Three-time Olympic skater Evan Bates decries “terrible” human rights issues in 2022 host China

U.S. Figure Skating Championships
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The question was posed to the five figure skaters in a Monday afternoon press conference that was part of the Beijing 2022 Team USA Media Summit.

They were asked if anyone wanted to comment on the human rights issues that have made China a controversial host of the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Three-time Olympic ice dancer Evan Bates did not hesitate to address the topic.

“Speaking on behalf of all the athletes, I can say human rights violations are abysmal, and we all believe that it tears the fabric of humanity,” Bates said.

Asked if that answer referred specifically to China, Bates did not backtrack and mentioned its Uyghur Muslims. Human Rights Watch has described the Chinese government’s arbitrary detention, torture and mass surveillance of Muslims in Xinjiang province of northwest China.

“My answer could be applicable to human rights at large, but if you’re asking what’s happening in China regarding the Muslims, it’s terrible, it’s awful,” Bates said.

“I have no problems in speaking for the athletes in saying what’s happening there is terrible. We’re human beings too and when we read and hear about the things that are happening there, we absolutely hate that. We hate what’s going on there.”

Bates’ ice dance partner, Madison Chock, whose ancestry is part Chinese, added, “I wanted to just say all the experiences we have had in China in the past have been very positive… even (with) all of that is going on, those issues don’t represent the entire country because there are so many good people there.

“Just because something terrible has happened doesn’t mean everyone (in China) supports what is going on or believes that’s the right thing to do.”

Two other 2022 U.S. Olympic team hopefuls of Chinese descent, singles skaters Nathan Chen and Vincent Zhou, backed Bates’ position in later press conferences Monday during the virtual media summit.

“I agree with what Evan was saying,” said Chen, three-time reigning world champion. “I think for a greater change to occur there must be power that is beyond the Olympics. It has to be change at a remarkable scale.

“However, the fact that people are talking about this issue, and the Olympics are bringing it to light is already a step in the right direction.”

Zhou, like Chen a 2018 Olympian, said, “As athletes, we still retain our humanity. We heard what Evan said. We echo his sentiment.

“As hopeful Olympic athletes in 2022, our job is to go into the competition completely focused on ourselves. Having concerns about things going on in the political climate or elsewhere is important but not productive towards our primary goal. We echo Evan’s sentiment and would still like to focus on our own jobs.”

Bates’ forthrightness recalled that of Ashley Wagner at the Team USA Media Summit in Park City, Utah, before the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Asked then about Russia’s anti-gay legislation, Wagner replied, “I have such a firm stance on this. I believe we should all have equal rights, and I also do not support the legislation in Russia… I believe the best way for you to show support for the (LGBTQ+) community is to speak out about it.”

Other U.S. skaters asked about the issue declined to address it.

Even once in Sochi, Wagner was unafraid to reference the situation.

“It doesn’t matter where I am, it’s still my opinion,” Wagner said after remarking on the rainbow color scheme at the Olympic practice rink.

Wagner was pleased when the U.S. government tweaked the Russians by sending three openly gay athletes in its official delegation to the opening and closing ceremonies.

When the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee leadership had its media summit press availability Tuesday morning, they were asked if, given Bates’ statements, there was concern about sending athletes into a country where much of the world has expressed some disgust about the way its Uyghur Muslim population was being treated and if there was concern about China retaliating against any athletes who speak out.

“As you know, we encourage our athletes to support the values of the Olympic movement, which include non-discrimination and equality for all, so it’s not unexpected that we have athletes who feel strongly about issues in the world that may impact that,” USOPC board chair Susanne Lyons said.

“We expect China is going to be a unique situation to really allow sport to speak for unity, global peace and the rights of people around the world. We really have no opportunity since we are not a government to influence the activities of another country’s rules and regulations and treatment of people within their own country.

“Certainly, our athletes will have points of view about that. It is our job to ensure they are able to express themselves but also to ensure that they are kept safe.”

USOPC chief executive Sarah Hirshland said her organization will focus on getting U.S. athletes information so they “understand the rules that are set out, the risks, their opportunities (so they can) make the best choices.”

At the Beijing 2008 Summer Games, U.S. Olympic officials were so worried about offending China they demanded an apology of four U.S. cyclists who, concerned about Beijing’s pollution, wore USOC-issued surgical masks upon arrival at the Beijing airport.

Some of the cyclists later said the USOC (as it was called then) had advised the athletes to wear the masks in public places like airports and criticized the USOC leaders for publicly shaming and bullying them into contrition.

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw

Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They meet in Friday’s semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

All of the American men lost before the fourth round. The last U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals was Andre Agassi in 2003.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

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IOC board recommends withdrawing International Boxing Association’s recognition

Tokyo 2020 Olympics: Boxing

The IOC finally ran out of patience with the International Boxing Federation on Wednesday and set a date to terminate its Olympic status this month.

While boxing will still be on the program at the 2024 Paris Games, the International Olympic Committee said its executive board has asked the full membership to withdraw its recognition of the IBA at a special meeting on June 22.

IOC members rarely vote against recommendations from their 15-member board and the IBA’s ouster is likely a formality.

The IOC had already suspended the IBA’s recognition in 2019 over long-standing financial, sports integrity and governance issues. The Olympic body oversaw the boxing competitions itself at the Tokyo Olympics held in 2021 and will do so again for Paris.

An IOC statement said the boxing body “has failed to fulfil the conditions set by the IOC … for lifting the suspension of the IBA’s recognition.”

The IBA criticized what it called a “truly abhorrent and purely political” decision by the IOC and warned of “retaliatory measures.”

“Now, we are left with no chance but to demand a fair assessment from a competent court,” the boxing body’s Russian president Umar Kremlev said in a statement.

The IOC-IBA standoff has also put boxing’s place at the 2028 Los Angeles Games at risk, though that should now be resolved.

The IOC previously stressed it has no problem with the sport or its athletes — just the IBA and its current president Kremlev, plus financial dependence on Russian state energy firm Gazprom.

In a 24-page report on IBA issues published Wednesday, the IOC concluded “the accumulation of all of these points, and the constant lack of drastic evolution throughout the many years, creates a situation of no-return.”

Olympic boxing’s reputation has been in question for decades. Tensions heightened after boxing officials worldwide ousted long-time IOC member C.K. Wu as their president in 2017 when the organization was known by its French acronym AIBA.

“From a disreputable organization named AIBA governed by someone from the IOC’s upper echelon, we committed to and executed a change in the toxic and corrupt culture that was allowed to fester under the IOC for far too long,” Kremlev said Wednesday in a statement.

National federations then defied IOC warnings in 2018 by electing as their president Gafur Rakhimov, a businessman from Uzbekistan with alleged ties to organized crime and heroin trafficking.

Kremlev’s election to replace Rakhimov in 2020 followed another round of IOC warnings that went unheeded.

Amid the IBA turmoil, a rival organization called World Boxing has attracted initial support from officials in the United States, Switzerland and Britain.

The IBA can still continue to organize its own events and held the men’s world championships last month in the Uzbek capital Tashkent.

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