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IOC seeks more information regarding vote-buying case

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LIMA, Peru (AP) — What was supposed to be a stress-free meeting of the International Olympic Committee turned into something quite different Monday, when IOC president Thomas Bach was forced to spend nearly an hour defending the handling of a mushrooming bid scandal and insisting the IOC is doing its best to fight corruption.

Bach was on defense throughout a news conference held after a meeting of the IOC executive board, which earlier in the day said it was asking Brazilian authorities for details involving IOC member Carlos Nuzman. Nuzman, the organizer of the Rio Games, is accused of funneling $2 million to another former IOC member, Lamine Diack, to secure votes to bring the Olympics to Rio.

Last week, Brazilian police brought Nuzman in for questioning, setting up the awkwardness this week in Peru, where the IOC will award the 2024 Olympics to Paris and the 2028 Games to Los Angeles on Wednesday.

“We have taken action in the case of Mr. Diack,” Bach said, in reference to the former head of track and field whose IOC membership has been stripped. “When evidence is provided (in the Nuzman case), we will act. But in order to take action, you need evidence.”

Less than two years ago, Bach was critical of FIFA, which was embroiled in a bidding scandal of its own. He urged soccer’s governing body to get its house in order because it could “continue to overshadow the credibility of FIFA and affect all sports organizations for such a long time.”

At that time, Bach started reforming the IOC’s own auditing and ethics operations, and on Monday, he insisted those changes are well under way. But he couldn’t avoid questions about how he could be critical of others when the IOC clearly still has its own issues, some two decades after reforms in the wake of a bid scandal that sullied the Salt Lake City Games.

“Nobody wants to have credibility issues,” Bach said. “But we have to be realistic. No organization in the world is immune to credibility issues. We have to face this reality and we have undertaken the reforms and provided ourselves with the instruments to tackle these challenges. I hope these will also be respected.”

Also in the news this week was IOC member Patrick Hickey’s resignation from the executive board, a year after being arrested in Brazil in a ticket-scalping investigation. And not attending this week’s meetings is IOC member Frankie Fredericks, who was previously removed from the committee’s inspection team for Paris and Los Angeles in wake of allegations he was caught up in the vote scandal. Fredericks has denied wrongdoing, saying a $300,000 payment he received from Diack’s son on the day Rio won the vote for 2016 was for legitimate consultancy work.

Bach also parried questions about doping. The IOC is still awaiting conclusions from a pair of committees before determining the fate of Russian athletes for next year’s Winter Games. The committees are studying evidence from the McLaren report, which documented widespread doping fraud inside the country at the Sochi Games and beforehand.

Both committees are submitting interim reports this week “and it will be up to them to define the right time to submit the final report,” Bach said. He’s hoping for more clarity before the World Cup ski season begins later this year.

And yet, the IOC’s handling of the doping issue was a mere subplot to the issue of whether the organization’s bidding process is irreversibly broken.

Because neither 2024 nor 2028 will be subject to a competitive vote, Bach likely has avoided that issue for the time being. He called getting Paris and Los Angeles on the Olympic calendar a “golden opportunity” that the IOC simply couldn’t pass up. And yet, that led to questions about whether the change in strategy was nothing more than a quick fix to remove the voting power from the 94 IOC members’ hands.

No, he said. “Just today, we adopted even stricter rules for 2026,” Bach said of the only remaining Olympics left to be awarded this decade.

But all the questions Monday circled back to one simple theme: Does the IOC have an image problem?

“This is not my call to speak of the IOC’s image, because it’s in the eyes of everybody,” Bach said. “Everybody should make their own judgment. The only hope I have is that the judgment is made on facts and actions, and not so much by perceptions.”

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Ashley Wagner details dropping ‘La La Land’ free skate

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Ashley Wagner, the pre-eminent U.S. female figure skater of the last decade, changed her mind on one of the most significant decisions a skater can make going into the Olympic season.

Wagner, the 2016 World silver medalist and three-time U.S. champion, tossed out the new free skate she had been working on last month.

It was set to music from “La La Land,” which earned a record-tying 14 Academy Award nominations earlier this year and won six Oscars (and, briefly, infamously, a seventh for Best Picture).

Now, she’s back to music from “Moulin Rouge.” It accompanied her free skate in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons.

Those years, Wagner posted the highest free skate scores in U.S. Championships history and for an American in international competition history.

“I really did love the [‘La La Land’] program,” Wagner said Wednesday, while promoting the Dick’s Sporting Goods Contenders program, which assists 41 Winter Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls with their preparation for the PyeongChang Winter Games.

“I was very passionate about what I was doing,” she continued. “I started training it day to day, and the music is beautiful. But just something wasn’t quite clicking, and the character didn’t really feel as complicated as I wanted her to be. There really didn’t feel like there was much of an emotional range. And I love drama. I love having those moments.”

The return to “Moulin Rouge” came abruptly as Wagner described it. One day at practice in early August, she consulted her steely coach, Armenian Rafael Arutyunyan.

“Is this program good?” Wagner asked.

“Yeah, it’s a really good program,” Arutyunyan responded.

“Is it good enough? Is this going to get me through the Olympics?” she pressed.

Arutyunyan told Wagner to put “Moulin Rouge” music on and skate.

“I made it to the first double Axel in the program,” Wagner said. “He turns off the program, and he goes, this is the program I want you to do.”

Wagner agreed.

“It’s my Olympic moment,” she said Wednesday, “and this is the person I want to be at the Olympics.”

Wagner, who lives and trains in Southern California, said publicly as far back as February that she wanted to skate to “La La Land” at the Olympics. Skaters usually wait until after the preceding season ends in early spring to announce program music for the following season.

But Wagner was so enamored that she texted her choreographer from a movie theater to say she had chosen “La La Land” for her Olympic free skate.

Wagner’s 11-year senior international career is marked by ups and downs, tears and several concussions. She identified with the film’s theme of hope.

“I love the music. I still do,” she said. “I just think that it was very much like an inspirational kind of a setup. I loved that. I loved the choreography. I can’t speak highly enough of the music. But I just know myself, and I know that after a couple of months of just one emotion, I get bored.”

Two weeks after the switch, Wagner performed to “Moulin Rouge” at last month’s U.S. Figure Skating’s Champs Camp. At Champs Camp, skaters receive preseason feedback from officials on programs before debuting them in competition.

“I gave them the opportunity to see ‘La La Land’ if they wanted to, but everyone at U.S. Figure Skating was very supportive of my decision,” Wagner said.

Wagner said she will make her Olympic season debut at a small, local event. She won’t say where or when it will be. Her international season debut is at Skate Canada the last weekend of October.

She’s gearing up for the U.S. Championships in January, after which three women will be named to the Olympic team. That team will be chosen by a committee based on results not only at nationals but also previous top-level competitions.

Wagner is familiar with the selection process.

She was the top U.S. woman in fall 2009 but finished third at the 2010 U.S. Championships and was left off the two-woman Olympic team.

Wagner was fourth at the 2014 U.S. Championships and placed on the three-woman Olympic team over third-place finisher Mirai Nagasu. Wagner earned that spot based on performing the best of all U.S. women nationally and internationally the previous year.

Now 26 years old, Wagner can become the oldest U.S. Olympic women’s singles skater since 1928.

Wagner wants to separate from her own past this season, even as she performs to music associated with some of the biggest triumphs of her career.

Skating to “Moulin Rouge” again last month, “made me feel like the athlete that I was at 2016 Worlds, so that definitely made me feel nostalgic,” she said, referencing moving from fourth to second in the free skate in Boston to become the first U.S. world medalist in a decade. “Maybe that’s why I like this program so much.”

But judges may want to see something new.

So Wagner added professional dancer Benji Schwimmer to her choreography team. Schwimmer has worked with Wagner’s best friend and training partner Adam Rippon.

“This is a new season,” Wagner said, “and hopefully somewhat of a new version of Moulin Rouge.”

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Officer body checks fan at world road cycling championships (video)

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A man dressed as a police officer leveled a fan at the world road cycling championships men’s time trial in Bergen, Norway, on Wednesday.

Spectators often run up close enough to touch riders on mountain stages at the Tour de France.

However, this man in a red hooded sweatshirt was decked while chasing German Tony Martin from two or three strides behind near the summit finish of a 19-mile time trial.

Martin, eyeing his record fifth world title in the time trial, was ninth on a course not suited to his strengths.

A full recap of the race is here.

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