Scott Blackmun

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USOC boss calls for immediate action on Russian doping

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The leader of the U.S. Olympic Committee called on his international counterparts to act immediately on allegations of Russian doping, with now less than four months until the start of the Winter Games.

“The time for action is now,” Scott Blackmun, the CEO of the USOC said in an address Thursday to the USOC Assembly.

In his speech to more than 200 members of the U.S. Olympic community, Blackmun said “it is beyond frustrating” that no action has been taken on the now-15-month-old McLaren Report, which documented a Russian doping system that tainted the Sochi Games in 2014.

International Olympic Committee leaders launched two investigations after the McLaren Report was released and expect results before the end of the year.

But Blackmun noted that U.S. athletes are getting frustrated, with so far not a single Sochi medal forfeited nor a single Winter Olympics-bound athlete sanctioned as a result of the McLaren Report.

The Olympics start Feb. 8.

“I believe the IOC is pursuing the findings of the McLaren Report, both in earnest and in good faith, and I believe the IOC when they say there will be consequences for the bad actors,” Blackmun said. “But at some point, justice delayed is justice denied, and we are fast approaching that point.”

This was one of the strongest statements the USOC has made about the long-running anti-doping scandal in Russia.

It was met with a burst of applause usually reserved at these meetings for announcements about medal counts and other big accomplishments, such as landing the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Several U.S. athletes and sports leaders have expressed frustration with both the IOC’s time-consuming process and with what they had viewed the USOC’s less-than-aggressive push against the IOC’s handling of the Russian investigation.

In one of the assembly meetings Thursday, sports leaders heard from Yulia and Vitaly Stepanov, the first two Russians to blow the whistle on corruption inside the Russian system.

“Obviously, it’s very much welcomed as you could tell by the loud applause,” said Edwin Moses, the chair of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. “As the global voices continue to unite and grow to protect clean athletes, having the commitment from a powerful NOC and host of the 2028 Games supporting justice and reform could be a real game-changer.”

While Blackmun took up the anti-doping topic, USOC chairman Larry Probst was equally forceful in denouncing a growing list of IOC corruption scandals.

Most recently, Brazil’s Carlos Nuzman, who spearheaded the effort to stage the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, is in prison during an investigation into a vote-buying scheme to bring the Games to Brazil. The IOC has suspended Nuzman, and he resigned this week as head of the country’s Olympic committee.

Probst said the bad actors have “been tolerated for too long.”

“To be sure, a global movement requires diplomacy and due process. But it also demands an aggressive and timely response to unacceptable behavior,” Probst said.

Blackmun also called on sports leagues and the federal government to help fund the recently opened U.S. Center for SafeSport, which the USOC helped get off the ground. Its mission is collecting reports about and following up on sex-abuse cases inside Olympic sports.

Scandals have resulted in the leaders at both USA Gymnastics and USA Taekwondo being removed from their jobs over the past seven months.

“If we want parents to entrust their children to your care, to encourage them to participate in your sports… we must look at it from the perspective of the couple at the kitchen table; will my child be safe there?” Blackmun said.

The Assembly will close Friday with a USOC board meeting, in which a key topic will be a possible bid for the Winter Olympics in 2026 or 2030.

Probst told the audience the USOC is interested in bringing the Winter Games back to the United States — and has received interest from Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno, Nev.

But no timelines have been set, or decisions have been made, as the IOC is still determining the selection process for 2026.

Also, any bid would have to come with the cooperation of the Los Angeles host committee, which recently agreed to complex financial arrangements with the USOC as part of its deal to stage the 2028 Games.

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Jesse Owens, 1936 Olympians receive recognition at White House

Jesse Owens
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Shortly after Jesse Owens returned home from his snubbing by Adolph Hitler at the 1936 Olympics, he and America’s 17 other black Olympians found a less-than-welcoming reception from their own government, as well.

On Thursday, relatives of those 1936 African-American Olympians will be welcomed to the White House and will get to shake the president’s hand – an honor Owens and the others didn’t receive, the way some of their white counterparts did, after they returned home from Berlin 80 years ago.

U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun announced the visit Wednesday night at a Team USA Awards ceremony.

“That is why I’m here 80 years later, to recognize the senselessness (of not inviting them to the White House), and to pay tribute to all the progress that has come since,” Blackmun said.

The announcement came on the same night the USOC invited Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who were booted from the 1968 Olympics for their gloved-fist protest on the medals stand, to be part of the awards show. Smith and Carlos hadn’t been involved in an official USOC event since being sent home from Mexico City. The gold- and bronze-medal-winning sprinters will be at the White House on Thursday, as well.

At the 1936 Olympics , Owens won four gold medals, but it was the message Owens’ victories sent by winning in Nazi Germany and undercutting Hitler’s white-supremacy dogma that stood as the lasting memory of those games.

Owens returned to a segregated America where he had trouble finding steady work and where, according to his interviews in later years, the president, Franklin Roosevelt, never sent him any words of congratulations or an invitation to the White House.

Decades later, Owens was acknowledged and honored at the White House. In 1976, President Gerald Ford presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The stories of the other 17 blacks on that team were less-widely known. Thursday’s event was meant to give a long-overdue White House recognition to those athletes, who accounted for 14 of America’s 56 medals in Berlin.

Owens’ daughter, Marlene Owens-Rankin, will be among the relatives at the White House.

“To be able to go to the White House 80 years later with Barack Obama as president and also with the other 1936 Olympians that really didn’t get the exposure that my grandfather did, for various reasons, I think it would make him so happy,” said Owens’ granddaughter, Marlene Dortch.

MORE: Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky big winners at Team USA Awards

Tommie Smith, John Carlos set to join Team USA at White House

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Tommie Smith and John Carlos, the American sprinters whose raised-fist salutes at the 1968 Olympics are an ageless sign of race-inspired protest, will join the U.S. Olympic team at the White House next week for its meeting with President Barack Obama.

Smith and Carlos were sent home from the Olympics after raising their black-gloved fists in a symbolic protest during the U.S. national anthem. They called it a “human rights salute.”

USOC CEO Scott Blackmun asked them to serve as ambassadors as the federation tries to bring more diversity to its own ranks. They will join the team at the White House next Wednesday, then later that evening at an awards celebration in Washington.

The sprinters have been referenced frequently in the recent protests, spurred by Colin Kaepernick, during national anthems at NFL games. One player, Marcus Peters of the Chiefs, raised his own black-gloved fist before Kansas City’s season opener.

“I think Tommie and John have played an important and positive role in the evolution of our attitudes about diversity and inclusion, not only in the United States but around the world,” Blackmun said Friday night at a dinner to celebrate the U.S. performance in Brazil this summer.

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