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Tokyo needs to convince sponsors Olympics will really happen

TOKYO (AP) — The only thing more difficult than staging next year’s Tokyo Olympics in a pandemic might be convincing sponsors to keep their billions of dollars on board in the midst of economic turbulence and skepticism.

To make the point this week, IOC President Thomas Bach will join a number of Japanese government and city officials, local organizers, and other top International Olympic Committee leaders in repeating a message they’ve failed to convey forcefully enough to deep-pocketed sponsors: Trust us, the Tokyo Olympics will open on July 23, 2021.

Bach and IOC Vice President John Coates — who oversees Tokyo preparations — are expected to speak remotely to Japanese officials as they meet on Thursday and Friday. The agenda includes plotting countermeasures against COVID-19: quarantines, rules for athletes entering the country, testing, vaccines, and the presence or absence of fans.

Few firm details are expected until late in the year or early in 2021, which accounts for the uncertainty.

The subtext is assuring sponsors that the Olympics will happen. Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto has acknowledged the word’s not getting out.

“The fact the Olympics are going to take place — the fact itself — is not fully distributed to the public,” Muto, speaking in Japanese, said last week. “People need to be more convinced that, yes, the Olympics will be taking place for sure.”

A former deputy governor of the Bank of Japan, Muto has been vague about how many domestic sponsors are renewing their contracts. He says of the 68 sponsors: “They are all positive.”

”We’re still in the middle of negotiations. We’re not in the phase of speaking about any concrete results.”

Surveys have shown a majority of Japanese companies and the pubic don’t think the Olympics will happen next year — or should happen. A poll published in June by Japanese broadcaster NHK said two-thirds of sponsors were undecided about extending for another year.

Keeping domestic sponsors on board is financially critical. Recruited by the giant Japanese advertising agency Dentsu Inc., domestic sponsors have paid a record of $3.3 billion — at least twice any previous Olympics — to the local organizing committee. This is over and above a dozen permanent Olympic sponsors who have signed long-term with the IOC. Some also have individual contracts with Tokyo organizers.

John Grady, who teaches sports law at the University of South Carolina, said the postponement has “created countless problems and ripple effects.”

“With the uncertainty of the Tokyo Games occurring with few or limited fans, local sponsors would be right to be cautious in investing more sponsorship dollars if they cannot reach fans on site,” Grady wrote in a email to The Associated Press “The lack of a wider international fan base that is typical at an Olympics would shrink the global audience who has access to seeing local sponsors’ activation efforts around Olympic venues in the host city.”

Despite the uncertainty, it will be difficult for sponsors to step away in a country where conformity and teamwork are valued and national loyalty could be called into question.

Japan also has a long history of supporting the Olympics, and many in decision-making roles recall fondly the positive impact of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which showed the country’s rebirth just 19 years after defeat in World War II.

“There’s a strong underlying narrative that this event is really good for the country,” Robin Kietlinski, who studies Japanese sports and history at LaGuardia Community College in New York, said in an interview with the AP. “I think there is almost historic pressure to have it go smoothly and to benefit Japan in some way. “

Japanese organizers are saying little about how 15,400 Olympic and Paralympic athletes, staff, and officials will be safe in Tokyo.

“The environment, when it comes to Tokyo, will be different than from the environment today,” Bach said earlier this month. “We only do not know which way.”

Bach has said that even if rapid tests and a vaccine were available, they will not be the “silver bullet.”

A study last week from the University of Oxford showed Tokyo to be the most expensive Summer Olympics dating from 1960. And the meter is still running.

Japan’s Kyoto news agency also reported again this week on more details about the bribery scandal that seemed to have helped Tokyo land the Olympics.

David Leheny, who teach politics as Japan’s Waseda Univeristy, suggested “hard-fought” talks are taking place with sponsors.

“My guess is that there will be a round of negotiation for lighter sponsorship contracts, with the firms holding most of the cards on the terms if they remain cohesive,” Leheny said in an email.

“The organizers don’t want to give up on any sponsors but also don’t want to look like extortionate bullies in the midst of a pandemic/recession . . . none wants to be the first to be seen as abandoning them.”

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World’s fastest man suspended for missing doping tests

DÜSSELDORF, Germany (AP) — The fastest man in the world has been sidelined for a string of missed doping tests.

Christian Coleman, an American sprinter who won the 100-meter title at last year’s world championships and had been the early favorite for the Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Games, was temporarily banned from competition by the Athletics Integrity Unit on Wednesday.

The AIU updated its list of athletes on provisional suspension to include Coleman hours after he revealed details of the case. The suspension will last until a final decision is reached at a hearing conducted under World Athletics Anti-Doping rules or the Integrity Code of Conduct.

Coleman had a previous whereabouts charge dropped last year ahead of the world championships. But his current charge could lead to a two-year ban, ruling him out of next year’s postponed Olympics.

Coleman wrote on Twitter that drug testers were unable to find him Dec. 9 while he was shopping at a nearby mall for Christmas presents. That was his third infraction in a 12-month period.

Coleman asked why he didn’t receive a phone call when the testers were unable to find him, saying he had received calls “every other time” he was tested.

“I think the attempt on December 9th was a purposeful attempt to get me to miss a test,” he wrote.

The AIU said a phone call wasn’t a requirement and that it usually asks employees not to call athletes because that could undermine the testing program.

“Any advanced notice of testing, in the form of a phone call or otherwise, provides an opportunity for athletes to engage in tampering or evasion or other improper conduct which can limit the efficacy of testing,” the AIU said in an e-mailed statement.

The AIU added that under World Anti-Doping Agency rules “proof that a telephone call was made is not a requisite element of a missed test and the lack of any telephone call does not give the athlete a defense to the assertion of a missed test.”

Some of Coleman’s earlier missed tests were not with the AIU but with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, whose own handbook for athletes says phone calls are usually reserved only for the last five minutes of a time slot and “to confirm the unavailability of the athlete, not to locate an athlete for testing.”

Athletes are required to list their whereabouts for an hour each day when they must be available to be tested. A violation means an athlete either did not fill out forms telling authorities where they could be found, or that they weren’t where they said they would be when testers arrived.

Coleman said in his post he has been appealing the latest missed test for six months with the AIU, which runs the anti-doping program for World Athletics. He explained there was no record of anyone coming to his home and that if he had been called he was only five minutes away.

It’s the second time Coleman has faced a potential ban for a whereabouts violation.

Coleman won the 100 meters at the world championships in Doha, Qatar, last September after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency dropped his case for missed tests because of a technicality.

“I have never and will never use performance enhancing supplements or drugs,” Coleman wrote Tuesday. “I am willing to take a drug test EVERY single day for the rest of my career for all I care to prove my innocence.”

After winning the gold medal in Doha, Coleman said he needed to be more careful to keep track of his whereabouts.

“I haven’t been careless. I think I can just be more mature about it, more diligent about updating the app. But I mean, I think everybody in this room is not perfect. Everybody has made mistakes,” he said. “Going forward, I just try to do a better job about being more diligent about it.”

Coleman is the latest in a string of runners hit with whereabouts charges in 2020.

The AIU filed a similar charge this month against women’s 400-meter world champion Salwa Eid Naser of Bahrain. She was already under investigation when she won gold in Doha last year in the fastest time since 1985.

Former U.S. national 200 champion Deajah Stevens was suspended in May.

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Additional Olympic gymnasts accuse Nassar of sexual abuse

Kyla Ross, a member of the 2012 Olympic “Fierce Five” team, and Madison Kocian, a member of the 2016 Olympic team, spoke exclusive in an interview to CBS regarding the sexual abuse endured by USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.

Nassar now serves three concurrent prison sentences of up to 175 years.

“Being on national team for all those years, we were really silenced. We didn’t really have a voice and say as athletes,” Ross said.

Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics and Michigan State team doctor, has been accused of sexual abuse under the guise of medical treatment by hundreds of athletes.

Kocian, who competed alongside fellow Nassar survivors Aly Raisman and Simone Biles at the 2016 summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, said Nassar was “almost like a family member” to many of the athletes.

“He would, on international trips, he would bring us food or he would just kind of be the person that would always ask, ‘How are you doing?’” Kocian said. “Because the culture that was at the Karolyi Ranch was a culture of fear, a culture of silence. And that’s what led him to be able to abuse us.”

Elite gymnastics training center in Texas, Karolyi Ranch, has come under fire for verbal and emotionally abusive tactics.

In early 2018, USA Gymnastics dissolved connections with the ranch, run by Martha and Bela Karolyi, amid allegations that Nassar sexually abused athletes there. Both Ross and Kocian said they are disappointed in the way USA Gymnastics has handled the allegations against Nassar.

“It’s been saddening to know that a lot of gymnastics have gone through this event and [USA Gymnastics has] not reached out to see how we’re doing as people, not just as athletes, but as individuals who grew up in this sport,” Ross said.

USA Gymnastics responded in a statement to the news show.

“USA Gymnastics’ support is unwavering for Kyla, Madison and all athletes who courageously came forward to share their experiences,” the organization said. “Their powerful voices and stories will continue to be a basis for our future decisions.”

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10-year-old boy shatters Michael Phelp’s record

10-year-old Clark Kent Apuada placed first in all seven events at the Far Western Long Course Championships in California, highlighted by the 100-meter butterfly, in which he broke a record set by Olympian Michael Phelps at the same meet back in 1995.

“Most people just call me Clark, but now, when I beat Michael Phelps’ record, they start calling me Superman,” he said. “I thought to myself, yeah if I had positive thoughts, positive things would happen.”

“It’s the coolest thing in the world because that’s all he talked about,” said Travis Rianda, Apuada’s swim coach. “It wasn’t like, ‘I want to be better than Michael Phelps,’ or anything like that. His first goals were, ‘I want to be a scientist, an Olympic gold medalist for the United States and I want to be a black belt.’ He’s on track for all three of those.”

In addition to breaking Phelps’ record by 1.1 seconds, Apuada also won six other races at the meet. Technically, Apuada can’t qualify for the Olympics just yet, but the Olympics is his ultimate goal.

Michael Phelps himself has already noticed his talent, taking to Twitter to say, “Big congrats to Clark Kent for smashing that meet record!!! Keep it up dude!! Dreambig.”

Apuada has only been swimming competitively for four years, but with sky-high dreams and a name to match, he just may be a real-life superhero.

Phelps is the long course world record holder in the men’s 100 meter butterfly, 200 meter butterfly, and 400 meter individual medley as well as the former long course world record holder in the 200 meter freestyle and 200 meter individual medley.

He has won 82 medals in major international long course competition, of which 65 were gold, 14 silver, and 3 bronze, spanning the Olympics, the World Championships, and the Pan Pacific Championships.

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Olympic swimmer Lochte suspended for IV fusions

Longtime U.S. swimming star Ryan Lochte has been banned from competition until July 2019, preventing the 12-time Olympic medalist from competing as planned in the national championships that start this week in California.

Lochte will also be ineligible for other top meets, including the Pan Pacific Championships later this year and next year’s world championships.

The criminal offense involved Olympic star receiving an intravenous injection in May, which is a method typically banned under anti-doping rules.

Notably, the 14-month ban, retroactive to May 24 and announced Monday by USADA, is his second in less than two years after his 10-month suspension for his behavior during a drunken incident that created widespread scorn at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

U.S. anti-doping officials said Lochte, who was holding a news conference Monday in South Florida to discuss the matter, was not taking a banned substance.

“I have never taken a prohibitive substance,” Lochte said. “I have never attempted to gain any advantage by putting anything illegal in my body. I would never do that; this is very serious to me. … Unfortunately, while the rule is a newer rule and is not widely known as others, I should know better.”

Lochte’s violation essentially came to light when he posted the photo of him getting the IV on his social media accounts. That triggered the USADA investigation, one that Lochte “fully cooperated” with according to U.S. officials.

“Lochte received an intravenous infusion of permitted substances at an infusion clinic,” the USADA announcement of the suspension said. Under most circumstances, athletes cannot receive IVs unless related to a hospitalization or when allowed under the terms of a USADA-approved exemption — and Lochte fell into neither of those categories.

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Muslim American Olympian detained by US customs

Muslim American Olympian, Ibtihaj Muhammad, was detained by US customs for two hours.

Muhammad, a world class fencer, is the first American to compete in the Olympics in a hijab. She attended the MAKERS conference on Tuesday and during an interview with Popsugar talked about whether the recent United States of America travel ban had affected her or anyone that she knows. The ban, which suspended the Syrian refugee program and also stopped all entry into the United States of America of citizens from several Muslim majority countries, has been accused of being anti-Muslim. According to Muhammad, since the ban went into place, she had been detained by U.S. customs for two hours.

“I personally was held at Customs for two hours just a few weeks ago. I don’t know why,” explained Muhammad. “I can’t tell you why it happened to me, but I know that I’m Muslim. I have an Arabic name. And even though I represent Team USA and I have that Olympic hardware, it doesn’t change how you look and how people perceive you. Unfortunately, I know that people talk about this having a lot to do with these seven countries in particular, but I think the net is cast a little bit wider than we know. And I’m included in that as a Muslim woman who wears a hijab.”

Muhammad admitted that she wanted to cry during the ordeal but resolved not to so as to prove a strong example for others.

 

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U.S. Women’s national team may boycott Rio Olympics

Carli Lloyd, captain of the United States Women’s National soccer Team, has placed an op-ed in the New York Times, claiming that U.S. soccer is treating the women players like “second class citizens”.

“We’ve won three World Cups and will try to win our fifth Olympic gold medal this summer in Brazil. When we captured the Women’s World Cup title in Canada in July, we drew the highest American television rating for soccer in history and, according to a financial report published by U.S. Soccer last month, helped generate $17.7 million in profit for the federation,” claims Lloyd.

Yet even though U.S. Soccer’s financials confirm that we are the driving force that generates a majority of the revenue for the federation, when we as a team presented our proposal for increased compensation in our new collective bargaining agreement, U.S. Soccer told us, on more than one occasion, that our proposal was not rational. Essentially, the federation said that it had a certain sum of money set aside for the women’s team and that our proposal was unacceptable,” continues Lloyd.

We’ve gotten nowhere negotiating with our federation for years, and it became clear to us that nothing had changed. That’s why we went to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with our complaint,” finishes Carli Lloyd in her argument.

On Mar. 31, 2016, along with Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, and Becky Sauerbrunn, Lloyd filed a wage discrimination complaint against U.S. soccer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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Carmelo Anthony throws his hat into the Olympic rings to join USMNT at Rio 2016

Carmelo Anthony accepted the invitation to play with the United States Men’s National Basketball Team at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“From a morale standpoint as a player, if you’ve been through the things I’ve been through the past couple of years, you want to feel what that success feels like,” said Carmelo to reporters Mar. 29, 2016. “You want that success. So the Olympics for me is great timing, especially coming off this season and injuries, and mentally it’s good for me to get out there and feel what that feels like again.”

Carmelo, 31, led his teams to playoff berths in his first 10 years in the NBA. He is set to miss his third straight playoff berth with the New York Knicks this year.

Carmelo, LeBron James, and Chris Paul could have become the first athletes to win three gold medals in basketball. Carmelo added that his decision will not change no matter what LeBron James decides to do and that he did not waver after hearing Paul decide to forgo the games.

“I feel my body telling me that I could use the time,” said All Star guard, Chris Paul, who is nearing 31 years old and averaging over 33 minutes per game this year.

“If we were all going to do it, I would’ve loved for [Paul] to be a part of that, especially for this one last time,” said Carmelo said of the Paul decision. “If he’s not feeling it, his body’s not right and not healthy, then no need for him [to play].”

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Coach K to have knee surgery, hopes to be ready for Rio Olympics

Duke University Men’s Basketball and Team USA Men’s Basketball head coach, Mike Kryzewski, is set to have knee surgery at the end of the college basketball season.

USA Basketball chairman, Jerry Colangelo, has confirmed that the 69 Kryzewski plans to have a knee surgery after the season, but also wondered in a live television interview whether Kryzewski will be fit in time to coach in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil.

Colangelo admitted that he has yet to discuss the possibilities with Kryzewski, but said that he is exploring options in case Coach K is unfit for duty.

“We’ll cross that bridge,” said Colangelo. “Certainly in the back of my mind I’m thinking about what-ifs. But it would be, I think, inappropriate and out of place to even discuss it.”

“Immediately after the Duke basketball season, I will undergo replacement knee surgery on my left knee….I have every intention of coaching the United States National Team in Rio at the 2016 Summer Olympics,” clarified Kryzewski.

San Antonio Spurs head coach, Gregg Popovich, is set to take the helm of the USA Men’s Basketball program after this summer, and if Coach K is unable to perform in Rio, Popovich seems the obvious choice.

“I think so,” said Colangelo about Popovich. “But, again, I think it’s too early to get into that. As we get closer and it appears that there’s a prospect that he may not be able to or chooses not to, that’s a whole different story. But let’s not be premature on that.”