#SportBits … Russia Accused of “Systemic Doping”

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The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has released the second part of their report into allegations against Russia of state-sponsored doping, particularly involving the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Lead investigator Richard McLaren alleges that systematic doping took place between 2011-2014, and that more than 1,000 Russian athletes from summer and winter sports were involved in or benefited from an organized conspiracy over the four-year period.

 

The report confirms the information released in the first report back in July of this year. But it expands its findings to include evidence of tampering with doping samples involving 12 Russian medalists in Sochi. That number includes athletes who won four gold medals.

As reported here last summer, it was the recommendation of WADA after the first report surfaced to ban the entire Russian Federation from the 2016 Summer Games in Rio. The International Olympic Committee officials rejected the outright ban, however, and instead required the international federations that govern each sport to decide which Russians should be allowed to compete.

This decision was widely criticized after roughly two-thirds of the Russian team ended up participating in Rio. With the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, pressure is mounting to react more harshly to this latest allegation.

The IOC has established two commissions to address the situation, especially the allegation of swapping dirty samples for clean ones at a Russian lab during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. No athletes were named in the report: however, their identities were provided to the respective international federations for possible disciplinary action.

This is a sad story with which to end what has been an exciting year in sports. I feel for all the athletes who worked hard and made sacrifices in order to pursue their goal of winning a medal in the Olympics, only to face an uneven playing field. I feel sorry for the fans and spectators who have been deceived, and I strongly believe that ANYONE, whether it be an official or an athlete, who took part in such a deliberate and dishonest manipulation of the system should be banned from all aspects of their respective sport FOR LIFE.

Three strikes and you’re out. #consequences

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#SportBitsUpdate: Russian Doping Scandal

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Following an independent report that confirmed the existence of a state-supported Russian doping program at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided days before the games began, to allow Russian athletes to take part in these summer Olympic games.

This came after a decision to ban the Russian track and field athletes was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Last weekend, the International Paralympic Committee banned Russia from participating in the upcoming 2016 Paralympic Games for allegedly violating international doping rules.

Let’s recap:

The Russian doping scandal and investigation began back in May when Russia’s former anti-doping director, Grigory Rodchenkov, told The New York Times that he had been ordered by state officials of the ministry of sport, tourism and youth policy to suppress evidence of performance-enhancing drug use by the Russian Olympians at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Rodchenkov explained how he developed the perfect anabolic steroid cocktail that allowed Russian athletes to recover quickly from their competitions so they would stay in peak shape during their Olympic run. Alcohol was used to speed up the absorption of the steroids. Rodchenkov went on to say how athletes were instructed to stockpile clean urine for months so they could be swapped for dirty samples at the lab – through a hand-sized hole in the wall – in the middle of the night.

(OK, this is SO going to be made into a movie – and I want Sorkin to write it!)

As of now, the Russian track and field team will be barred from competing in Rio. Consequently, IOC rejected a bid from Russian runner and whistleblower, Yulia Stepanov, to compete as a neutral athlete.

The committee has left the decision as to whether Russian athletes can take part in individual sports up to international governing federations. The IOC has demanded that Russians athletes provide proof of a positive anti-doping test. Currently, 118 competitors of the 389 Russian team have been banned.

Call me a cynic, but I never believed the IOC would take such a bold step and ban an entire nation from competing – especially one as prominent in international sports as Russia. Plus, I’m betting there is fear of #PutinBackLash.

Would it be fair to penalize an entire delegation of athletes for the faults of a few? My first thought is no, it’s not fair. But then when I consider the possibility (and probability) it was state-sponsored, and the decision to cheat allegedly came from top government officials, then I say yes, they all should pay. Medals-over-morals ain’t going to fly…

So why are ALL the Paralympic athletes banned? Because the Paralympics aren’t as prestigious?

What do you think about the Russian doping scandal? I’d love to hear. It’s an interesting topic of conversation for the dinner table….that’s for sure. #SportBits … a little bit of info is all you need.

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#SportBits …. 3 Worries Facing The Rio Olympics

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The Rio Olympics begin in just over a month. From the lagging ticket sales, to the collapsed bike path that killed two people, to the death of the jaguar used at the Olympic Torch Ceremony, there have been many bizarre and unsettling storylines swirling around these Games. Preparation for the host country has proven to be very challenging. Here are three more problems worrying Olympic organizers:

1. Zika Virus:

Olympians hope to bring home the gold. This year, they’re hoping they don’t bring the Zika virus back with them as well. While it’s true many experts believe the risk of contracting Zika is small, and that even if contracted, most won’t realize it however, the flip side is too scary for some. Severe complications from Zika can result in Guillain Barre Syndrome, a condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the peripheral nervous system. Zika is also associated with encephalitis, or swelling of the brain and the most extreme cases of which can be life threatening. But the scariest tragedy is the fetal infection leading to microcephaly. Many athletes have pulled out of the games already due to Zika concerns … and I can’t really blame them. Can you?

“The reason for my decision is my concerns about the possible transmission of the Zika virus and the potential risks that it may present to my wife’s future pregnancies and to future members of our family,” World No.1 Golfer Jason Day

2. Doping:

In what was touted as one of the most “sophisticated doping control labs,” Rio’s brand new $66 million facility has already been shut down by WADA due to “non-conformity with the International Standard for Laboratories.” Since Russia was accused of an elaborate doping scheme at the 2012 Sochi Games, world-doping labs have been under increased scrutiny. If the lab isn’t opened by the time the games begin, catching the cheaters will be tough. Samples will have to be flown to labs in the US or Europe which is a logistical nightmare. And if we’ve learned ANYTHING from OJ: Made in America, it’s that the chain of command when handling samples is critical. Here’s a thought: cheaters stay home.

3. Safety Concerns/Security Challenges:

Due to its country’s political crisis, economic downturn and overall anger and frustration over corruption, Rio is dealing with civil unrest from its people. This makes the Olympic venues a perfect target for protesters to gather – threatening movement around an already congested city, and creating an atmosphere ripe for criminal activity. Sidney Levy, CEO of the Rio Organizing Committee, hopes to have 85,000 security personnel on the streets to keep athletes and visitors safe from harm. The biggest fear is a lone wolf attacker. How do you prepare for that?

Maybe I’m just an old #worrywart, but maybe not. And I didn’t even mention the lack of clean water and the unfinished venues. Rio sure has a lot on its plate before the Rio Olympics begin…and even more after they start.

#SportBits will be covering it all => stay tuned.

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#SportBits… Monday Recap … #jumpin

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Hello #SportBits reader! Thanks for stopping by. It tells me you DO want to know a little bit of what’s happening in the world of sports…for whatever reason. Now if you would just leave me some comments below, I could fine-tune this bad boy to make #SportBits even more enjoyable for YOU! #jumpin

It was a beautiful weekend here is Southern California…one of those weekends where it was really hard to be inside watching sports. But for you loyal readers, I made sure to catch the noteworthy contests.

First up in Maryland, we had the running of the 141st Preakness. After a decisive win at the Kentucky Derby, undefeated Nyquist hoped to win the second leg of the Triple Crown. It was a day of rain and fog, which many felt favored Nyquist’s main competitor, Exaggerator. Jockey Kent Desormeaux ran a beautiful race and guided Exaggerator to a 3-½-length victory over Cherry Wine on the sloppy track. Nyquist finished third. If you missed it, you will get a chance to watch these two compete again in three weeks at the Belmont Stakes. It will be their 6th time running against each other, with Nyquist up 4-1. #rivalry

At the Byron Nelson Golf Classic in Irving Texas, Spaniard Sergio Garcia made par on the first playoff hole on Sunday to beat Brooks Koepka for his ninth career PGA Tour victory, matching the late Seve Ballesteros for the most by a Spanish-born player. #vamonos

The 2016 French Open, the second Grand Slam tournament of the year, kicked off at Roland Garros stadium this week. Sunday started with cloudy and soggy conditions, forcing play to stop. Rain continued to fall today/Monday, causing additional delays after only 10 of 32 scheduled matches were completed on Sunday. The French Open is the only Grand Slam tournament that plays on a clay court, and so weather conditions can have a huge impact. This year, top seed Serena Williams will be playing for her 4th French Open and 22nd Grand Slam title, which would tie her with Steffi Graf. Men’s top seed Novak Djokovic will be playing for the only Grand Slam title missing from his impressive résumé. Check in HERE for scores and match schedules. And for more French Open analysis, see my article on HerDaily. #crosspromotion

The NBA playoffs continue. In the east, the Toronto Raptors won Game 3 at home on Friday, 99-84. Cleveland leads the series 2-1. Game 4 is tonight in Toronto, 8:30pm ET on ESPN.

In the West, the OKC Thunder clobbered the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 in Oklahoma City on Sunday night, 133-105. The Thunder leads the series 2-1. Game 4 at OKC, Tuesday, 9pm ET on TNT.

ICYMI: the NBA lottery took place last week and the Philadelphia 76ers won first pick. The LA Lakers got second and the Boston Celtics took third. The draft is June 23rd in New York, with LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram considered the top two picks.

The WNBA season is just underway, and the league is getting great PR from some of their NBA counterparts. Golden State Warrior Draymond Green said last week: “In the NBA there’s always a guy who is only around because he can jump. He doesn’t have a clue about the fundamentals. I learn more from the WNBA. They know how to dribble, how to pivot, how to use the shot fake.” And when Clipper star Blake Griffin guested on Broad City last month, he said the WNBA was, “So good. I literally steal moves from them all the time.” He then went on to say, “Some of the moves they do, I can’t even — like — I can’t even think of in my head. It’s just like the best version of basketball there is.”

The WNBA is where it’s at, people. Check it out. Here is a great place to start.

The NHL playoffs continue with the Western Conference series tied at 2 after a strong performance by the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 on Saturday. Game 5 v. the San Jose Sharks is tonight, in St. Louis, at 8pm ET on NBCSN.

In the #ECF, the Tampa Bay Lightning staged comebacks scoring two tying goals, the second of which forced overtime with 3:16 to go in regulation in what became a 4-3 overtime victory over the Penguins in Game 5. They lead the series 3-2 over the Pittsburgh Penguins, and can advance to the Stanley Cup Finals with a win in Game 6, Tuesday night in Tampa Bay.

In MLB news… a few interesting rule changes are in the works. At the owners meeting last week, the Competition Committee approved a change in the strike zone, which now starts below the knee. The change move the zone to the top of the hitter’s knee. Also, if a pitcher wants to walk a batter, he will soon be able to signal the umpire instead of having to throw the old-fashioned 4 pitches to a standing catcher. Both these changes could go into effect next season and are meant to pick up the pace of the game, which is a priority for MLB commissioner Rob Manfred.

A crappy thing happened at Petco Park on Saturday night, and the San Diego Gay Men’s Chorus is calling for an investigation. A mix-up occurred at the Padres v. Dodgers game, when a recording of a woman’s voice was played over 100 male chorus members who had taken the field to perform the national anthem. No attempt to stop the recording or usher the singers off the field was made, so the chorus stood there looking embarrassed and humiliated. Donald Trump Fans were heard yelling, “you sing like a girl” as they walked off afterwards. Padre officials said it was a mistake and have fired the person responsible for the error. I hope it was a mistake because that sh*t ain’t cool.

Here is a link to all the scores and current team standings.

In college sports, there are a bunch of tournaments happening, but I’m going focus on lacrosse and softball this week.

In the women’s lacrosse, the tournament final four is set: #1 Maryland will play #4 Syracuse, and #3 North Carolina takes on Penn State in the semifinals on Friday. The championship game will be 12pm ET on Sunday.

On the men’s side: #1 Maryland plays #5 Brown, and North Carolina takes on #7 Loyola (Md) on Saturday, with the championship game on Monday. College lax is fast past, exciting to watch and becoming more and more popular by the day. You should try and catch some if you get chance. Most games are televised on the ESPN networks.

In women’s softball, the Women’s College World Series (WCWS) is the final portion of the NCAA Division I Softball Championship. The tournament format consists of two four-team double-elimination brackets. The winners of each bracket then compete in a best-of-three series to determine the Division I WCWS National Champion.  The top 4 seeds this year are: Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma, and Auburn. Teams are currently competing in the best-of-three Regional Series. Check here for teams, scores and schedules.

In other news…

Our old pal Johnny Manziel is in the news again. On Friday, Manziel got kicked out of a Las Vegas club for punching a patron in the face at an impromptu Drake concert. Now there is word the NFL is investigating the Cleveland QB’s role in a car crash that happened on the Sunset Strip last month. Manziel was a passenger in the rental car which was heavily damaged. The owner now claims Manziel refuses to pay for repairs – and he is PO’d. TMZ reports the car crash probe is part of a “larger Manziel investigation, which is ongoing.” #staytuned

Today is the deadline for New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to appeal his deflate-gate case, and it’s looking like he is going to proceed. Lord have mercy, when will it end? I’m tired of it…You can read more about it here.

Ugh. According to documents obtained by ESPN’s Outside The Lines, a new congressional report is out implying that the NFL sought to “improperly influence” a major government study on connections between football and brain disease. The report says the NFL gave the National Institutes of Health a $30 million unrestricted gift in 2012, but later sought to pull $16 million in funding from that gift away from one researcher, and reroute it to researchers working on the league’s own brain injury committee. When the NIH declined to redirect the funding, the NFL “balked at paying for the study, despite having signed documents it would do so.” Taxpayers were then on the hook to pay for the study. Not cool NFL…not cool at all. The brain injury study begins next week in Boston.

The Olympic doping scandal continues. Over the weekend, Russian pole-vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva accused anti-doping and Olympic bosses of discrimination against Russia and violating her human rights. Russia’s athletics team has been suspended from international competition since November, after the publication of an independent report into systemic doping in Russian athletics. A decision on whether to lift that ban in time for Rio will be made by the International Association of Athletics Federations on June 17.

L A S T L Y…. and let’s see if you made it to the end of this VERY long article… I want you to check out this video from last nights #OKCvGSW game and tell me if you think the kick in the crotch by Draymond Green on Steven Adams was intentional. He was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul which is being reviewed today. Opinions are falling on both sides. I have no question what I think. What do YOU think? #owie

Alrighty then…that’s it for #SportBits. Thanks for stopping by. Find me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more news and scores and just plain fun.

 

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