil. The oil market bottomed out a while ago, which means less money, which means this situation. There’s also a lovely recession going on in Brazil, which adds to the fun. These problems just so happen to come less than 50 days ahead of the Olympics, so now the world is paying attention. If the Olympics weren’t in Rio, chances are that it wouldn’t have made splashing headlines, and every other government would probably say, You’re broke too? Welcome to the club!

Who else isn’t surprised? Rio 2016, who apparently said, NBD–we don’t get any of their money, and we’re chugging along pretty well all the same, and went back to eating the Brazilian version of tea and crumpets.*

And sure, the Games themselves aren’t quite so affected at the moment, but the state committed to funding a lot of things that have some effect on the Games. The state’s still on the hook for extending the metro to the Olympic Park (what I would call a “nice to have”); it’s responsible for facilities that are supposed to clean up the water for the sailing competition (eh, they’re in boats; just don’t fall in); it’s responsible for providing state police security (which I can’t imagine would be the only security happening during the Games).

According to Reuters, the feds have stepped in with some emergency cash to help with those projects. The city of Rio’s taken over a couple of hospitals to make sure people get paid.  As to the problem of gang violence, I wouldn’t be surprised if the gangs made a temporary truce so that the Games themselves would be a lot safer–and of course, there will likely be way more police on hand to encourage that.

The Games should be fine–the aftermath may not be. Will we pay as much attention to Brazil then? Maybe that’s the bigger crime.

Portuguese for the Day: Learn some essential words to get you through the sport of swimming here.

*What is the Brazilian version of tea and crumpets? Help us out, ReaderLand!