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USOPC condemns systemic inequality, sets athlete town hall

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The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee will hold an athlete town hall on Friday, CEO Sarah Hirshland said in a letter to Team USA athletes, condemning “systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts Black Americans in the United States.”

The town hall will be a forum for athletes to discuss how they’ve been impacted personally, to listen, to learn and to support each other, Hirshland wrote in a letter sent Monday night. This conversation will be facilitated by athletes and available to athletes.

“We are reading and hearing the messages you, and so many citizens of this nation, are sharing and we understand you are struggling with anger, frustration and uncertainty,” Hirshland wrote. “As Team USA athletes, you represent a total diversity of race, gender, geography and perspective. You, and all you represent, continue to be a powerful force for good.”

Many national governing bodies made statements condemning racism and seeking change, including those for major Summer Olympic sports of gymnastics, swimming and track and field.

“We can see that apathy and indifference are not solutions,” Hirshland wrote. “The USOPC stands with those who demand equality and we want to work in pursuit of that goal. We must do everything in our power to ensure equality promised is equality achieved. We are committed to providing opportunities for our community to engage, to learn, and connect to resources for them to become advocates and take action.”

The full text of the letter:

Dear Team USA athletes –
Like so many of you, I have watched the events of the past week unfold with a deep sense of despair and helplessness – questioning what I can do, what we in the Olympic and Paralympic community can do, and what all of us in our local communities can do, to bring forth honest conversation and enact necessary change.
We absolutely condemn the systemic inequality that disproportionately impacts Black Americans in the United States. It has no place in ours or any other community. It is clear there are no forces as ugly, damaging and demeaning as racism and marginalization practiced by some of those in positions of authority. It played out in Minneapolis in the most tragic and unconscionable way imaginable. It is being felt intensely across the United States day after day.
We are reading and hearing the messages you, and so many citizens of this nation, are sharing and we understand you are struggling with anger, frustration and uncertainty.
As Team USA athletes, you represent a total diversity of race, gender, geography and perspective. You, and all you represent, continue to be a powerful force for good.
In this moment, when you might otherwise be training and competing together, many of you are still isolated at home. Conversations had on the track or pool deck, or in social settings, aren’t happening as they would normally, and this only adds to the frustration.
We’ve heard directly from you how important community and comradery are to Team USA athletes. That’s why, on Friday we will convene and support an athlete town hall where you can openly discuss how you have been impacted personally, listen to each other, learn from each other, and support each other. This conversation will be facilitated by athletes and available to athletes. Registration information will be sent soon. This discussion cannot resolve these issues but it is essential to progress.
We can see that apathy and indifference are not solutions. The USOPC stands with those who demand equality and we want to work in pursuit of that goal. We must do everything in our power to ensure equality promised is equality achieved. We are committed to providing opportunities for our community to engage, to learn, and connect to resources for them to become advocates and take action.
We’ve long celebrated the great power of sport as a way to unify nations and people in conflict. Today, and as we go forward, we believe unity among teammates, friends and colleagues can start to help heal our own.
Sarah Hirshland
CEO, U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee

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World Alpine Skiing Championships on for 2021 after request to delay rejected

Alpine Skiing World Championships
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GENEVA (AP) — A request by the organizers of next year’s skiing world championships in Italy to postpone the event by one year was rejected Thursday by the International Ski Federation.

FIS ruled that the event will go ahead from Feb. 9-21, 2021, in Cortina d’Ampezzo — the highlight of an Alpine season that faces challenges to find safe protocols for international travel and attending races in Europe, North America and China.

The Veneto region of northern Italy was hit hard by the coronavirus and the season-ending World Cup races in Cortina in mid-March were canceled. That week-long event was to be a test for the 2021 worlds.

“The last month of efforts to come to this solution demonstrates the strong collaborative spirit of the ski family and stakeholders.” FIS president Gian-Franco Kasper said.

Organizers in Italy have said they expect losses of about 30 million euros ($34 million) if the worlds are also canceled. They asked for a postponement to March 2022, which would be only weeks after the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will be ready in any case and we will show that these world championships can change the history of a region despite the current difficulties,” Alessandro Benetton, president of the Cortina organizing committee, said in a statement.

Italian racer Sofia Goggia, the 2018 Olympic downhill champion, said she was “happy for Cortina because it will host the first major international event after the coronavirus epidemic.”

Cortina, which hosted the 1956 Olympics, will co-host the 2026 Winter Games with Milan and use the worlds as a showcase for the resort.

The women’s World Cup downhill on the Olympia delle Tofane course each January is one of the most scenic in the sport with a signature jump between tall outcrops of jagged rock.

The Dolomites venue was awarded the 2021 worlds by FIS after missing out as a candidate four straight times from 2013-19.

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Russia track and field athlete clearance frozen due to unpaid fine

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MONACO (AP) — The program allowing Russian track athletes to compete internationally will be frozen because the country’s federation failed to pay a fine on time, World Athletics said Thursday.

The Russian track federation, known as RusAF, owes a $5 million fine and another $1.31 million in costs for various doping-related work and legal wrangles. World Athletics said RusAF missed Wednesday’s deadline to pay.

World Athletics said it would freeze the work of the Doping Review Board, which vets Russian athletes who want the “authorized neutral athlete” status that allows them to compete internationally, and its taskforce monitoring RusAF’s anti-doping reforms.

World Athletics said both bodies will be “put on hold” until its council meets to discuss the situation at the end of July.

“RusAF is letting its athletes down badly,” World Athletics president Sebastian Coe said in a statement. “We have done as much as we can to expedite our ANA process and support RusAF with its reinstatement plan, but seemingly to no avail.”

RusAF president Yevgeny Yurchenko earlier told the Tass state news agency that his federation’s finances were damaged by the coronavirus pandemic and that it had asked for more time to pay.

World Athletics’ statement didn’t directly address that issue, but said Russia hadn’t indicated when it would pay.

Russia was fined $10 million by World Athletics in March, with $5 million suspended for two years, after the federation admitted to breaking anti-doping rules and obstructing an investigation.

The Athletics Integrity Unit said fake documents were used under the previous management to give an athlete an alibi for missing a doping test.

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