Wednesday, February 27, 2008

WADA says it has effective blood test for human growth hormone

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — An effective blood test for
detecting human growth hormone will be in place for the Beijing
Olympics, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency said Wednesday.

HGH is considered one of the most widely abused
performance-enhancing drugs, and experts say athletes have been
able to use it with little fear of being caught. The substance
clears the system quickly, making testing difficult.

“By the Olympic Games there will be a capacity to detect HGH,”
WADA president John Fahey said.

A test was used at the 2004 Athens and 2006 Turin Olympics but
yielded no positives because athletes using it would have stopped
in time to make sure it cleared the system beforehand. The latest
development should allow for more routine testing out of

“We know people have been taking human growth hormone with
impunity and have been for 20 years,” WADA director general David
Howman said.

He said the test would be able to catch cheats within a window
of “more than 48 hours.”

Officials refused to give details, saying drug cheats needed to
be left in the dark. But Fahey did say he was very confident about
the tests.

“We all know these things end up in court more often than
not,” he said. “It’s got to withstand the legal challenge as
well. No reason to believe that all of that won’t be in place and
that there will be a capacity to test at the Beijing Olympics.”

Fahey said traces of the drug could also be frozen and stored in
samples for up to eight years, meaning users could still be caught
and lose their medals years later.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Olympic diving and water polo notes

By News services


BEIJING – Chris Colwill (Brandon, Fla.) and Jevon Tarantino (Boca Raton, Fla.) placed sixth in the men’s synchronized 3-meter final Tuesday, the opening day of the Good Luck Beijing/FINA Diving World Cup.

The pair scored scored 404.64 points in their first World competition after competing in three Grand Prix meets last year. China’s Wang Feng and Qin Kai scored 462.12 points for the men’s 3-meter synchro gold, and Russia’s Yuriy Kunakov and Dmitry Sautin took silver at 418.65.

Tuesday’s competition also included women’s 10-meter preliminaries, with Laura Wilkinson (Spring, Texas) and Haley Ishimatsu (Seal Beach, Calif.) placing sixth and 13th, respectively, to advance to the semifinals, set for Wednesday morning.
Wilkinson scored 343.60 points, and Ishimatsu finished with 321.05 points. China’s Chen Ruolin topped the preliminary field with 410.10 points, with Wang Xin, also of China, taking second at 382.35.

Ishimatsu’s top-18 finish guarantees the United States a second spot in women’s 10-meter for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Wilkinson had already secured one spot for the U.S. as a result of her fourth-place showing at last year’s World Championships (Spots are earned for the countries, not the divers themselves).

The semifinals begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The top 12 in the semis will advance to the finals at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Colwill will dive again Wednesday in the men’s individual 3-meter preliminaries, which begin at 2 p.m. Two-time Olympian Troy Dumais (Ventura, Calif.) also will dive in that event.


A day after being remanded to their hotel for a "lockdown" in Serbia following an announcement of independence by neighboring Kosovo, the USA Men's Senior National Team has returned to training. The team was scheduled to take part in two practices today in Serbia as well as an additional practice on Wednesday morning before departing the country.

The team plans to depart Serbia midweek and head to Greece as they continue on their trip. Team USA was in Serbia as part of a multi-country training trip in preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. The team will visit Greece and Italy before returning home on Feb. 29.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Beijing Olympic Tickets are Hard to Come by

By Barbara Demick
Los Angeles Times

BEIJING — It is not as though all 1.3 billion people in China are
trying to attend the Olympics.

It just seems that way if you’re trying to book a seat. Tickets to
the 2008 Games are proving to be among the most coveted in sporting

Money, luck, persistence, computer skills and, in some cases, the
right political background, are among the prerequisites.

Scalpers already are demanding as much as $40,000 a seat for the
Aug. 8 Opening Ceremony, and tickets for popular sports such as
basketball, gymnastics and pingpong (a particular Chinese favorite)
are going for 10 times their face value.

The crushing demand for the roughly 7 million tickets that the
Beijing Olympic Committee is putting on sale for the general public
comes from inside and out: Americans and Europeans who have long
dreamed of visiting China and think the Olympics will be the right
occasion, and middle-class Chinese families who want to watch with
pride as their nation celebrates what is widely touted as a coming-out

On the domestic market, ticket seekers have been frustrated by long
lines and crashing computer systems. A disproportionate number of
those who mastered the system were students and professionals in the
information technology field who were able to elbow their way to the
front of electronic queues.

Friday, February 15, 2008

IOC: Olympic athletes can blog if they follow rules

GENEVA (AP) — Let the blogging begin.

The IOC has given athletes the right to blog at the Beijing
Games this summer, a first for the Olympics, as long as they follow
the many rules it set to protect copyright agreements, confidential
information and security.

Blogging is a “legitimate form of personal expression,” the
International Olympic Committee said.

The IOC said blogs by athletes “should take the form of a diary
or journal” and should not contain any interviews with other
competitors at the Games. They also should not write about other

“It is required that, when accredited persons at the games post
any Olympic content, it be confined solely to their own personal
Olympic-related experience,” the IOC said.

The debate over blogging has been a difficult one for the IOC,
which has been concerned that the online journals might infringe on
copyright agreements or release confidential information during the
Aug. 8-24 Beijing Olympics.

Bloggers are prevented from posting audio clips or videos of
“any Olympic events, including sporting action, opening, closing
and medal ceremonies or other activities which occur within any
zone which requires an Olympic identity and accreditation card (or
ticket) for entry.”

Still pictures are allowed as long as they do not show Olympic
events. Athletes must obtain the consent of their competitors if
they wish to photograph them.

Also, athletes cannot use their blogs for commercial gain.

“No advertising and/or sponsoring may be visible on screen at
the same time as Olympic content,” the IOC said.

The IOC said accredited participants in the Olympics also
“should not disclose any information ... which may compromise the
security, staging and organization of the games.” The same rule
applies for the security of athletes’ teams.

Domain names for blogs should not include any word similar to
“Olympic” or “Olympics.” Bloggers are, however, urged to link
their blogs to official Olympic Web sites.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

China blames activists for linking Olympics to Sudan

BEIJING (AP) China is blaming activists with “ulterior
motives” for linking the Beijing Olympics to the nation’s
involvement in Sudan, with top officials saying they shared
concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.

Games organizers and the Foreign Ministry responded Thursday to
Steven Spielberg rejecting a role as an artistic adviser to the

The film director withdrew on Tuesday on the grounds that China
wasn’t doing enough to pressure Sudan over the conflict in its
western region of Darfur.

China is believed to have influence over the Islamic regime
because it buys two-thirds of the country’s oil exports while
selling it weapons and defending it in the United Nations.

In their first response to Spielberg’s announcement, Games
organizers said his decision would not affect planning for the
opening and closing ceremonies, adding: “We express our regret
over his recent personal statement.”

“The Chinese government has made unremitting efforts to resolve
the Darfur issue, an obvious fact to the international community
which holds unprejudiced opinions on this issue,” the organizers,
known as BOCOG, said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated

“Linking the Darfur issue to the Olympic Games will not help to
resolve this issue and is not in line with the Olympic Spirit that
separates sports from politics,” BOCOG said.

China is on the defensive against critics using the Games to
spotlight the communist regime’s curbs on human rights, press
freedoms, and religion.

“It is understandable if some people do not understand the
Chinese government policy on Darfur,” Foreign Ministry spokesman
Liu Jianchao said. “But I am afraid that some people may have
ulterior motives, and this we cannot accept.”

Liu said China was working with the United Nations to resolve
the Darfur crisis.

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) — The European Union wants athletes to
resist raising human rights and other sensitive political issues
during the Beijing Olympics.

“Sports is too important. It is too important to use it as a
political instrument,” Milan Zver, the sports minister of
Slovenia, which holds the EU presidency, said Thursday.

The British Olympic Association initially said this week it
would contractually require its athletes to not make any
politically sensitive remarks or gestures during the games,
although it later changed tack.

Other national games committees have also warned athletes not to
speak out at Olympic sites.

Under IOC rules, athletes cannot discuss political issues within
Olympic zones, but should have freedom of speech outside them. Zver
said that even though he understood the importance of human rights,
the Beijing Games should be spared the controversy.

“The Olympics is not a good place for that,” Zver said in an
interview with The Associated Press. “We, the politicians, have to
do that,” Zver said.

Zver believes multinational companies that trade and invest in
China have more of an obligation to speak up rather than athletes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

China has yet to respond to Spielberg withdrawal

BEIJING (AP) — Steven Spielberg was supposed to lend a little
Hollywood glitz to this year’s Beijing Olympics.

Instead, the heavyweight director’s rejection of a role in the
Summer Games on human rights grounds stands as the event’s biggest
political challenge yet.

Spielberg, who won an Oscar for his 1993 Holocaust film
“Schindler’s List,” said he was turning down a position as
artistic adviser to the opening and closing ceremonies because
China was not doing enough to pressure its ally Sudan into ending
the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region.

That decision drew praise from a slew of other groups critical
of Beijing, boosting a months-long campaign by activists to
spotlight the communist regime’s human rights record.

Although not entirely unexpected, Spielberg’s announcement
Tuesday appeared to catch Beijing flat-footed. Neither the
organizing committee nor China’s Foreign Ministry had responded by
late Wednesday.

Spielberg, whose 2005 film “Munich” dealt with the killings of
11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics, had indicated as early as
August that he might not take part in the ceremonies. Spielberg
said he had given up hope that China would take a more aggressive
approach toward Sudan.

China is believed to have special influence with the Islamic
regime because it buys two-thirds of the country’s oil exports
while selling it weapons and defending Khartoum in the
U.N. Security Council.

Fighting between government-backed militia and rebels in Darfur
has killed more than 200,000 people and left an estimated 2.5
million displaced since 2003.

“While China’s representatives have conveyed to me that they
are working to end the terrible tragedy in Darfur, the grim
realities of the suffering continue unabated,” Spielberg said in a

Spielberg was supposed to have joined a team led by famed
Chinese director Zhang Yimou. Yimou’s representatives did not
respond to e-mailed requests for comment. Spielberg had yet to sign
a contract and had only visited Beijing once as part of Olympic

In recent days, the U.S. Congress and a coalition of Nobel Peace
Prize winners, politicians and elite athletes have also lobbied
Beijing over Darfur.

Actress Mia Farrow and other activists delivered an open letter
addressed to Chinese President Hu Jintao at the Chinese Mission to
the United Nations in New York on Tuesday.

“How can Beijing host the Olympic Games at home and underwrite
genocide?” said Farrow, a U.N. goodwill ambassador, shivering in
freezing weather.

Praising Spielberg’s decision, Human Rights Watch said corporate
sponsors, governments and national Olympic committees must urge
Beijing to improve human rights at home.

China has repeatedly denounced what it calls attempts to
“politicize” the Aug. 8-24 Games.

Yet it has been unable to turn back a rising tide of negative
global opinion that joins concerns over the city’s notorious
pollution, snarled traffic and displacement of people for the
construction of Olympic venues.

Beijing has invested billions of dollars and its national
prestige into what it hopes will be a glorious showcase of China’s
rapid development from impoverished agrarian nation to rising
industrial power.

International Olympic Committee spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau
said the IOC had not been involved in discussions between Beijing
and Spielberg and had no comment on the director’s pullout.

“This is a personal decision of Mr. Spielberg,” Moreau said.

Leading sponsor Adidas, which is reportedly spending $200
million for sponsorship rights to the Beijing Games, also said it
would remain uninvolved.

“We do not believe we have the political leverage that the
campaigners attribute to us,” the German sporting goods maker said
in a statement.

China’s state-controlled media carried no mention of Spielberg’s

Despite the government’s official view, Luo Qing, a scholar who
researches China’s national image at Communications University of
China in Beijing, said the 2008 Games were destined to attract
political controversy.

“The Olympics is not just about sports,” Luo said. “Politics
will be even more prominent in 2008 because China is a political
hot spot and, as an Eastern country, likely to cause greater

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

USOC plans no additional free-speech measures in Beijing

Committee will ask American athletes to comply with international
Olympic rules regarding free speech in Beijing, but won’t impose
the extra measures the British federation has been criticized for.

International Olympic Committee rules state “no kind of
demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is
permitted in any Olympic sites, venues, or other areas.”

The British Olympic Association plans to require its athletes to
sign an agreement barring them from making politically sensitive
remarks or gestures during the Olympics, a policy that was widely
criticized as a measure that went beyond the Olympic charter.

The USOC has never had any rules that would be any more
restrictive than what’s in the Olympic charter, spokesman Darryl
Seibel said Monday.

“The Olympic charter applies to athletes from every country,
and we use the charter as our guide,” Seibel said. “We will not
impose prohibitions on free speech with our delegation. We do
expect our delegation to comply with the relevant provisions of the
Olympic charter.”

After receiving criticism, British federation spokesman Graham
Newsom said there had been “no intention of gagging anyone,” and
that the BOA was simply trying to mirror the rule in the Olympic
charter. BOA chief executive Simon Clegg said the final agreement
that athletes will sign will show that the intention is not to
restrict athletes’ freedom of speech.

Human rights groups, political activists and other observers are
concerned over whether the Chinese government will allow free
speech during the Olympics.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Dunn nears another Olympic spot in racewalking

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) — Philip Dunn raised his right fist as he finally crossed the finish line, then wrapped himself in the American flag.

He was exhausted. He was also exhilarated, since a third Olympic berth may soon be his.

“This wasn’t a walk in the park,” Dunn said.

Interesting choice of words.

Dunn won the U.S. men’s 50-kilometer Olympic racewalking trials Saturday at Crandon Park just south of downtown Miami, pulling away from Matt Boyles late in the grueling race that had only 15 qualified entrants. A third of them didn’t finish, and most of those who completed the 25-lap course did so in obvious agony.
Dunn got the win, but his Olympic task isn’t done yet.

His time was 4 hours, 12 minutes, 55 seconds — 5:55 slower than the Olympic ’B’ qualifying standard. If he completes a 50K event in the standard time by July 23, he’ll be eligible for the Beijing Games in August.

“Before every race, you make a set of goals,” said Dunn, who hails from San Diego. “The main goal was to win for me, to come out on top. The secondary goal was to hit the time standard and seal the deal, make Beijing today. When that didn’t happen, yeah, I was disappointed a little bit. But I regrouped.”
Matt Boyles forced him to regroup.

Boyles is 25 and was competing in just his second 50K racewalk. He was stride-for-stride with Dunn from the opening gun, and by the time they completed two laps around the two-kilometer course, most of the field was already more than a minute behind.

The pursuers never caught up, either. At the 30K mark, Boyles forced the issue and took a slim lead — which he later regretted, because with 10 kilometers left, Dunn passed him with relative ease and kept pulling away.

2004 Olympian Kevin Eastler dropped out after one lap because he’s recovering from hernia surgery, and three-time Olympian Curt Clausen (who finished more than an hour
behind the leaders) needed multiple ice packs rubbed on his legs in the medical tent just after crossing the line.

Friday, February 8, 2008

USA Volleyball teams with Sports Museum of America

By News Services

USA Volleyball Secretary General Kerry Klostermann announced today a partnership with the Sports Museum of America (SmA).

USA Volleyball joins over 50 single-sport Halls of Fame, National Governing Bodies, Museums and other sports organizations across North America as a Founding Sports Partner of the Sports Museum of America, Scheduled to open in New York City in May 2008, SmA is the nation's first and only museum to celebrate all sports under one roof. Filled with original films, state-of-the-art interactives and an iconic collection of memorabilia, SmA will richly showcase the history, grandeur and significance of sports in American culture through great sports' stories of courage, education and triumph.

According to Klostermann, this exciting new partnership will introduce a broad new audience to the thrills of volleyball. "USA Volleyball is both pleased and honored to be a partner organization with the Sports Museum of America. Having such a prestigious home to showcase our sport, athletes and coaches will advance our efforts tremendously in our mission to involve the citizens of America in the healthy, fun and lifetime sport of volleyball."

"The Sports Museum of America is extremely pleased to have USA Volleyball join our more than 50 exclusive sports partner organizations to create the first comprehensive museum of sports," says Founder and CEO Philip Schwalb. "SmA looks forward to sharing volleyball's tremendous legacy -- from Karch Kiraly to Logan Tom to the stars of tomorrow -- with our millions of visitors. We'll excite our fans about the sport of volleyball and encourage them to find out more information on USA Volleyball in Colorado Springs and across the country."

Under the terms of the partnership, USA Volleyball will provide photos pertaining to the history of volleyball and of interest to the projected one million worldwide annual visitors to SmA. Likewise, joint marketing efforts will be undertaken by both partners, and SmA will make an annual donation to support USA Volleyball.

About the Sports Museum of America:
The Sports Museum of America (SmA) is the nation's first and only all-sports experience richly showcasing the history, grandeur and significance of sports in American culture. Created in exclusive partnership with over 50 single-sport Halls of Fame, National Governing Bodies and other sports organizations across North America, SmA features amazing state-of-the-art interactive technologies, dramatic original films and an iconic collection of sports memorabilia. SmA will also be home to the legendary Heisman Trophy (and annual televised presentation) and the Billie Jean King International Women's Sports Center, inclusive of the first hall of fame devoted exclusively to female athletes and coaches. Located in New York City at 26 Broadway (next to the "Charging Bull" and footsteps from the Statue of Liberty Ferry), the Sports Museum of America will open in May 2008.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Olympic-level swimmers get ready for Missouri Grand Prix

Twenty Olympians, including eight-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps (Baltimore, Md.) and four-time Olympian Dara Torres (Parkland, Fla.), are expected to compete at the Missouri Grand Prix, Feb. 15-18 at the Mizzou Aquatic Center in Columbia, Mo. The third stop in the 2007-2008 Toyota Grand Prix Series marks the first long course competition of 2008 for many of the top swimmers in the United States.

Ryan Lochte (Daytona Beach, Fla.) and the Texas trio of Aaron Peirsol (Irvine, Calif. / Longhorn), Brendan Hansen (Havertown, Pa. / Longhorn) and Ian Crocker (Portland, Maine /Longhorn), will also swim in Columbia. Lochte, Peirsol, Hansen and Crocker all hold individual world records in their specialty events. Rounding out the men’s field are Olympians Erik Vendt, Peter Vanderkaay, Mark Gangloff, Neil Walker, and Scott Usher, as well as 2008 Olympic hopefuls Davis Tarwater, Eric Shanteau, Jayme Cramer and Nick Brunelli.

In addition to Torres, five-time Olympic medalist Natalie Coughlin (Vallejo, Calif.), and world-record holders Katie Hoff (Towson, Md.) and Kate Ziegler (Great Falls, Va.) will headline the women’s field. Adding to the stacked women’s field in Missouri are Olympians Amanda Beard, Kaitlin Sandeno, Tara Kirk, Rachel Komisarz, Kara Lynn Joyce, Margaret Hoelzer and Carly Piper, and National Team members Kim Vandenberg, Mary Descenza, and Leila Vaziri.

Descenza (Naperville, Ill.) leads the overall medal count of the 2007-2008 Toyota Grand Prix Series (five gold, five silver, one bronze). The top scoring swimmer at the culmination of the eight-meet Toyota Grand Prix Series will be awarded $20,000, courtesy of Toyota and USA Swimming. A leaderboard can be found online at