Fencing into the future

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Whether or not the IOC’s recommendation to remove wrestling from the Olympics holds in the coming months, the decision has served as a wake-up call for a number of sports that they will look to evolve for the Games. First up: fencing.

International Fencing Federation Secretary General Frédéric Pietruszka told Inside the Games this weekend that the sport is considering shortening its three periods to two minutes each, instead of three, adding colored clothing and devices to help spectators know when points have been scored, and introducing lasers.

“At the moment the notion of using [laser weapons] is no more than a distant dream,” Pietruszka explained during the interview. “But we do need to think about what our sport ought to look like in 20 years time.”

Pietruszka believes these changes will help make fencing a “sport of the future,” which is every federation’s aim in the coming decades. Case in point, squash – a 2020 candidate sport – has made a number of technical advancements including glass walled courts, lighting, music, and video review to make the sport more entertaining for spectators on site and at home.

“We have become more fan-friendly,” seven-time world champ Nicol David said last year. “In the past squash was regarded as a bit too sterile where you couldn’t cheer. But now if there is a great shot and the fans cheer, the rally will continue… We have to move with the times and we have adapted.”

WADA investigates report that 10,000 Chinese athletes doped

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BERLIN (AP) — The World Anti-Doping Agency is looking into allegations made by a German broadcaster that Chinese athletes benefited from systematic doping in the 1980s and 90s.

“The allegations were brought forward by former Chinese physician, Xue Yinxian, who is said to have looked after several national teams in China during the decades in question,” WADA said Monday.

Xue, who recently arrived in Germany and is seeking political asylum with her son, told broadcaster ARD that more than 10,000 athletes were affected, some as young as 11, and that anyone who was against doping was considered “a danger to the country. And anyone who endangered the country is now in prison.”

The 79-year-old Xue said she lost her job with the national gymnastics team after refusing to treat an athlete with doping substances before the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

She said she had not felt safe in her home city of Beijing since 2012, when she first made her allegations of doping. She first started working with China’s national teams in the 1970s.

“In the 1980s and ’90s, Chinese athletes on the national teams made extensive use of doping substances,” she told ARD. “Medals were showered in doping. Gold, silver and bronze. All international medals should be withdrawn.”

WADA said it will examine “whether such a system may have prevailed beyond these decades.”

The first step, WADA said, was for its “independent intelligence and investigations team to initiate an investigative process in order to collect and analyze available information in coordination with external partners.”

Xue, who continued to work at lower levels after being dismissed from the national team in 1988, said she was only approached afterward when athletes developed problems because of the substances they were given.

“One trainer came to me and said, ‘Doctor Xue, the boys’ breasts keep getting bigger,’” Xue said. “These boys were about 13 to 14 years old.”

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PyeongChang Olympic organizers downplay North Korea concern

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ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece (AP) — PyeongChang Olympic organizers played down concern over ongoing tensions with North Korea and also say work has been completed on all venues for the Winter Games.

Lee Hee-beom, president of the PyeongChang organizing committee, said the International Olympic Committee has made it very clear that the Feb. 9-25 Winter Games will go ahead as scheduled.

Speaking at the birthplace of the ancient Olympics shortly after the last rehearsal for Tuesday’s official flame-lighting ceremony, Lee said “there is no Plan B.”

Lee said South Korean officials are working closely with all relevant parties to ensure the Winter Games are safe and secure.

He said his main concern for the Olympics is the weather.

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