Seb Coe grilled by British Parliament over IAAF issues

AP
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LONDON (AP) — During a three-hour grilling at a British parliamentary hearing, IAAF President Sebastian Coe said Wednesday he is unsure whether Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2019 World Track and Field Championships was clean.

Coe’s hesitation about Qatar’s bid came exactly five years to the day since the Gulf nation won the right to host soccer’s 2022 World Cup in a vote by FIFA’s widely-discredited executives.

The House of Commons committee which quizzed Coe about Qatar — in a hearing that largely centered on doping allegations — has previously alleged corruption in Qatar’s FIFA bid, but a case has never been proven.

Earlier this week, the IAAF ethics commission suspended three Kenyan track and field leaders, including federation president Isaiah Kiplagat, who is accused of receiving two cars from the Qatar Athletics Federation as “an apparent gift” between 2014 and 2015. Qatar won the right to stage the athletics showpiece for the first time in a November 2014 vote.

“How do you know the whole Qatari bid was clean?” Coe was asked by Labour Party legislator Paul Farrelly during a Culture, Media and Sports Committee hearing into athletics.

“Well I don’t,” Coe, a former Conservative Party member of the House of Commons who now sits in the House of Lords, finally replied after being asked the same question several times.

“The situation is very clear. The ethics committee will look at those investigations.”

Farrelly questioned whether “further inducements were offered or provided” by Qatar’s athletics federation or Qatari companies before the November 2014 vote.

Concluding a tetchy exchange, Farrelly said to Coe: “We will leave you to go away and ponder” whether the bid was clean.

The IAAF ethics commission said in a statement to The Associated Press that “the Qatar dimension to the prima facie case against Mr. Kiplagat notified (on Monday) will be considered by the ethics Commission’s appointed investigator, Mr. Sharad Rao, as it falls within the scope of his investigation. There is therefore no need to commence any additional or distinct procedure (on Qatar’s bid).”

Kiplagat was provisionally suspended on Monday for 180 days by the International Association of Athletics Federations along with two senior Kenyan track and field federation colleagues. The trio is accused of subverting the east African nation’s anti-doping system and siphoning money from sponsor Nike.

The opening four months of Coe’s presidency have been marked by a series of doping and corruption cases.

Former IAAF President Lamine Diack was placed under investigation by French authorities last month on charges of corruption and money-laundering related to the cover-up of Russian doping cases. Russia has been suspended from athletics over the government-backed systematic doping.

Diack, who presided for nearly 16 years at track and field’s governing body – with Coe as a vice president for his last eight years, pocketed more than 1 million euros ($1.1 million) from the alleged cash-for-silence scheme, according to French authorities. The former president’s son, Papa Massata Diack, was also accused by prosecutors last month of being “very active” in an alleged “system of corruption” that sought to blackmail athletes, with demands of money to hush-up suspected doping.

Papa Massata Diack was first suspended by the IAAF from his role as a marketing consultant for the association in December 2014 after allegations surfaced in media reports.

Farrelly asked Coe: “Did you ever ask yourself — or more pertinently ask the president (in 2014) — whether he was asked whether he was involved in anything like this at all?”

“No, because there were no allegations being made about the president,” Coe said.

“But it was the president’s son,” Farrelly shot back.

“I did not ask the president directly,” Coe responded.

Coe gave no clear response when asked by Farrelly whether he was displaying a “lack of curiosity” or “willful blindness” by not questioning Lamine Diack about corruption given that the Senegalese had already been reprimanded in 2011 by the International Olympic Committee over a FIFA kickbacks scandal.

Coe, a double Olympic 1,500m champion who organized the 2012 London Olympics, was elected IAAF president in August and said he will serve a maximum of two four-year terms.

“Returning trust will be a longer journey, and probably see out my mandate,” Coe said.

“Have there been failures? Yes,” he added. “Will I fix them? Absolutely. Will I listen while we’re doing that? Absolutely. I am absolutely focused on doing that, and if we don’t do that, I know there are no tomorrows for my sport. This is the crossroads.”

MORE: Seb Coe splits from Nike

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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