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Sarah Hirshland is first woman named U.S. Olympic Committee CEO

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The U.S. Olympic Committee named Sarah Hirshland its new CEO, the first woman to hold the permanent role after 11 men dating to 1950.

Hirshland, the chief commercial officer for the United States Golf Association, takes over during what she called “a critical moment in time” in its history.

The USOC and multiple national governing bodies for Olympic sports are dealing with sexual-abuse scandals, notably Larry Nassar‘s crimes against gymnasts.

“I also recognize the challenges ahead as we navigate this critical moment in the USOC’s history,” Hirshland said in a press release. “We must protect, support and empower athletes, young and old, elite and beginner. Olympic and Paralympic sport in the United States must be a shining example, able to provide athletes with the benefits of participation in an environment free from abuse of any kind. The USOC has made great strides in this area, and I look forward to carrying on that critically important work.

Hirshland said she took the job because it’s “an opportunity to take on a challenge.”

“As a female leader in the world of sport, I understand the importance of creating cultural change,” she said.

Hirshland has been with the USGA since 2011. Before that, she was senior vice president for strategic business development at Wasserman Media Group, headed by Casey Wasserman, the Los Angeles 2028 Olympic leader.

The previous USOC CEO, Scott Blackmun, resigned in February, citing prostate cancer and the USOC’s need to immediately address the USA Gymnastics sexual-abuse scandal. Blackmun had been CEO since January 2010.

Susanne Lyons, a USOC board member, was acting CEO the last four months during the search for Blackmun’s successor. Lyons and Stephanie Streeter were the only women to be USOC CEO, but both were in acting roles as searches went on to find full-time replacements.

The USOC’s work ahead also includes planning for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics (the first hosted by the U.S. since the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games) and potentially bidding for the 2030 Winter Games with Denver, Reno-Tahoe or Salt Lake City.

ALL-TIME USOC EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS/CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICERS
1. Lyman Bingham (1950-November 1965)
2. Arthur G. Lentz (November 1965-February 1973; leave of absence June-December, 1968)
3. Everett Barnes (Acting Executive Director, June-December, 1968)
4. Don Miller (February 1973-February 1985)
5. George D. Miller (February 1985-August 1987)
6. Baaron B. Pittenger (Acting Executive Director, October-December 1987; Executive Director, January 1988-July 1990)
7. Harvey W. Schiller (January 1988; January 1990-October 1994)
8. John Krimsky Jr. (Interim Executive Director, October 1994-September 1995)
9. Richard D. Schultz (September 1995-February 2000)
10. Norman Blake (February 2000-November 2000)
11. Scott Blackmun (Acting Chief Executive Officer, November 2000-October 2001)
12. Lloyd Ward (October 2001-March 2003)
13. Jim Scherr (Acting Chief Executive Officer, March 2003-April 2005; Chief Executive Officer, April 2005-March 2009)
14. Stephanie A. Streeter (Acting Chief Executive Officer, March-December 2009)
15. Scott Blackmun (January 2010-February 2018)
16. Susanne Lyons (Acting Chief Executive Officer, February-August 2018)
17. Sarah Hirshland (August 2018-)

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Transgender track and field athletes now face same standard that has kept out Caster Semenya

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Transgender athletes will have to reduce their testosterone level to the same level applied to Caster Semenya and other athletes with Differences of Sex Development (DSD), under a new policy enacted by World Athletics (formerly the IAAF).

As with DSD athletes, the threshold for middle-distance runners has been lowered from 10 nanomoles per liter to 5.

“These Regulations have been drafted to align with the Eligibility Regulations for the Female Classification (Athletes with Differences of Sex Development) and include updates to reflect current medical standards and the legal framework,” World Athletics said in announcing the latest IAAF Council decisions.

The IAAF claimed a similar basis in medical standards last year when it announced its updated policy on DSD athletes: “No female would have serum levels of natural testosterone at 5 nmol/L or above unless they have DSD or a tumour.”

Semenya, a two-time Olympic champion at 800 meters, challenged that limit in the Court of Arbitration for Sport but lost her case in May. Given a brief reprieve by a Swiss court, she ran the fastest 800-meter time of the year (1:54.98), but a higher court overruled her appeal. She did not compete in the recent world championships.

MORE: Semenya laments lack of support

Another athlete affected by the DSD policy, 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Margaret Wambui, told the Olympic Channel she was struggling to find a new direction after the rule was passed.

“It affected me a lot,” Wambui said. “I didn’t want to train or do anything. …

“Caster has fought for us. She has done her level best. She has tried, but we failed.”

VIDEO: Wambui: “No one chose to be born the way they are”

Transgender athletes have not yet been prominent in international track and field, though controversies have arisen at other levels, particularly in a Connecticut case in which high school athletes filed a Title IX complaint after losing to transgender athletes. The athletes who filed the claim said they were potentially at a disadvantage in terms of earning college scholarships.

The new World Athletics policy insists that its stipulations for transgender athletes are actually generous. “The decision limit also takes into consideration that, for clinical purposes, the Endocrine Society Clinical Practice Guideline for Endocrine Treatment of Gender-Dysphoric/Gender-Incongruent Persons recommends that transgender females should have serum testosterone levels of less than 50 ng/dL (i.e. approximately 1.7 nmol/L).”

But while DSD and transgender athletes face different issues, Semenya and other DSD athletes have set a precedent by withdrawing from competition rather than bring their levels down to the 5 nmol/L standard. In CAS proceedings, Semenya said she experienced regular fevers, night sweats, significant weight gain and constant abdominal pain while taking medication to meet the previous standard of 10 nmol/L.

The International Olympic Committee also put a 10 nmol/L limit in place for both transgender and DSD athletes in 2015. Some athletes have complained that transgender athletes still have an unfair advantage under that policy.

The World Athletics policy also addresses transgender men, granting them permission to take regulated testosterone supplements to bring levels within a typical range for men.

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U.S. men’s volleyball extends medal streak with bronze in World Cup

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With its medal-winning streak in jeopardy, the defending champion U.S. men’s volleyball team beat Egypt 22-25, 25-16, 25-14, 25-13 on Tuesday in Hiroshima, Japan. Poland beat Iran later in the day to slip past the U.S. for silver behind unbeaten Brazil.

The experienced U.S. men have claimed a medal in the last four major international tournaments — gold in the 2015 World Cup, bronze in the 2016 Olympics, bronze in the 2018 world championships and bronze in this year’s World Cup. The men also placed second in the 2019 Nations League and third in the first Nations League in 2018, though the team failed to medal in the last two editions of the World League in 2016 and 2017.

Most importantly for next year, the U.S. men swept their Olympic qualification tournament in August.

Micah Christenson was named best setter of the tournament, as he was in the 2015 tournament and in the 2018 world championships. Middle blocker Max Holt was also named to the tournament “Dream Team.

VIDEO: U.S.-Egypt highlights

The U.S. team’s World Cup started with a five-set loss to Argentina, which went on to finish fifth. The U.S. rebounded to beat Italy, world champion Poland, host Japan, Tunisia and Iran before losing to eventual champion Brazil. Border rival Canada took the U.S. to five sets, but sweeps against Australia and Brazil put the team in position to clinch its medal.

Heading into next year’s Olympics, the U.S. team has several internationally accomplished players. In addition to Christenson’s multiple awards, Matt Anderson was named the best opposite hitter in the world championship and Nations League in 2018, and Aaron Russell was named to the Dream Team in the 2016 Olympics. Russell, playing for Italian team Trentino, also was named MVP of the World Club Championship in December.

The U.S. women’s team also won two medals this year gold in the Nations League, silver in the World Cup and swept its own qualification tournament.

This success comes despite the lack of a professional league in the United States. USA volleyball announced last week it has processed paperwork for 257 women and 82 men to play in foreign leagues for the 2019-20, with more players to follow.

The World Cup is contested every four years, the year before the Olympics. The world championship takes place in even non-Olympic years. Qualification for the World Cup is more difficult — only 12 teams reach the tournament, while 24 teams take part in the world championship. 

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