U.S. Olympics Leaders And Anti-doping Officials Clash Amidst Los Angeles 2024 Hosting Bid
Executives at the United States Anti-Doping Agency and executives at the U.S. Olympic Committee appear to hold contrasting viewpoints on the main priority of the Games.
U.S. Olympic Leaders and Anti-Doping Officials Clash
USADA officials are lobbying international sports officials for stricter sanctions on Russia for their state-run doping program, while U.S. Olympic leaders are focused on ensuring Los Angeles is chosen as host city for the 2024 Summer Games.
Los Angeles is viewed as a likely financial boon for the committee. The opposing agendas have created conflict amongst top world sports executives as the Olympic Committee strives to bring the Games back to the U.S. for the first time since 2002, when the Winter Games were held in Salt Lake City, Utah.
“Fighting with an organization responsible for giving future Olympic Games — it’s a big mistake,” said Vitaly Smirnov, an influential Russian Olympic official.
Smirnov specifically mentioned criticisms by Travis Tygart, America’s anti-doping chief, who has pushed for severe sanctions against Russia. “This gentleman is doing a very counterproductive job with respect to the Los Angeles bid,” Mr. Smirnov said.
Los Angeles and Paris have emerged as the two remaining candidates in the bidding race to host the 2024 Olympics. U.S. Olympic officials and other entities involved with the bid have expressed concern to members of congress that the fair-sports effort could alienate some of the global officials who will make the final decision in September regarding the host city.
Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee, said he believed a congressional hearing regarding Russia’s doping scandal would be “more productive” after international sports officials indicated how they planned to address the scandal, and that he supported legislators’ desire to remain informed. Blackmun also said his organization prefers a quieter approach.
“We were not saying hearings were inappropriate, but instead that right in front of the Olympic Games is not the right time,” Mr. Blackmun said.
The Senate Commerce committee, which has not called a hearing but confirmed that its parallel inquiry was ongoing, said on Saturday that it had “challenged suggestions that the 2024 bid is a legitimate rationale for stopping or delaying necessary oversight of doping in international competition.”
Mr. Tygart shrugged off the criticisms of his methods. “It’s not unusual when you’re trying to do the right thing that there are attempts to pressure you to back off these fundamental values,” he said.
Meanwhile, several Olympic athletes have slammed the American and International Olympic Committees, as well as anti-doping agencies, for their hesitancy in punishing Russia for what they view as the country’s instances of repeated cheating.
“The I.O.C. is responsible for the integrity of the Olympics and keeping it functioning, and they’re not doing it,” said Sarah Konrad, an American biathlete who until last month was chairwoman of the United State’s Olympic Committee’s athlete advisory council. “I know Scott Blackmun thinks more needs to be done by WADA and the I.O.C., but he’s not willing to get out and stand on a pulpit and say that because of the bid.”
Ms. Konrad also stated how a fair Olympics is more vital to her than the possibility of the U.S. hosting the competition.
“I can sympathize with people showing restraint because they want L.A. to happen,” Ms. Konrad said. “But a clean playing field is more important to me than a home playing field.”
Asked to respond to Ms. Konrad’s statement, Mr. Blackmun called her “a very smart person.”
Gian-Franco Kasper of Switzerland, who sits on the I.O.C.’s executive board, also cited, in addition to Mr. Tygart’s opposition, U.S. President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration policies as another that could potentially undermine Los Angeles’ hosting bid.
Mr. Trump has publicly expressed support for the 2024 Olympic bid, although his policies– particularly his executive order banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries– have raised concern amongst sports officials.
— LA 2024 (@LA2024) December 1, 2016
Mr. Blackmun said the American Olympic committee had received assurances from the State Department and Homeland Security that global athletes and officials would have no trouble entering the United States in 2024.
Mr. Tygart’s colleague Edwin Moses– an Olympic medalist and chairman of the American anti-doping agency’s board– expressed dismay that the agency’s positions might hurt the bid.
“If standing up for the rights of athletes and fair play somehow makes a country less likely to host the Olympic Games — wow,” he said. “That says about all you need to know about that process. It’s also exactly why sport has no business trying to police itself.”
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA – SEPTEMBER 07: International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge pulls out the name of the city of Tokyo elected to host the 2020 Summer Olympics during a session of the IOC in Buenos Aires, on September 7, 2013. (Photo by Fabrice Coffrini /Pool/Getty Images)
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