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Russia track and field ban set to extend through world champs

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MONACO (AP) — The IAAF is upholding its global ban on Russian athletes and freezing all nationality switches.

Following a council meeting in Monaco on Monday, IAAF president Sebastian Coe said Russian athletics should not expect “full reinstatement” before November. The decision rules out Russia competing at the world championships in August in London.

IAAF task force chairman Rune Andersen added that although there have been “productive meetings” with Russian officials, many conditions were yet to be met for full reinstatement.

In December, World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren published the second part of his damning report into state-sponsored doping, listing hundreds of failed drug tests which were allegedly covered up in Russia, including in disability sports. The Russian government and Russian athletics deny any state support for doping.

Andersen presented Russia’s “roadmap” for compliance, and issued firm conditions.

The testing of Russian athletes must take place without any further incidents.

Russian athletics must explain why in the past it has been unable to enforce suspensions imposed on its athletes and how it plans to go about doing this in future. The IAAF also demanded an official Russian response to McLaren’s findings from the sports ministry and the FSB, Russia’s federal security service.

“Our priority is to return clean athletes to competition but we must all have confidence in the process,” Coe said. “Clean Russian athletes have been badly let down by their national system. We must ensure they are protected and that those safeguards give confidence to the rest of the world that there is a level playing field of competition when Russians return.”

At the council meeting in December, the IAAF task force said Russia could not yet be reinstated because of the lack of a functional drug-testing agency there, and a lack of acceptance of the McLaren findings.

The IAAF suspended Russia from all international competition in November 2015 after the first part of the McLaren report alleged mass doping and cover-ups. Since then, senior Russian athletics officials have been banned, and more WADA reports provided details of drug use and the swapping of tainted samples for clean ones.

Since February 2016, testing in Russia has been overseen by the United Kingdom Anti-Doping Agency because its Russian counterpart was banned from handling samples due to corruption claims.

Last month, the IAAF provided new guidelines for Russians hoping to compete in a neutral capacity. The IAAF said 35 Russians have applied, sending in forms listing their drug-test history under newly relaxed IAAF rules which no longer insist on Russian athletes training outside their home country. If the IAAF accepts all of them, Russia will have close to a full team at the European indoor championships in Serbia next month, just without a flag.

In a separate issue, the IAAF said it was freezing all nationality switches in athletics after complaints that a rising number of people were switching allegiance to countries where they had no ties, and that some were moving repeatedly.

Coe said middlemen were touting lists of athletes around various countries, describing a form of transfer market similar to soccer.

“I have spoken to many member federations who regularly receive a list of athletes that are out there and available for trade,” he said. “This cannot be a sustainable system.”

Runners from Kenya and Ethiopia were among those who have often moved to represent other countries. Kenya-born Ruth Jebet won the 3000m steeplechase at the Rio Olympics while running for Bahrain, which also won marathon silver through Kenya-born Eunice Kirwa.

The decision did not affect 15 transfers already being processed.

Council member Hamad Kalkaba Malboum compared the situation to a “wholesale market for African talent open to the highest bidder.”

“Our present rules are being manipulated to the detriment of athletics’ credibility,” he said. “Lots of the individual athletes concerned, many of whom are transferred at a young age, do not understand that they are forfeiting their nationality. This must end and a new way forward found which respects the athletes’ rights and the sports’ dignity.”

In other issues:

— Last year, the IAAF designated five other countries whose anti-doping programs were in a critical condition: Ethiopia, Morocco, Belarus, Kenya, and Ukraine. The IAAF says it has received presentations from Morocco and Ukraine on their progress. Belarus, Ethiopia, and Kenya have to report again in three months, and Ukraine will report on a monthly basis.

— The IAAF council approved Coe’s proposal to dispense with the formal bidding process by which the IAAF has traditionally taken applications to host international competitions. Instead, the IAAF will “assess the strategic goals for growing the sport in relation to each IAAF competition, targeting cities from countries and regions which will best assist the delivery of those aims.”

MORE: Russia athletes refuse to return stripped Olympic medals

Chinese figure skating judges banned for biased Olympic scoring

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Two Chinese figure skating judges were suspended by the International Skating Union for biased judging at the PyeongChang Olympics.

Chen Weiguang and Huang Feng had “preferential marking” for top Chinese skaters Jin Boyang (fourth place in PyeongChang) and the silver medalist pairs’ team of Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, respectively, according to the ISU.

Chen was banned two years and excluded from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Huang got a one-year ban.

Chen awarded her highest grades of execution scores of the men’s competition to Jin, as well as her second-highest program components scores, trailing only gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu. Both sets of scores, in both the short and long programs, were out of line with the other eight judges.

“There is evidence of preference for the Chinese skater and prejudice against his strongest competitors,” an ISU report read. “Her marks were completely unrealistic.”

The pairs’ judge Huang “obviously favored his pair also vis-à-vis the other top candidates for the Olympic gold medal,” the ISU said in a report, referencing inflated scores for Sui and Han and lower scores for gold and bronze medalists Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada.

Huang was warned one month before the Olympics by the ISU for biased judging at the December 2017 Grand Prix Final pairs’ event.

Both suspensions are subject to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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MORE: Adam Rippon opines on figure skating future

Javier Fernandez to skip Grand Prix, still compete next season

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Javier Fernandez, who in PyeongChang became the first Spanish Olympic figure skating medalist, will skip the fall Grand Prix series but return for January’s European Championships, which could be his final competition.

Europeans will be Fernandez’s focus for the season, his agent said Tuesday.

Fernandez, 26, added an Olympic bronze medal to his 2015 and 2016 World titles. He has said that his third Olympics in PyeongChang would be his last. But Fernandez did not say he would retire after the Winter Games, though he did skip the world championships in March.

Fernandez now plans to compete in his 13th straight European Championships in Minsk in January. He won the last six titles. It’s unknown if he will continue on to the world championships in Saitama, Japan, in March.

In Fernandez’s absence, the top male singles skaters in the fall Grand Prix season should be double Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, PyeongChang silver medalist Shoma Uno and American Nathan Chen, who was fifth at the Olympics after a disastrous short program but ran away with March’s world title by the largest margin in history.

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