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World Anti-Doping Agency urges U.S. Senate to revise Rodchenkov Act

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The World Anti-Doping Agency sent a letter to U.S. Senators explaining how a bill designed to deter drug cheats in international sports would, instead, “have the unintended consequences of shattering the anti-doping system” if it is passed without changes.

The document, obtained by The Associated Press, was sent this week at the request of a Senate committee that is holding a hearing Wednesday in which it will hear testimony about the Rodchenkov Act.

The House passed the bill last year, and WADA has hired a lobbying firm to engage Congress for changes in the legislation triggered by a Russia cheating scheme that has shaken the global Olympic movement for the past five years.

WADA director general Olivier Niggli told AP that “WADA favors governments using their legislative powers to protect clean athletes in the fight against doping and this Act is no exception.”

The six-page WADA letter does, in fact, say the agency “supports the overall objectives of the legislation.” The letter also goes into extensive detail about provisions it says would create a “chaotic World Anti-Doping system with no legal predictability.”

The measure, named after the Moscow lab director who blew the whistle on Russia’s cheating at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, calls for fines of up to $1 million and prison sentences of up to 10 years for those who participate in schemes designed to influence international sports competitions through doping. (Individual athletes who get caught doping would not be subject to punishment under the law.)

It would also allow the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to obtain information collected by federal investigators, which could help in prosecuting anti-doping cases.

The WADA letter said the agency agrees with the information-sharing language.

But there is also a long list of concerns, notably over the “extraterritorial” jurisdiction the bill proposes — a clause that would allow U.S. authorities to pursue those who perpetuate doping schemes at international events in which Americans are involved as athletes, sponsors or broadcasters. Many U.S. corruption laws, including those used to prosecute FIFA executives in the soccer-bidding scandal, include similar extraterritorial jurisdiction.

“The effort to criminalize doping acts under U.S. law and then apply that law extraterritorially will shatter the international harmonization of rules that is critical to advancing clean sport,” WADA wrote in the memo.

It predicted that if the U.S. passes the law, “other nations will follow suit and inevitably competing jurisdiction on the same set of facts will result in confusion, weaken the system, and compromise the quest for clean sport.”

The athlete-advocacy group FairSport sent out a news release responding to the WADA document, giving a point-by-point rebuttal of the clauses with which the agency disagrees.

In that statement, Rodchenkov’s attorney, Jim Walden, said similar laws with extraterritorial jurisdiction weren’t always popular “with corrupt nations.”

The Rodchenkov act “will do the same in the fight against doping fraud deployed by gangster states who hijack international sports competitions,” Walden said.

At meetings last November, WADA officials took criticism for lobbying efforts on the bill, which has bipartisan support in Congress.

“If we, as payers to you, use those funds to undermine legislation, then that’s not going to be a cooperative and effective way to go forward,” said Kendel Ehrlich, the U.S. government representative on WADA’s foundation board.

The U.S. government provides about $2.5 million annually to WADA.

In its letter to the Senators, WADA also defended its action in the long-running doping case involving Russia.

WADA recently ruled on the latest development in the Russia saga: proof that the country had tampered with the data it was supposed to turn over as part of a deal to be reinstated. WADA set a framework that would ban the Russian flag and its dignitaries from the upcoming Tokyo Games while allowing for some of the country’s athletes to compete.

Russia appealed that case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and on Tuesday, WADA asked the hearing to be made public.

WADA said it was urging a “go-slow” approach to any legislation “authored in revulsion to Russia’s cheating.”

“Such a move would jeopardize the international system, could undercut the foundation upon which WADA sanctioned Russia; and send shockwaves through the system precisely at a time when clean sport needs a strong and globally recognized system,” the letter said.

Niggli wanted it made clear that WADA’s intent is not to scuttle the bill. But, he told AP, “currently, there are elements of the Act that could backfire and be counter-productive for the protection of clean sport around the world.”

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Iris Cummings, last living 1936 U.S. Olympian, has flown ever since Berlin

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Iris Cummings is one of the last living members of a historically significant, global group: athletes who competed at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. She is the only U.S. Olympian from those Games believed to still be alive.

Cummings, a 99-year-old who still swims regularly, was one of 46 U.S. women (along with 313 U.S. men) who competed at the Berlin Olympics, best known for Jesse Owens triumphing in the face of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Since swimmer Adolph Kiefer‘s death in May 2017, the breaststroker Cummings and canoeist John Lysak were the last living 1936 U.S. Olympians. Olympic historians recently learned that Lysak died in January at 105 years old (which Lysak’s family confirmed this week).

Lysak, born in New Jersey, turned 4 years old when his mom died in 1918 due to the flu pandemic. He was orphaned by his father, overwhelmed with taking care of a farm and four children.

Lysak got a bike to handle a paper route as a boy. That allowed him to sneak down to the Hudson River and row with homemade boats with his younger brother, Steven, who became a 1948 Olympic gold and silver medalist.

“I couldn’t swim, but I floated with a log,” Lysak told NBC Sports for the 2016 film “More than Gold,” about Owens and the 1936 Olympics. “I grew up paddling.”

He specialized at the Yonkers Canoe Club, made the Olympic team and finished seventh in a 10km doubles event with James O’Rourke in Berlin. Lysak later became a Marine and served during World War II.

Lysak spent his last years in California, where Cummings learned to swim off the Pacific beaches as a girl around the time of the Great Depression.

Cummings credited an ability to become an Olympian and one of the first women to fly U.S. military aircraft to her parents, who met while serving in France during World War I. Her father was a medic and sports doctor. Her mother a member of the American Red Cross canteen service.

She said her father, an all-around athlete, gave up a chance to try out for the first modern Olympics in 1896 to attend Tufts University School of Medicine.

“My mother provided the intellectual and academic inspiration from her rare perspective as a woman college graduate and a high school language teacher when very few women ever went to college,” Cummings told NBC Sports in an interview for “More than Gold.”

In 1928, Cummings’ dad took her to her the National Air Races at what is now Los Angeles International Airport.

“I watched Charles Lindbergh at the peak of his fame fly in the air show,” she said.

In 1932, at age 11, Cummings was introduced to the Olympics in person. Her dad was a track and field official at those Los Angeles Games.

Iris Cummings
Iris Cummings (center) competed in the 200m breaststroke at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. (Courtesy Iris Cummings)

All of Cummings’ swimming up to age 13 came in the ocean due to a lack of pools. But from 1934 to ’36, she developed into an Olympian in the breaststroke. In 1936, a 15-year-old Cummings was offered a paid-for, round-trip, cross-country train ticket to swim at a national championships in Long Island, N.Y.

“My mother had to borrow money to buy her railroad ticket to accompany me,” she said.

In a telegraph after nationals, Cummings was told by a California club coach to stay back East for five weeks before Olympic Trials (also on Long Island) because they had no money to send her back and forth again.

“So my mother figured out how we could stay with my grandmother in Philadelphia with almost no place to swim,” Cummings said. They found a country club pool, where she swam after hours while a janitor cleaned.

Cummings placed third in the 200m breast at trials to make the team as its youngest member in an individual event. (Today, only the top two at trials per individual event make the Olympics.)

“They stated, ‘You have made the team, but we don’t have enough money to send all of you,'” Cummings said. “‘The S.S. Manhattan sails in five days. Get out and raise as much money as you can from your hometown.’ My mother and I telegraphed our local newspaper, and a small amount was sent in from Redondo Beach.”

Olympic team members took a 10-day trip on the ship to Germany. Swimmers had one 20-foot-by-20-foot pool in which to train while at sea.

“They pumped the saltwater into it, and it sloshed around as the ship rolled,” Cummings said in an LA84 Foundation interview.

After arriving in Hamburg, U.S. athletes took a boat train that had swastikas on it out of the port.

“Most of us were quite aware of the evolving difficulties or however you want to classify the rise of Nazism in Germany,” said Cummings, adding that U.S. swim coach Charlotte Epstein previously boycotted attending the Olympics. “We’d heard the same rumors [about a U.S. boycott]. We were all wondering if the Olympic committee was going to take action before the boat sailed. That had come up in most everyone’s minds.”

At the Opening Ceremony, Cummings was bored by speeches and instead said she took pictures of the Hindenburg flying above. She had no fear about being there.

“The concerns were from nations that had proximity to the situation like a Belgium, or Holland or Austria,” she said. “We’ve got this passport, I know Margie [Marjorie Gestring, a gold-medal diver at age 13] and I looked at this and said, we’ve got this special passport. They can’t touch us.”

Most of Owens’ events took place before Cummings was eliminated in the first round of the 200m breast. She nonetheless took advantage of passes for athletes to watch track and field at the Olympic Stadium. She saw all of Owens’ races, sitting in an athlete section about 15 or 20 rows above Hitler’s box.

“Whenever [Hitler] came in, we could see him down there,” she said. “He wasn’t very far away.”

Iris Cummings
(Courtesy Iris Cummings)

Eight decades later, Cummings still remembered the crowd cheering for Owens after his victories.

“The whole stadium was rooting for Jesse,” she said.

Soon after the team returned to the U.S., Cummings began attending the University of Southern California. She enrolled in a pilot training program in 1939, earned her license the next year and worked as a flight instructor during the war. Then she became a pilot for the AAF Ferry Command in the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, later included in the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).

“None of us thought there were going to be Olympics in ’40,” she predicted, correctly. Not in 1944, either.

She estimated that she’s flown more than 50 types of airplanes.

“There were only 21 of us [women] who ever flew the P-38,” she said, “and there were only four of us who ever flew the P-61 Black Widow.”

After the war, marriage to Howard Critchell and childbirths, Cummings continued to race planes. She developed curricula for the Federal Aviation Administration, founded an aeronautics program at Harvey Mudd College and was inducted into the National Flight Instructors Hall of Fame, among many honors.

“I’ve been flying 76 years, and it’s a privilege to just be around,” she said shortly before she stopped piloting in 2016.

Cummings still flies as a passenger with a former student.

“It’s a treat to be up there with the elements and appreciate it all,” she said. “It’s you and the air movement and the wind and what you can do with your airplane.”

MORE: Wyomia Tyus’ Olympic protest resonates 52 years later

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NBA participation in Tokyo Olympics could be limited, Adam Silver says

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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the Tokyo Olympics’ effect on the league’s schedule planning for 2021 is unclear, but that it’s possible that Olympic participation may be limited.

“There are a lot of great U.S. players, and we may be up against a scenario where the top 15 NBA players aren’t competing in the Olympics, but other great American players are competing,” Silver told Bob Costas on CNN on Tuesday. “Obviously, there are many NBA players who participate in the Olympics from other countries. That’s something we’re going to have to work through. I just say, lastly, these are highly unique and unusual circumstances. I think, just as it is for the Olympic movement, it is for us as well. We’re just going to have to sort of find a way to meld and mesh those two competing considerations.”

Silver said his best guess is that the next NBA season starts in January with a goal of a standard 82-game schedule and playoffs. A schedule has not been released.

In normal NBA seasons that start in late October, the regular season runs to mid-April and the NBA Finals into mid-June.

The Tokyo Olympic Opening Ceremony is July 23. If an NBA season is pushed back two or three months to a January start, and the schedule is not condensed, the Olympics would start while the NBA playoffs are happening.

The current NBA season is in the conference finals phase in an Orlando-area bubble after a four-month stoppage due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is a factor in our planning,” Silver said of the Olympics. “It would be tough for us to make a decision in January based on the Olympics happening on schedule when that’s so unclear.”

The NBA has participated in every Olympics since the 1992 Barcelona Games. Monday was the 29th anniversary of the announcement of the first 10 members of the original Dream Team on an NBC selection show (hosted by Costas).

Before the NBA era, U.S. Olympic men’s basketball teams consisted of college players.

MORE: When Michael Jordan lost in wheelchair basketball to Paralympian

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