Category Archives: Olympics

Kamila Valieva and Eileen Gu:  Young Women Athletes as Enemies of Empire

Kamila Valieva

As one who has followed Olympic women’s figure skating, especially since Michelle Kwan (ironically a Chinese-American), I was—as an egalitarian feminist when it comes to sports—excited to learn that there was a 15-year-old Russian woman skater, Kamila Valieva, who could do effortless quad jumps.  Waiting in anticipation of her first Olympic performance, I listened to commentators and former US skaters Tara Lipinsky and Johnny Weir rave about her spectacular talent.  They told the audience that we were about to see “the best skating in the world”…that “a talent like this comes around once in a lifetime.”  They found her first performance in the short skate “incredible… flawless… perfect in every way.”  It was, they said, a rare privilege to watch her perform:  “she will have an amazing legacy.”  Days later they would say nothing watching her perform.

Weir and Lipinski were disgusted.  They said she should not be there.  It was so unfair to the other skaters.  They were too sickened to even watch her.  What happened?  The Empire and its allies, based on a highly questionable positive drug test, declared her a “doper.”  She was booed, harassed.  And she finally (literally) fell.  The Russians should obviously not have the first female Olympic quad jumper.  The Russians were taking far too many gold medals.  This whole spectacle was an intersection of hegemonic American world politics and ruthless patriarchy.  Women athletes had become enemies, and thus victims, of Empire. USA!  USA!

The US has always had a need to be first—to put it mildly.  Any coverage of Olympic or international games I’ve ever watched features US athletes and almost never anyone else.  President Jimmy Carter got the ball rolling with his 1980 boycott of the Olympics in the Soviet Union.  Under Carter the Cold War had worsened because of factors like American criticism of Soviet alleged abuses of human rights and the Afghan crisis—therefore the controversial move to ignore the Olympics’ so-called non-political philosophy.  American views of Russian athletics did not improve:  the alleged Russian Doping Scandals began around 2008 and are still going. In 2008, Russian track and field athletes were suspended from competition because of supposed doping, cheating, cover-ups, even “state-sponsored” doping.

A 2015 New York Times article cited an ex-chief of a so-called Russian anti-doping laboratory, Grigory Rodchenkov, who claimed that samples were doctored so that several Russian gold medal winners in the 2014 winter games in Sochi could be victors.  Members of the Russian Sports Ministry thought it an April Fools’ joke, done for “purely political reasons” and threatened to sue the Times. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had asked the accuser, Mr. Rodchenkov, to resign years before, for taking bribes, and since 2012 he had lived in L A.  Because of such allegations, the World Athletics Federation suspended the Russian Athletic Federation in 2015, but let “clean athletes” participate under “neutral status”:  no Russian flags or anthems.  In 2019, 2020 and 2021, more accusations were brought against various Russian sports officials for “falsifying documents” and etc., and thus the suspensions continued.

President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government have strongly denied the allegations, calling them a political weapon of the West.  Any appeals from Russian athletes have been denied.  Some argued all countries cheated, why single out Russia?  Others thought the Russians were being framed to keep their very strong athletes from competitions.  It does seem odd that once your athletes were so scrutinized you would be careful to stop “doping.”  In fact, the stated goal of the Russian Sports Ministry at the end of 2021 was –once again—to have the Russian Athletic Federation and Anti-Doping Agency reinstated.  The “West” has remained hostile toward Russian athletics.  And this most certainly included Russian ice skaters:  a sport where Russia has been at the very top for years.

Kamila Valieva had to skate under the same restraints that all Russian athletes face.  But because she was so incredibly good, the skating world simply had to acknowledge her.  In looking at her biographical data—there’s not much!  She’s only 15; born in April of 2006 in Kazan, Russia.  And she has a Pomeranian named Lena, a gift from a fan.  Before she was five years old, her mother had her in gymnastics, ballet and skating, but after age five, it was only skating.   In her first season out of junior ranking she had risen far above her opposition.  She is the fourth woman to land a quadruple jump in competition and the first to do it in Olympic competition.  Valieva set world records on her path to Grand Prix titles in Vancouver and Sochi, and the European Championships in Tallinn in January of this year.  In Beijing the expectations for Kamila Valieva were very high.  As one Russian journalist put it, she was so good in her short skate routine in Beijing that “even some western media outlets often so begrudging with their praise of Russian athletes were forced—perhaps through gritted teeth—to lavish praise on Valieva.” And when she competed next, for the Russian team, she did become the first woman to land a quad in Olympic history. But very soon after that, it was rumored there were “doping allegations” against Kamila Valieva.  A test taken in December was only revealed just then—in the midst of the March Olympics.  It seemed the Russians may not fare so well after all.

Of course, the US also insisted on besting the Chinese athletes in Beijing, but added a nasty political narrative about their host.  Sports analysts like Mike Tirico were pressed into service as experts on alleged Chinese abuses vs. Uyghurs (abuses debunked by reporters like Max Blumenthal), their “authoritarian” government, misguided Covid protocols, etc.  American politicians and media had already prepped the US audience to be anti-Asian generally, by these supposed abuses and the potential of China becoming an even greater economic power—and unapologetically socialist as well.  The COVID pandemic was their fault too; President Trump calling it “Kung Flu” or the “Chinese virus.”  It was embarrassing to listen to the vitriolic commentary by US “analysts” with their long recanting of Chinese faults and crimes.  Our ugly history with China started with the US involvement in the Opium War through the dangerous gradual encirclement of present-day China with US warships and bases placed on numerous unwilling Pacific islands, as John Pilger’s brilliant film The Coming War on China illustrates.   And the US had tried to help their bad faith anti-China Olympic campaign with a “diplomatic boycott” (which didn’t really catch on).

Eileen Gu

Another young woman athlete, Chinese-American Eileen Gu, also became a victim of the Empire’s anger.  Gu is 18; she has a Chinese mother and was raised in San Francisco.  A brilliant world class freestyle skier, she has medalled in X Games, the World Championship and the Youth Olympics.  Gu announced in 2019 that she would represent China in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.  But she wasn’t called a traitor until the Olympics drew near.

Gu has said that she welcomes the opportunity to draw people to winter sports.  The Chinese cheered her everywhere, but Americans not so much.  She was derided for taking advantage of “premier training” in the US and then abandoning the US for China.  Tucker Carlson said she had betrayed her country and “renounced” her citizenship.  The New York Times portrayed Gu as an “anti-hero of the feminist ideal” since she chose China which supposedly oppresses women.  At the other end of the political spectrum, right-wing social media echoed Carlson’s sentiments in calling for Gu to leave the country for her betrayal.  Gu won three Olympic medals in freestyle skiing, two gold and a silver.  Unfortunately for USA her three medals added to China’s total of 15 (with nine gold), best ever for China in a winter Olympics.

Eileen Gu also faces anti-female prejudice since extreme sports has always been male-dominated, although women do compete alongside the men.  Gu thinks “as a young biracial woman, it is super important to be able to push boundaries. . . those of the sport and those of the record books because that’s what paves the paths for the next generation of girls.”  So why does the country where she lives give her an incredibly hard time?  As professor of sport Simon Chadwick said, “Her success is being weaponized and used for geopolitical purposes.  This is incredibly unfair because she’s an 18-year-old athlete with a dual heritage family who just wants to try her best and make her parents proud, and yet she’s being turned into a geopolitical weapon.”  Journalist Danny Haiphong has argued that Eileen Gu has chosen the “wrong” side by choosing to compete for a non-white, communist country.  She is assaulting “American exceptionalism” –being a traitor to the “empire’s civilizing mission.”  She should not be skiing for the “Chinese devils.”   But Gu insists (on her Instagram) she hopes “to unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendship.”  And she has said:  “I am also a teenage girl.  I do my best to make the world a better place, and I’m having fun while doing it.”  Not what the Empire is about.

Vietnamese-American Haiphong also has pointed out that some American athletes were not going for the Empire’s narrative that the Chinese were being bad hosts—inferior food, lodging, unreasonable COVID protocols, and so on.  Snowboarder Tessa Maud refuted American media’s narrative and talked of the warm welcome she’d received by Chinese volunteers and how she loved the local cuisine.   Skier Aaron Blunk went so far as to criticize American media coverage of the games on Twitter as often “completely false.”  He called Beijing one of the better Olympics he’s been in, including the COVID protocols, the hosting:  “It’s been phenomenal.”  So Twitter suspended his account.  As Haiphong put it:  “Humanizing China represents a direct threat to the new Cold War Agenda.”  The US must control the narrative, and that included not allowing China, or Russia, to shine.

The Empire certainly succeeded in taking the shine from the great Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva.  Commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, who had just called Valieva the “best skater in the world” with a “talent that comes once in a lifetime,” were about to change their minds.  At Beijing, Valieva’s performance in the short skate was “a thing of great beauty.”  Weir and Lipinski thought it “incredible.”  Weir gushed about the interview he had been granted by the young Valieva.  Her second performance was a free skate for the Russian team.  She fell once but the skate was historic because as noted, she became the first woman in history to land a quad at the Olympics.  She finished 30 points ahead of second place Kaori Sakamoto.  Weir and Lipinski could not find enough superlatives.

All awaited what would no doubt be another historic performance by Valieva in the ladies singles event.  But then rumors began that the medal ceremony, with Russia winning gold and the US silver—would be delayed.  And then that “a Russian skater” had a positive doping test.  Then it leaked it was Kamila Valieva, in spite of IOC rules that any accusation against a “minor” must remain secret.  A test taken on December 25, sent to a Swedish lab, showed minute traces of trimetazidine, an “illegal” heart drug which may have some positive effect on athletic performance, although many argue it would not help skaters.  Valieva’s family and coaching team believed she may have been exposed to it through her grandfather, who took the drug.  The Russian team also said she had repeatedly tested negative before and after the positive sample.  They said she was innocent.  The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) panel ruled she would not be suspended from the competition.  A further investigation would happen later, now scheduled to conclude by mid-August.

Kamila Valieva rallied to lead the field in the ladies short program.  This was when stalwart patriots Lipinski and Weir were too disgusted to watch.  I remember these stalwarts as being very nasty in speaking of the Russian skaters both during the Sochi (Russia) Olympics in 2014, and the 2018 PyeongChang  (South Korea)  games (where “cleared” Russians could skate).   Some observers found them “a breath of fresh air,” but others as “mean, obnoxious, distracting.”  At any rate, they were outraged Valieva was allowed to perform.  She was “ruining everything.”  Their only comment after her performance was “she skated.”  Getting their wish for her downfall, the scandal finally impacted her free skate and she finished fourth after stumbles and falls.  Unfortunately for USA! Russian Alexandra Trusova won silver.  Former Russian ice dancer champion Alexander Zhulin has said that international sports authorities will have to live with “ruining” Kamila Valieva’s Olympic dreams.  He had never “seen Kamila so lost.”  The IOC and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) “destroyed and removed the biggest star of figure skating.”  The December 25 test was revealed after team Russia’s brilliant performance, capped by Valieva’s skate, won gold.  It does seem like an American Empire kind of move.

Valieva’s coact Eteri Tutberidze, who, along with Kamila’s team, was (incredibly) criticized by the IOC’s Thomas Bach, for being “too cold.”   Tutberidze said Kamila was “our star.”  “Those who smiled yesterday—today left the stands demonstrably ignoring and pouncing like jackals.”  There were reporters, especially the British, who followed her around at practice, yelling “Are you a doper?”  Valieva addressed her Beijing experience in two “emotional instagrams” in late February.  She thanked her coaches for “helping me to be strong.”  And she thanked all who “were with me during this tough period . . who did not let me lose heart. . and who believed in me.”  A few weeks later she was on the ice again.

Kamila participated in the “Channel One Cup”  Russian skating (competitive) exhibition, since Russian skaters were banned from the Worlds.  Valieva skated a “simplified” program, but said the experience of being out on the ice was “exhilarating.”  Anna Shcherbakova won the women’s event.  Valieva has said that the Olympics should not be “idealized” and her “journey is just beginning.” In a recent interview with “People Talk” she said she can be “cocky, obnoxious, stubborn, insecure.”  But also “sociable, cheerful, active, and of course, romantic…”  In skating programs, her coaches see her in “lyrical images,” but she wants to be “different in programs:  a hooligan, daring, bold.”  She is a typical teenager, but also very intelligent, a brilliant athlete and a targeted enemy of Empire.

Sportswriters can be very effective operatives for Empire.  My favorite is probably Christine Brennan.  I had admired Brennan as one of the team of reporters on HBO’s “Real Sports,” although unfortunately now they seem more apt to take a corporate line than do the critical reporting they used to do.  Brennan accused Valieva, and Russia, of turning the Winter Games “into a bizarre and troubling fiasco” because of their “state-sponsored doping.”  She said Valieva “would have been favored to win” the Worlds in Montpelier, but she “crumbled under the scrutiny of her positive drug test.”  When Americans won the pairs skating title at Worlds, their first since 1979, Brennan wrote:  “No Russia?  No China?  No problem.”  And “few will miss them.”  The Beijing medal count had USA with 25 medals, behind Norway, Russia, Germany and Canada, much like their finish at PyeongChang.  The Russians had 32 medals, with six gold; the Chinese had 15, with nine gold; USA! had a paltry 25, with eight gold, well behind Russia.  Totally unacceptable.

Of course, by the World Championships, more than Valieva and her fellow skaters were ousted from competition.  It was all Russia, all the time—everyone Russian was out because the World Federations of all the sports, influenced and/or bludgeoned into it, had banned them all because of the Russian military action in Ukraine.  This was the Russian response to being encircled with troops and NATO forces, and a Nazi-led government provided by the US in Ukraine in 2014, which had been attacking the Russian-language population of eastern Ukraine since that 2014 coup.  An unprecedented campaign of Western propaganda and lies is in full swing, definitely McCarthyite in its depth and with parallel lasting and dangerous results to come.  In the 1950s Ethel Rosenberg was executed for being a communist wife—a wife who either evilly influenced her husband Julius to reveal atomic secrets to the Russians or did not, as was her duty, stop him from doing so.  Julius Rosenberg, executed with his wife, was reputedly worried that if the US gained too much power without a balance from the Soviets, it would lead to a dangerous situation.  And he was right.  The US government has become an Empire that will tolerate no state competitor, nor even states who will not line up and stay with the American Empire’s plans.  This is very clear in the world of sport—certainly in the supposedly apolitical Olympic world.

To punish Russia, the US/Europe have gone totally insane with their bans and sanctions.  Many sanctions such as Russian energy, will only punish Europe; others involve outright piracy as in US allies helping themselves to Russian yachts.  The list goes on, but in the world of sport—athletes from Russia and its close ally Belarus are banned “until further notice” from international skiing, track and field events, tennis, basketball, aquatic sports, volleyball, curling, hockey, rugby, football (soccer), and of course, skating.  Many of these sports have Russian champions, and they, as Christine Brennan put it, “will not be missed.”  A few officials have objected, and paid for it.  Russian sports officials say they will “temporarily” develop their own competitions, with foreign athletes.  They say the western world is committing “sporting genocide” against its athletes.

So Kamila Valieva and company will skate at home, and Eileen Gu will still be considered a traitor by many Americans.  The hate expressed by Tara Lipinski and Christine Brennan is too easily tapped by the American sports world.  Here is hegemonic politics, and ruthless patriarchy and racism, coming together.  And here are two remarkably strong and level-headed young women athletes who are braving the results of being who they are.  In its overwhelming power, the US Empire has made evil all things Chinese and Russian, and women athletes have not been spared the weaponizing of that hate.

The post Kamila Valieva and Eileen Gu:  Young Women Athletes as Enemies of Empire first appeared on Dissident Voice.

US Doesn’t Care for China’s Muslims: Boycotting the Olympics is about Global Competition

The diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games may go down in history as the official start of the cold war between the US, a handful of its allies and China. The American strategy, however, of using boycotts to pressure Beijing in the name of ‘human rights’, may prove costly in the future.

On December 6, Washington declared that it would not send any diplomatic representation to the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. In subsequent days, the UK, Canada and Australia followed suit.

The official American line claims that US diplomats will not participate in the event in protest of the “human rights abuses … in Xinjiang”. That claim can easily be refuted by simply recalling that the US has taken part in the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics.

Then, claims of human rights violations in China were hardly a priority for the Americans, for one single reason: the thriving Chinese economy was the last line of defense that saved the global economy from total collapse, itself a result of the gross mismanagement of the US economy and malpractices of America’s largest banking institutions.

“Since the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008, one country more than any other has provided the ‘heavy lifting’ to support global economic growth,” Stephen King wrote in the Financial Times in August 2015.

Things have changed significantly since then. China emerged as a global economic power, which is increasingly replacing the US and its allies on the world’s stage. Desperate to recover from their economic woes – worsened by unhindered military spending on seemingly endless wars – the US has been waging a different kind of war against China. This economic war, which began under Barack Obama’s administration in 2012, and accelerated under Donald Trump’s administration, continues under the administration of Joe Biden.

However, forcing a country the size of China to compromise on its economic growth merely to allow Washington to sustain its global dominance is easier said than done. Additionally, it is utterly unfair.

Using a sports boycott to make a point that Washington still has plenty of options has actually resulted in the opposite. Only three other countries have agreed to join the American diplomatic boycott, a negligible number if compared to the twenty African countries that refrained from participating in the 1976 Montreal Summer Games in protest of the New Zealander participation. The latter was criticized for validating the South African apartheid regime when their rugby team had toured South Africa in that same year.

Earlier, in the Mexico City Olympics of 1968, 38 countries had refused to participate in protest of the admission of South Africa into the Olympics. Despite the initial decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow South African participation, international pressure led by African nations succeeded in the expulsion of the apartheid country – which was excluded from the international event until its re-admission in 1992.

The US and three of its allies want us to believe that their diplomatic boycott is motivated by principles, namely, though not exclusively, in defense of China’s Uyghur Muslims. If that was the case, what is one to make of the US-led wars on Muslim countries over the last two decades? What kind of human rights standards did Washington apply when it waged war on Afghanistan in 2001 and invaded Iraq in 2003? Tellingly, and ironically, the same three countries – the UK, Canada and Australia – actively participated in America’s military misadventures that have claimed countless Muslim lives and destroyed entire countries.

The fact that only three other countries have adhered to the American call for a diplomatic boycott also illustrates the weakening grip of Washington over international affairs. It is worth mentioning that the European Union has refused to join the US in its latest foreign policy intrigue.

For its part, China criticized Washington’s position, rightly stating, in the words of its Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, that the boycott is motivated by “ideological prejudice and based on lies and rumors.”

Historically, international sports events have been politicized in two different ways: First, morally-driven boycotts based on an ethical agenda, like the boycott of South African apartheid and so on; and second, purely political boycotts that are instituted to serve a political agenda or to isolate host countries as a form of economic pressure. An example of the latter was the US-led boycott of the Moscow Summer Olympics of 1980, for which the Soviet Union and their allies retaliated by boycotting the Los Angeles Summer Olympics of 1984.

The American diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Chinese Olympics is an example of a politically-motivated boycott. The fact that it is a diplomatic boycott only, as opposed to a full boycott, is most likely compelled by Washington’s fears that a full-fledged boycott would only serve to illustrate its own isolation in the international arena.

Keeping in mind existing global divisions and the need for international unity to confront collective crises – such as that of the environment, deadly pandemics, among others – delving back into yet a new cold war will serve no purpose, aside from harming millions of people around the world for no fault of their own. What is required is dialogue, one that aims at providing equitable opportunities for all nations to grow and prosper.

That said, the age of global hegemony is coming to an end and no amount of self-serving boycotts or trade wars will alter this unavoidable fact.

The post US Doesn’t Care for China’s Muslims: Boycotting the Olympics is about Global Competition first appeared on Dissident Voice.

China Winter Olympics: US Boycott

President Biden, in full mood of marking “red lines” against Russia and Ukraine in a virtual meeting with Vladimir Putin, does not forget the importance of boycotting China’s Winter Olympic Games. It’s a diplomatic boycott only, so says Madame Jen Psaki, White House press secretary. Nevertheless, she and Biden are wishing the US sport-participants best of luck and they will support them throughout. So, they say. US athletes are allowed to part-take in the games. It’s the US diplomacy that is held back. It’s a hypocrisy that only Washington – and perhaps Brussels as EU and NATO headquarters – can muster. Now Australia has also joined the nefarious club.

Do they seriously hope the rest of the world will follow suit, because they want to be “with” the US and not be perceived as “against” the Big Empire? – Perhaps some will, indeed, be copy-cats. Fear is the name of the game, be it for covid or political sanctions. Western humanity is trembling from fear. So much fear, that the thought process has literally stopped functioning according to logic, even by the tyrants themselves.

Ms. Psaki explained the boycott as a response to “Beijing’s human rights violations”, adding what she calls “genocide and crimes against humanity”. She was, of course, referring to the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), a landlocked autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), by surface the largest single territory of China, located in the northwest of the country, close to Central Asia.

It is well possible that the Press Secretary doesn’t know what she is talking about, but is just repeating the current narrative. There is a set of standard accusations that are regularly being launched against China, with no substance at all. This is one of them. See “Xinjiang in My Eyes”: Debunking the Lies and Anti-China Propaganda Focusing on China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region“.  Suffice it to say that the Xinjiang region is a pivotal point for the famous Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), connecting China with Europe via Central Asia, as well as with the Indian Ocean.

Washington sees China, and especially the BRI, as an economic threat on their perceived supremacy, therefore does everything to denigrate China, and especially the Xinjiang region, where about 12 million Uyghurs live, mostly Muslims, out of a total population of 26 million. What is not said by Washington, is that the CIA and other US secret services recruit Uyghur Muslims, train them and send them to the Middle East to fight the Jihad, mostly in Syria, but also in Iraq. If, and when, they return, they were trained to create havoc and instability in Xinjiang. The Chinese Government is re-educating them for reintegration in the Uyghur society of the Xinjiang region.

The other area of China on which Washington and its western allies like to attack Beijing, is Taiwan, a Chinese territory. When the Kuomintang, the Chinese Nationalist Party, lost the civil war against Chairman Mao’s Communist Party in 1949, they fled to the island of Taiwan which they occupied ever since. However, Taiwan is part of China. In October 1971, the UN General Assembly passed a Resolution, that stopped recognizing Taiwan as China and, instead, decided the PRC would represent China, implying that Taiwan was part of the Peoples Republic of China. It looks like the US have stayed back in history, still looking at Taiwan as an independent country and their ally.

As President Chi has mentioned on several occasions, Taiwan will be integrated into the PRC in a peaceful way. Outside interferences, like by the United States and some of their European allies, have no place in these negotiations.  It is a Chinese internal affair. Just imagine, China getting involved and taking sides in US internal affairs. Unimaginable!

What also seems to escape most western powers — still fond of the “freedom seeking” US of A — is the Unites States abysmal human rights record. It is so unabashed and shameful.  The Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, as well as Guantanamo in Cuba, are well known as America’s torture chambers, where human rights do not exist. And these are just two out of some 100-plus US prison camps where human rights are not only trampled by military boots, but where in most cases they are openly abolished. Torture is the name of the game. Only an extreme hypocrite could accuse any other country of human rights abuse.

Earlier this week, Beijing announced stern counter measures, in case the US will indeed implement their “diplomatic” boycott of the Chinese Olympic Winter Games.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, said that China would see such a move as outright political provocation. However, he did not offer any details as to how China might respond to the “diplomatic boycott”. He also said that after the virtual summit last month between Presidents Xi and Biden, no American diplomats, nor the President, were invited to the Olympic Games. This means, without saying so, the “boycott” is a mere US public relations farce.

Western supporters of the move hope to draw falsely negative attention to China’s human rights record. Even American athletes may be “trained” to openly accuse the Chinese human rights record, reproaching them of Uyghur tortures, although they have no clue what they are talking about, because they would simply parrot messages, without knowing what they are actually saying.

In fact, most countries expected to toe the line given by Biden, don’t know the truth, or they do know the truth, but are keen to stick to their hypocrite master’s lies.

So, Beijing has a number of avenues to “boycott” the US back – as in “Build Back Better”. For example, by trade sanctions. Mainland China and Taiwan are the largest producers of semi-conductors used in modern cars. If China holds back on producing and/or supplying semi-conductors, the entire western car industry comes to a halt. Supply shortages, due to covid-caused delivery-chain interruptions, are already affecting the Japanese and South Korean car industry. Currently, the Toyota car production is basically at a standstill.

The west also depends 70% to 90% on medical equipment (70%) and medication (up to 90%) on China. With a ferocious pandemic being sold to the people in the west, a pandemic that by reducing the human immune system will create all kinds of diseases that require regular medication, shortages of medication may be problematic. A supply chain interruption may trigger not only consternation, but outright disaster.

Is it possible that Biden and his top advisors do not understand what China’s counter-measures could mean to a US car industry that is already largely outsourced? Let alone to the health sector, plagued by a western manufactured disease that is currently “ravaging the west”, and is depending badly on Chinese made medication.

The post China Winter Olympics: US Boycott first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ineffectual Boycotts: The Beijing Winter Olympics

Making moral statements in the blood and gristle of international relations can often come across as feeble.  In doing so, the maker serves the worst of all worlds: to reveal a false sense of assurance that something was done while serving no actual purpose other than to provoke.  Anger, and impotence, follow.

The Biden administration is proving to be particularly good on that score.  Since taking office US President Joe Biden has nipped at the heels of China’s Xi Jinping with moral urgency.  National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has lectured Beijing on human rights abuses with mistaken clarity.  The Pentagon has been firming up plans for militarising the Indo-Pacific and expanding its military footprint, notably in Australia.

Now comes a sporting boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics.  On December 6, the White House announced that US officials would not be attending the games.  In the words of White House press secretary Jen Psaki, the administration would “not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses.”

During the briefing, Psaki told the press about Biden’s remarks to President Xi: that “standing up for human rights is in the DNA of Americans.”  Sporting personnel, however, would still be competing, suggesting that the spirals of such DNA might be wonky.

Washington’s additional aircraft carriers – the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada – proved to be three appendages in chiming imitation.  UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, while stating to MPs that he did not generally support such measures, thought this exceptional.  “I do not think that sporting boycotts are sensible and that remains the policy of the government.”

Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, claimed that Beijing could hardly be surprised by his country’s stance.  “We have been very clear over the past many years of our deep concerns around human rights violations.”  Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in justifying not sending diplomats and politicians, suggested that it was “in Australia’s national interest” and “the right thing to do.”

Such moves strike a farcical note.  For one, boycotts of the Olympics in the name of human rights abuses have generally been ineffectual.  The International Olympic Committee has been a consistent and firm opponent of the formula, insisting that sporting endeavours are politically neutral matters.  They have been aided by the fact that such boycotts are rarely uniform or evenly applied.

In 1956, Spain and Switzerland refused to send contingents to the Olympic Summer Games in Melbourne in protest against the Soviet invasion of Hungary.  (Neither country could hardly claim to have squeaky clean human rights records, least of all Spain’s bloodstained fascist General Francisco Franco.)  The Netherlands recalled their sporting team after they arrived in Melbourne for the same reason, though Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon did so for a rather different grievance: the Suez Crisis.  “The little-noted absence of these athletes from competition,” writes Heather Dichter, “had no effect on global politics.”

The hollowness of these recent gestures against China is also evident by the fact that the ones who matter at such fixtures – the athletes – will be free to participate.  Superficially, they have been treated as politically childish, even insentient.  The competing athlete should have little time to ruminate over the plight of oppressed minorities or the conduct of a brutal regime.

This is the attractive, if fashionable nonsense of the IOC and, it should be said, many sporting bodies.  It denies the reality that athletes are very much walking and participating statements of their country, whatever their personal beliefs.  They often receive State funding and are implicated in their programs.  Along with participation comes patriotism.

Sporting contingents have also expressed frustration at being used as examples of political furniture.  The effects of US President Jimmy Carter’s decision to boycott the 22nd Olympiad in Moscow in protest against the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union did not go down well on the performers’ circuit.  Swimmer Brian Goodell, who won the 400m and 1500m freestyle events in world-record time as a stripling of 17 at the Montreal Olympics, was crushed by Carter’s decision.  “In Moscow, I would have been 21 and in the prime of my career.  And zippo. (Carter) screwed with everybody’s lives.  I could have made some pretty good coin.”  Hardly an enlightened view, but then again, athletes are rarely selected for their capacious intellects and firm moral compasses.

When whole blocs of states have pursued sporting boycotts, some measure of difference has been achieved.  The New Zealand Rugby tour of apartheid South Africa in 1976 saw a number of African states demand that the IOC expel New Zealand.  Officials were cool to the suggestion, arguing that rugby had last featured as an Olympic game in 1924.

The ensuing boycott by some 20 African and Arab states of the Montreal games, which also featured the withdrawal of athletes, caused quite a stir.  It troubled the UN Secretary General at the time, Kurt Waldheim, who wished “to point out that the Olympic Games have become an occasion of special significance in mankind’s search for brotherhood and understanding.”

Fancifully, the Commonwealth Secretary General Shridath Ramphal went so far as to argue that participating in the games, not withdrawing from them, would aid the “propitious resolution of wider questions”.

By not participating, the countries in question helped spur one particularly propitious resolution: the signing of the 1977 Gleneagles Agreement between Commonwealth States.  In reaching the agreement, the signatory members agreed to “combat the evil of apartheid by withholding any form of support for, and by taking every practical step to discourage contact or competition by their nationals with sporting organisations, teams or sportsmen from South Africa or any other country where sports are organised on the basis of race, colour or ethnic origin.”  Isolated, apartheid South Africa began facing searching domestic questions about the future of that political system.

An event free of wine guzzling and canapé gobbling dignitaries is something to cheer but leaving the sporting figures out of a “sporting boycott” is a proposition that remains pointless and absurd.  The point was not missed by the authoritarian IOC president Thomas Bach.  “The presence of government officials is a political decision for each government so the principle of IOC neutrality applies.”

At Beijing, sporting participants will be able to avoid the Carter experiment of 1980 and the babble about human rights and the liberty of the subject.  Expect a few, however, to take the knee, though not for the Uighurs.  In the meantime, the policies of the PRC will remain unchanged.

The post Ineffectual Boycotts: The Beijing Winter Olympics first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Jumping to China-bashing Conclusions


Peng Shuai, a highly successful tennis player from China is currently at the center of a western media maelstrom. This maelstrom stems from a 2 November post on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. Peng is said to have publicly accused the former Chinese vice premier Zhang Gaoli of raping her in 2018.

The timing, of what effectively becomes a trial by western media, is most inauspicious for China. TSN points to the looming winter Olympics slated for Beijing and then adds in the ludicrous allegation of crimes against humanity.

It is most unbecoming to whimsically write of alleged crimes against humanity without offering an iota of evidence. That China welcomes people to visit Xinjiang, that the Uyghur population increased 25 percent from 2010 to 2018, that there is no mass emigration from Xinjiang, that absolute poverty is eliminated would make China the laughingstock of inept genocidaires. Nonetheless, such extraneous allegations are obviously an attempt to cast China as a miscreant responsible for the “missing” Peng Shuai.

Reappearance

But now the “missing” Peng is no longer missing, as photos posted on Weibo by the China Open attest. Still China is depicted in a negative light: “The ruling party appears to be trying to defuse alarm about Peng without acknowledging her disappearance.”

The insinuation is that the Communist Party was behind her “disappearance.” But did she “disappear”? It takes only a little brain matter to realize that few of us would like to be in the spotlight for being the victim of an alleged rape. There are other possible explanations for why Peng was supposedly not seen. But this writer will not jump to any conclusions.

Without clarity on what has and is actually transpiring in the Peng saga, the Women’s Tennis Association and its CEO Steve Simon had threatened to pull the WTA’s events out of China. British politicians and Joe Biden talked about a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics.

US deputy secretary-of-state Wendy Sherman had tweeted: “We are deeply concerned by reports that tennis player Peng Shuai appears to be missing, and we join the calls for the PRC to provide independent, verifiable proof of her whereabouts. Women everywhere deserve to have reports of sexual assault taken seriously and investigated.”

It is well within the bounds of credulity that one politician in a country of 1.4 billion might commit a crime. China has had its share as evinced by chairman Xi Jinping’s corruption crackdown having purged many tens of thousands, including high-ranking officials and military officers.

However, one cannot condemn a country or political party for the alleged unlawful acts of one person. If so, then this would be the case for virtually every country on the planet.

If China’s Olympics should be boycotted or tennis tournaments yanked because of an unsubstantiated allegation, then this should apply equally to the United States where a sitting Supreme Court judge and a sitting president have faced allegations of sexual misconduct.

President Joe Biden — who once said, “For a woman to come forward in the glaring light of focus, nationally, you’ve got to start off with the presumption that at least the essence of what she’s talking about is real” — was accused of sexually assaulting a former Senate aide, Tara Reade. The #MeToo movement and Democrats abandoned Reade.

Previously, the Democrats and #MeToo had supported Christine Blasey Ford who publicly accused a Republican Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, of attempted rape.

What to do

It is hard to pronounce upon what Peng ought to do. Without all the requisite facts, one cannot know with certainty why she was “missing.” Was she dealing with trauma from a rape? Then all sympathy goes to her. If, however, the public allegation was a “mistake,” then by avoiding the media crush, she leaves an aspersion cast on the man she wrongly called out as a rapist, and she has dragged her country into the vitriol that China-bashers are now heaping on China. However painful or humiliating, if it was a “mistake,” then surely she has an obligation to clear up this situation as soon as possible.

Peng was lucky to have her friends and colleagues in the tennis world to express concern about her safety. That is what good colleagues and friends do. It is laudable to stick up for one’s own. But I submit that a deeper morality would state that an injustice against one is an injustice against all.

Disappointingly, I have never heard Serena Williams, Ashleigh Barty, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, or any other star tennis players speaking out about the safety and human rights of the tortured political prisoner Julian Assange. Top tennis players through their on-court brilliance have garnered a large following. Is there not an onus upon them to make their voices heard for the good of fellow humans?

The post Jumping to China-bashing Conclusions first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Cultivated Delusions at the Tokyo Olympics

Australia’s Channel 7 team was all about ignoring history as its selected commentators went into describing, poorly, the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics. The trio was poorly equipped culturally, geographically and totally (the Japanese component was barely credible: “We want to make things warm for you,” she chirped), to deal with the eclectic groupings of the athletes as they assembled.  Clichés and platitudes clogged the commentary as each team strode into the stadium.

It would have been interesting had they noted the militaristic, political echo that follows the beginning, and end, of each Olympic Games.  “In the Olympic Opening ceremony,” remarked Australia’s foremost sporting journalist Gideon Haigh in 2016, “serried ranks of well drilled, well resourced, uniformed national exemplars march behind their country’s flag.  Nothing could be a more political event than that.”

And political it was.  The torch relay was not, as the intoxicated romantics on the International Olympic Committee payroll claim, a creature of Greek antiquity but one of Nazi creativity. Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler and his propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels were enamoured with the idea, though it was Carl Diem, secretary general of the organising committee of the 1936 Berlin games who first proposed it.  That great German armaments institution, the Krupp Company, did its bit, creating and sponsoring the torches which were intended to burn for ten minutes. “The first torch manufactured,” writes German sports historian Arnd Krüger, “was used to ignite a new furnace for the production of long-range Krupp canons.”

Behind Tokyo 2020 was a sense of financed apology, with most of the Olympic commentariat bulging with self-interest in keeping this indulgent exercise on the road, even in the face of the worst global pandemic since the Spanish Influenza.  This was a tournament imposed upon a populace by cadres of sporting officials, an anti-democratic, despotic, insensitive gesture based on revenue incentives and broadcasting rights.  The focus had to be on the athletes, the show pony alibis, who distracted from the logisticians and backroom players.

The distraction was, at points, impressive: streamed images of torrential tears, the mingling of sweat from exhausted bodies and tormented competitors, the meeting of flags across competing tracks and ecstatic expressions of the human spirit.  There was video footage of vulnerable winners and those barely defeated; sharp camera focus on such noble acts as the sharing of a gold medal between Italy’s Gianmarco Tamberi and Mutaz Barshim of Qatar in the men’s high jump.  This was flesh and feelings made substantive in film.  “When people experience inwardly periods of greatness, they represent those periods through external forms,” said that man of theatre, show and murderous finality, one Adolf Hitler.  “Their word thus expressed is more convincing than the spoken word: it is the word in stone.”

This was all meant to make a difference, and outside the main Olympic stadium and the venues this was taking place, Tokyo was facing an aggressive pandemic and public health restrictions. The stadium hosting the closing ceremony, from the air, looked like a capsule of insulated distraction.  Those interested were watching at home; the stadium seats remained empty.

The pandemic-minded types were also far from impressed by the implications of holding the event.  IOC president Thomas Bach opined that the COVID-19 infections surging in Tokyo had no links, directly or otherwise, to the Games.  Tsuyoshi Masuda, head of the Japan Federation of Democratic Medical Institutions, disagreed: “[H]olding the Olympics sent a strong message to citizens that infection control measures would become less strict.”

The budget minded types (how dare they question the uplifting image of the Games?) would certainly have raised their eyebrows at the official price tag: $15.4 billion.  The calibration led to other options as to where the money might have been better spent: building 300 hospitals with 300 beds each; 1,200 elementary schools. “The problem is disentangling what is Olympics cost and what is just general infrastructure spending that would have happened anyways but was sped up for the Olympics,” suggests sports economist Victor Matheson.

The bidding process itself demands that host cities and authorities will cover excess costs. “This means,” contend the authors of a study in Environment Planning, “that hosts get locked in to a non-negotiable commitment to cover such increases.”

Bach, being his usual ostensibly noble self, put the case that finance was no bar to the events.  “We would have cancelled the Games 15 months ago,” he told The Associated Press.  “Financially, it would have been the easiest solution for the IOC.  But we decided at the time not to cancel the Games, not to draw on the insurance we had at the time.”

Such views should be treated with a healthy dose of stern scepticism.  “For the IOC,” sports editorial writer for the Mainichi Shimbun Takiguchi Takashi points out, “what is important is not whether there are spectators in the stands, but that the games go ahead and are broadcast to the entire world.”  Broadcasting rights constitute 70% of IOC revenue, characterised by such lucrative arrangements as that of NBCUniversal’s $12 billion payment for rights to broadcast all Olympic events from the 2014 Sochi Winter games to the 2032 Summer Olympics.

The response to the Olympics by its defenders has generally been one of cultivated delusion.  NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell was banking on it, given his network’s promise to broadcast 7,000 hours of the Tokyo games.  From the moment the opening ceremony takes place, he insisted, “everybody forgets [concerns like COVID-19] and enjoys the seventeen days.”

This ploy has worked, at least in the past.  Robert Baade and Matheson note the buoyancy that follows the holding of the games: in London 2012, for instance, there were those proud to be British and even happy to pay amounts “above any costs associated with actually attending any of the events.”  Despite Japanese success in the medal tally, Tokyo 2020 promises a different story.

The post Cultivated Delusions at the Tokyo Olympics first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Cuba Is Putting Its Heart into the Olympic Games in Tokyo

When dawn broke this morning on the fourteenth day of the Olympic Games, Cuba was in 15th place in the Tokyo medal standings. It is admirable and not fortuitous that the small island of only 11 million people is 15th among the 204 countries attending the world games.

Each of the talented athletes who represent the Cuban flag in Japan trained and sacrificed to represent their country. The passion they exhibit on the field, including those who have not won medals, moves us here.

Cuba will not forget the tears of young Juan Miguel Echevarría, who was hampered by a femoral bicep injury that prevented him from jumping for the sixth time during the final competition on August 1.

He knelt just above the takeoff board and hit the ground with his fists. “I cried, but not from the joy of the silver medal, but from the pain of losing the gold,” he told the press.

The island will also not forget the joy on the face of four-time Olympic champion Mijaín López when he defeated his rival Iakob Kadzhaia in Greco-Roman wrestling on August 2. All of Cuba was awake at 4am local time to watch the match of the irreducible Cuban giant, who won with little effort and became the best wrestler in the history of this sport.

“I think I’m just doing my job,” Mijaín said minutes after the victory as if he had not just accomplished this tremendous feat.

“I am fulfilling what I learned, what I was taught by my ancestors, my parents, my children, my grandparents… No matter how great you are, humility will always be greater than virtue,” he added.

Then on August 2, a photo was taken by a Cuban photographer that took Cuba by storm: the legendary Mijaín López carrying Luis Alberto Orta, who also won the gold medal in Greco-Roman wrestling, just 30 minutes apart. A Cuban flag was shining brightly between the two of them.

Athletes have not only gone to Japan to leave their hearts, but they have also gone to defend their country from any provocation or expression of hatred. This was the case of young boxer Julio Cesar la Cruz, who faced Cuban-Spanish Enmanuel Reyes during the most awaited fight of July 30.

The fight occurred shortly after Reyes, who was representing the Spanish flag in the ring, threatened to “tear off the head” of his opponent, regardless of the fact that both were born in the same country.

“I will be the first person to shout ‘Patria y Vida’ (Homeland and Life) in the Olympics,” he added, alluding to the song that has allegedly become the anthem of the Cuban right-wing.

La Cruz won after beating Reyes in the first and third rounds. Before getting out of the ring, he shouted at the top of his lungs, “Homeland and Life, no. Homeland or Death. We will prevail,” in honor of Cuba’s historic leader Fidel Castro.

Not only have the athletes given their all in these Olympic Games. The sports reporters have also been heroes, and they have served as a bridge between Cubans and the emotions experienced in Tokyo.

No Cuban will forget journalist Renier Gonzalez’s narration of the 1,000-meter double canoe race, in which the Cubans Serguey Torres and Fernando Dayan Jorge Enriquez won the gold medal by a mere 0.2 seconds.

As the final-second battle between the Chinese canoe and the Cuban canoe, Gonzalez fired off words as he sat up and stood from his seat; “Here comes the Cuban canoe, here comes the Chinese canoe… Seguey, Dayan. Come on, let’s all paddle, Cubans. Come on. We will have a medal. China, Cuba, Cuba. Gold medal for Cuba! The Cuban canoe is gold!”

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who has called each medalist after every victory, could not contain his emotion as he congratulated Torres and Fernando Dayán. “The final seconds were electrifying. You rowed your hearts out,” he told them.

The feat of this small Caribbean island in Tokyo has been historic. The athletes are holding Cuba’s name up high amid the most difficult conditions. The country is fighting against a seemingly unstoppable pandemic while media attacks are gaining strength, and food and medicine shortages persist. However, Cuba perceives the Tokyo Olympics as a shining example of the resistance of the Cuban people to hatred, to adversity.

The post Cuba Is Putting Its Heart into the Olympic Games in Tokyo first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Why is the Top Chinese Swimmer not at the Tokyo Olympics?

Primary players and acronyms:

FINA – Fédération Internationale de Natation (International Swimming Federation). Established 1908.

WADA – World Anti-Doping Agency. Established in 1999. Based in Montreal, Canada.

CAS – Court of Arbitration for Sport. Highest court for adjudicating international sport. Established in 1984. Based in Lausanne, Switzerland.

IDTM – International Doping and Test Management. Swedish company that merged with US based Drug Free Sports in September 2018.

ADRV – Anti-Doping Rule Violation. Official name for doping offense which leads to sanction (ineligibility) for some time.

ISTI – International Standards for Testing and Investigation. Initiated by WADA in 2004.

DCO – Doping Control Officer. Doping test team leader.

BCO – Blood Collection Officer. Medical staff who draws blood sample.

DCA – Doping Control Assistant. May act as “chaperone” to verify urine collection.

Introduction

Why is the all-time greatest Chinese swimmer Sun Yang not at the Tokyo Olympics?  The short answer is that he has been banned from competitive swimming for four years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).  He has been banned for four years NOT for doping, but for a “doping rule violation”.

What lies behind this? What are the essential facts? Was the decision just or biased? This article will review the case and offer suggestions to improve the process.

CAS Panel admission and decision

The Court of Arbitration for Sport decision about Sun Yang came very recently, in mid-June.  At the very end of the 88-page decision, there is a crucial acknowledgment:

The Panel considers it pertinent that there has been no allegation that the Athlete was doped on 4 September 2018. Indeed, given that Mr. Sun tested negative eight times in the prior two weeks, the likelihood that he would have tested positive, had the samples of 4–5 September 2018 been analyzed in Beijing, appears remote.

Despite this acknowledgement, the CAS Panel decided that Sun Yang was guilty of an Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV).

The controversial and aborted test

The controversy involves an aborted attempt to take blood and urine samples from Sun Yang on the night of September 4, 2018. Sun Yang arrived home late at night after travelling all day from Jakarta Indonesia where he had competed at the Asia Games.  He was about to commence a one-month vacation.

A doping test team from the Swedish American company, International Doping Tests & Management (IDTM), met Sun Yang and said they wished to take an “out of competition” blood and urine sample. There was a female Doping Control Officer (DCO), a female Blood Collection Officer (BCO) and male Doping Control Assistant (DCA).

There are conflicting reports about what transpired over the next few hours, but these are essential facts:

* After seeing the Doping Control Assistant surreptitiously taking photographs of him, Sun Yang became suspicious and asked to see the authorization papers of the test team.

* The DCO did not have paper IDTM accreditation but did have an image on her cell phone.  The BCO and DCA had no proof of authorization from IDTM.  Nor did they have paperwork to authorize this specific out of competition test. All they had was a generic annual authorization for IDTM to do testing for the International Swimming Federation (FINA).

* Sun Yang consulted his doctor and Chinese swim team leader asking what to do. Both said the test should be stopped until the test team can provide proper documentation.

* The DCO consulted with her supervisor in Sweden. They then said to Sun Yang they could not leave the equipment behind.  A member of Sun Yang’s group broke the container holding the blood vial so the IDTM team could leave with their equipment. The blood vial was preserved and is still under refrigeration at the doctor’s hospital.

* Over the next days, Sun Yang reported that the test was aborted because the test team lacked accreditation. The leader of the test team, the DCO, reported that Sun Yang had committed a “Refusal to Comply” with the test.

The FINA Doping Panel 

The International Swimming Federation (FINA) convened a Doping Panel to examine the events and determine whether Sun Yang had committed a doping rule violation.  They held the hearing and issued their decision in early January 2019. They determined that “Sun Yang has not committed an anti-doping rule violation” because the test team did not have the required accreditation documentation to take blood and urine samples from the athlete.

The FINA Doping Panel also faulted the test team leader for not making the athlete (Sun Yang) aware that she would consider this incident to be a “Failure to Comply” and thus a potential Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV).

WADA and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS)

For whatever reasons, the Canadian-based World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) strongly objected to the FINA Doping Panel decision. They filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) against Sun Yang and FINA.

In November 2019, the first CAS Panel held a public hearing about the case.  In February 2020, CAS issued their decision that Sun Yang DID commit a doping rule violation and was to be banned from swimming for eight years.  Some western competitors and sports media cheered this decision. Others were more objective and thoughtful. The decision was criticized in articles here and here.

Based on evidence revealed in the article, “Why the Sun Yang Decision Should be Overturned“, Sun Yang’s attorneys won their appeal to the Swiss supreme court. There was compelling evidence the CAS Panel chairman was biased if not racist.

Although the CAS decision was annulled, WADA decided to continue. A new CAS panel was created.

The second CAS Panel had new members but all the same background. All three jurists were senior white western European men. Additionally, they all have strong ties to the United States.  Although the second panelists claim they were not influenced by the decision of the first CAS panel, their decisions are essentially the same: they say Sun Yang is guilty of an Anti-Doping Rule Violation. With relaxed punishment requirements, he is now banned for 4 years, three months beginning February 2020.

FINA Doping Panel vs CAS panels

Why did the FINA doping panel conclude that Sun Yang did not commit an Anti-Doping Rule Violation (ADRV) while the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that he did?

Here are the essential differences:

1) Was the test team legitimate? 

CAS says they were, even though two of the three test team members had no proof that they were authorized by the test contractor, International Doping and Test Management (IDTM). CAS said that only the test team leader, the Doping Control Officer, needed proof of accreditation.

The CAS decision says, “ISTI imposes a specific threshold for notification. The threshold seeks to ensure that an athlete understand that a demand for his samples is legitimate and duly authorized—all the while avoiding the imposition of unnecessarily burdensome administrative criteria or the creation of yet more opportunities for gamesmanship by bad actors. “

In contrast, FINA said that all members of a test team need to be trained, accredited, and have proof.  “FINA members (swimmers) must know with certainty under whose authority they are being tested and that every official attending at the sample collection session has been properly trained, appointed and authorized by the Sample Collection Agency.” 

Which is right? The ISTI is ambiguous and can be interpreted both ways. ISTI Annex H says, “Sample Collection Personnel requirements start with the development of the necessary competencies for Sample Collection Personnel and end with the provision of identifiable accreditation.”  There was debate over whether “personnel” was singular or plural.

One thing is certain: the Doping Control Assistant was not properly trained. The controversy was sparked because he took personal photographs which is a significant violation of protocol and the athlete’s privacy.

2) Did the test team show adequate proof they were authorized to conduct the test?

CAS says yes; it was sufficient to show the annual authorization paper from FINA to IDTM, nothing more.

FINA said no; there needs to be more than an annual authorization. The test team must show evidence that they are authorized to carry out this specific mission.

Which is right? Again, the ISTI is ambiguous. It seems reasonable to require a test team entering a person’s personal space to show proof of the fact they have authorization to collect bodily fluid samples from that individual at that time.  The test team must have a mandate to go to the Athlete’s residence and collect the samples. Why not show it to the athlete to confirm this is a legitimate intrusion?

3)  Was the Blood Collection Officer (BCO) qualified to draw blood from the athlete?

CAS says yes, even though the Blood Collection Officer only had an old junior nurse certificate in her possession.

FINA said no. They explain, “What is certain is that she did not produce unequivocal evidence of her qualifications to draw blood from the athlete, as required in the ISTI.”

The ISTI clearly states the blood collection must meet local standards and regulatory requirements.

4) Did the Doping Control Officer warn the athlete that his actions could be considered a Refusal to Comply as required?

FINA says no. The DCO did not make that clear and to further complicate things, she signed a statement of events written by Sun Yang’s doctor.

“The ISTI is clear in Annex A 3.3.a) that the DCO must tell the Athlete, in a language he can understand, the consequences of a possible Failure to Comply. Explaining the risks that certain conduct might lead to a violation is not sufficient. The DCO must go further and clearly articulate that she is treating the Athlete’s conduct as a Failure to Comply and that the following consequences will apply.”

CAS says the DCO warned the athlete sufficiently. They claim the DCO told the athlete the consequences of “Refusal to Comply”.

CAS says, “Nothing in Annex A.3.3(a) requires a DCO, on the spot, to proclaim a definitive anti-doping rule violation. The Panel therefore has no hesitation in disavowing this artificially high threshold. It is enough for Sample Collection Personnel to tell an athlete, in language he can understand, the consequences of a possible failure to comply. As to whether an actual violation has occurred, this is for the Testing Authority to determine and prosecute; such a proclamation is not within any DCO’s competence.”

Which is right? One thing is clear: the ISTI wording is poor and misleading.  All athletes know the consequence of a Refusal to Comply is an Anti-Doping Rule Violation.  This is comparable to a policeman telling a civilian the consequences of a crime (you go to prison) instead of telling them they are being charged with a crime.

Under ISTI regulations 5.4.8 and 7.4.6, the DCO is supposed to document what happened. The DCO did not document the events as required. Promoting more confusion, she signed the statement by Sun Yang’s doctor.  If she was only signing the statement as a witness, it seems that should have been explicitly indicated.

Summary of Differences: FINA Doping Panel vs CAS Panel  

In summary, the FINA doping panel emphasized that all test team members must be authorized.

In contrast, the CAS Panel advocated fewer requirements for a doping test team. Only the test team leader needs to have credentials and they do not have to show proof that their specific visit is authorized. The blood collection nurse does not need to prove she is qualified. CAS expressed preference to avoid “burdensome administrative criteria” and a concern for “gamesmanship by bad actors”.

The WADA Guidelines regarding Blood Collection support the position of Sun Yang in various respects. Dismissing this, CAS says “Guidelines are recommendations, not law, and they do not alter the minimum requirements of the ISTI”.  They ignore the fact that Blood Sample Collection Guidelines have “ISTI” prominently printed on the cover.

Questions and Observations about this case

At the November 2019 public hearing, Sun Yang said he thought there were “dark forces” behind the effort to ban him. He did not say much more, but the suggestion was clear enough. Having studied this case in some depth, I believe his concerns are warranted.

If there is a “bad actor” here, it might be the private test contractor, IDTM. At each step of the events, they seem to have provoked rather than resolved the dispute. They selected as DCO a person who Sun Yang had complained about when she was DCA on a previous test. They chose to go to Sun Yang’s residence very late at night knowing he was returning from all day travel from Indonesia. They brought an improperly trained DCA who proceeded to surreptitiously take photographs. They declined to get a substitute DCA. They declined to postpone the test until the next day. They falsely claimed they needed to take the test equipment. They did not tell Sun Yang that they would file a Refusal to Comply.

The DCO was a Chinese woman who lives abroad. She was a DCO for less than a year.  Her supervisor in Sweden, Romanian Tudor Popa, had only nine months experience at the time of the incident. He is now Vice President of International Testing at IDTM.

For the past 30 months, WADA has pursued this case against Sun Yang at great cost in time and resources.  It is fair to ask why they have done this. It is not as though Sun Yang was avoiding being tested or making a habit of objecting. He is one of the most tested athletes in the world, on average every two weeks. Nearly all tests have been performed without any problem at all. Logic would dictate that Sun Yang had no motive to take performance enhancing medications. At the Asia Games, where he was tested six times, he won four gold plus two silver medals. Also, he was about to start a one-month vacation and rest period from swimming.  It was not like he was a struggling swimmer who might be tempted to get some little extra advantage.

Would WADA have pursued this case if the swimmer had been an American, British, Canadian, or Australian? It was a huge investment of time and resources.  In the end, they “achieved” the elimination of the Chinese athlete even though he was not doped.  What kind of achievement is that?

The bias of the first CAS panel was acknowledged by the Swiss Federal Court.

Was the second CAS panel any less biased?  Their decision suggests no. At each critical point, they favor minimizing requirements for the test team contractor. They hint that an athlete who is concerned with the test integrity may be a “bad actor”.  They critique the FINA Doping Panel decision as showing “leniency” towards Sun Yang and “stringency” toward the testing process.

The CAS panel considers that requiring each test team member to have identifiable credential would be “unnecessarily burdensome administrative criteria”. Making this a requirement might give “opportunities for gamesmanship by bad actors”.

It should be noted that WADA had a serious conflict of interest in this case. They were the expert witnesses while also being the appellant.

Suggestions to improve the process

The World Anti-Doping Agency has become an influential force in global sport. They say they are “impartial, objective, balanced and transparent.” They publicly ask for feedback.

Here are some suggestions considering the Sun Yang case:

* WADA documentation including the Guidelines and ISTI should be critically reviewed, and areas of ambiguity cleared up.

* A genuine mix of international athletes should review the requirements for a test team. Should it be confirmed that all members of a test team are trained, accredited, and have proof?  Should it be confirmed that an “out of competition” test team intruding in an athlete’s personal space needs to show authorization for this mission?

*  An athlete should be given a written warning if a test team is going to report a potential “Refusal to Comply”.  There should be a standard “Refusal to Comply” form. Such notices or warnings are standard in society. This simple measure would probably have avoided the entire costly controversy with Sun Yang.

* The composition of WADA should be more diverse to avoid appearing or in fact being biased.

Conclusion

The FINA Doping Panel was correct and Sun Yang should be competing in the Tokyo Olympics.

The post Why is the Top Chinese Swimmer not at the Tokyo Olympics? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Politics of Cheering and Booing: On Palestine, Solidarity and the Tokyo Olympics

When the Palestinian Olympic delegation of five athletes – adorned in traditional Palestinian attire and carrying the Palestinian flag – crossed into the Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium during the inauguration ceremony on July 23, I was overcome with pride and nostalgia.

I grew up watching the Olympics. All of us did. Throughout the month-long international sports event, the Olympics were the main topic of discussion among the refugees in my refugee camp in Gaza, where I was born.

Unlike other sports competitions such as football, you did not need to care about the sport itself to appreciate the underlying meaning of the Olympics. The entire exercise seemed to be political.

However, the politics of the Olympics is unlike daily politics. Indeed, it is about something profoundly deeper, related to identity, culture, national struggles for liberation, equality, race and, yes, freedom.

Before Palestine’s first Olympic participation in 1996, with only one athlete, Majed Abu Marahi, we cheered – we still do – for all the countries that seemed to convey our collective experiences or share part of our history.

In our Gaza refugee camp, in a small, often hot, simply furnished living room, my family, friends and neighbors would gather around a small black and white television set. For us, the opening ceremony was always critical. Though the camera often allocates mere seconds to each delegation, a few seconds were all we needed to declare our political stances regarding each and every country. It was no surprise, then, that we cheered for all African and Arab countries, jumped in joy when the Cubans came marching in, and booed those who have contributed to Israel’s military occupation of our homeland.

Imagine the chaos in our living room as a small crowd of people made loud and swift political declarations about every country, making a case of why we should cheer or boo, all simultaneously: “The Cubans love Palestine”, “South Africa is the country of Mandela”, “The French gave Israel Mirage fighter jets”, “The Americans are biased towards Israel”,  “The president of this or that country said the Palestinians deserve freedom”, “Kenya was occupied by the British too”, and so on.

The judgment was not always easy as sometimes none of us would be able to offer a conclusive statement to make a case for why we should cheer or boo. For example, an African country which normalized relations with Israel would give us pause: we hated the government but we loved the people. Many such moral dilemmas were often left unanswered.

These dilemmas existed even before I was born. The previous generation of Palestinians also struggled with such pressing quandaries. For example, when African American athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised their fists during the award ceremony in the October 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, that, too, must have been a difficult philosophical question to be readily answered by the residents of my refugee camp. On the one hand, we loathed the historically devastating role played – and continues to be played – by the US, in arming, funding and politically supporting Israel. Without such support, Israel would have found it impossible to maintain and profit from its ongoing system of military occupation and apartheid. On the other hand, we supported, as we continue to support, African Americans in their rightful struggle for equality and justice. In these situations, it is often resolved that we should support the players while still rejecting the countries they represent.

The ongoing Tokyo Olympics were hardly the exception of this complex political system. While much media coverage has been placed on the Covid-19 pandemic – the fact that the games were held in the first place, the safety of the players and so on – the politics, the human triumph, the racism, and much more were also still present.

As Palestinians, this time around, we have more to cheer for than usual: our own athletes. Dania, Hanna, Wesam, Mohamed and Yazan are making us proud. The story of each one of these athletes represents a chapter in the Palestinian saga, one that is rife with collective pain, besiegement and ongoing Diaspora, but also hope, unparalleled strength and determination.

These Palestinian athletes, like athletes from other countries who are enduring their own struggles, whether for freedom, democracy or peace, carry a heavier burden than those who were trained under normal circumstances, in stable countries that provide their athletes with seemingly endless resources to reach their full potential.

Mohamed Hamada, a weightlifter from the besieged Gaza Strip, competes in the 96 kg men snatch. In actuality, the 19-year-old is already carrying a mountain. Having survived several deadly Israeli wars, a relentless siege, lack of freedom to travel, to train under proper circumstances and, of course, the resulting trauma, by taking his first step in Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium, Hamada was already a champion. Hundreds of aspiring weightlifters in Gaza and throughout Palestine must have watched him in their own living rooms, filled with hope that they, too, can overcome all the hardship, and that they, too, could be present at future Olympics.

Yazan al-Bawwab, the 21-year-old Palestinian swimmer, embodies, despite his youth, the story of the Palestinian diaspora. A Palestinian, who grew up in the United Arab Emirates, now living in Canada while carrying dual Italian and Palestinian citizenships, he represents a generation of Palestinian youngsters who live outside the homeland and whose life is a reflection of the constant search for home. There are millions of Palestinian refugees who were forced by war, or circumstances, to constantly relocate. They too, aspire to live a normal and stable life, to carry the passports of their own homeland with pride and, like al-Bawwab, to achieve great things in life.

The truth is, for us, Palestinians, the Olympics are not an ethnocentric exercise. Our relationship to it is not simply inspired by race, nationality or even religion, but by humanity itself. The dialectics through which we cheer or boo conveys so much about how we see ourselves as a people, our position in the world, the solidarity that we wish to bestow and the love and solidarity that we receive. So, Ireland, Scotland, Cuba, Venezuela, Turkey, South Africa, Sweden and many more, including all Arab countries without exception, can be certain that we will always remain their loyal fans.

The post The Politics of Cheering and Booing: On Palestine, Solidarity and the Tokyo Olympics first appeared on Dissident Voice.