Seven-Inning Baseball?

Not the first time the topic is approached, and by the same person, because the chairman of the World Confederation of Baseball and Softball, Italian Ricardo Fraccari has been long pleading for changes in the rules so that, baseball especially becomes more attractive in countries where is not practiced regularly, and stays in the official program of the Olympic Games.

After appearing uninterruptedly since Barcelona-1992 until Beijing-2008, this sport will return to the Olympic games of Tokyo-2020, but Fraccari wants it to stay for good. Fraccari has considered vital the introduction of a few changes to do it more attractive and especially, shorter in time-consuming.

He insists, and he is certainly right about it that the dynamics of current times is that the youth worldwide is not willing to spend more than three hours watching a ball game, when at the same time other sports are on.

That is the main reason for which he has promoted changes, and the most polemic and radical is to downsize the baseball to seven innings.

Purists fall off their seats, but the question here is to be or not to be. Do we prefer to respect rules but remain on the sidelines of the Games? Those who wish to be in the Games must adapt, and the most radical measure is in fact the one of reducing innings.

In his condition as member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Fraccari realized that doping cases or the lack of the most upper-class professionals was not a big problem, because that also affects other sports. However, in a board of European majority, from countries that don’t play baseball massively, the time used is a key factor. Also, other sports have made important modifications to their rules, but not baseball, and that is also seen as an expression of willing to adapt.

On the other hand, baseball keeps the same rules of its origins, and the little changes done to shorten the time of the game (base on balls with a pitch, chronometer for pitchers, etc.) have not produced a remarkable change in the duration of matches, as it would certainly do to play only seven innings.

I particularly like baseball as it is, but as I mentioned at the beginning, it’s to adapt or die, and I’d rather like the Olympic tournament to be played to seven innings, before none is played. Boxing has different rules in its Olympic style, soccer has age limit, basketball also modifies its rules regarding professionals, however, they are included in the Olympic Games, and it’s enjoyed with its variants.

Baseball could do it too, and keep these regulations only for the Games and its classificatory tournaments. In the end, statistically most challenges are decided before the eighth inning, although to the eye what’s left are the spectacular plays of the ninth inning, or beyond.

It would be a remarkable change, actually, but less traumatic than the other variants on the table, as to leave the count in two strikes and three balls, or similar proposals.

It’s to be or not to be in the Olympic Games, and I’d rather be, although that’s the price to pay for it.

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Paris and Los Angeles Will Be 2024 and 2028 Olympic Hosts

While hosting the Olympic games are a massive responsibility, the role is one that comes with tremendous honor as well. Which is why residents and city officials in Paris and Los Angeles are both elated by the recent news that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted unanimously to approve a plan awarding the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympic Games to the competing cities.

Although the two cities have been determined, there still remains a few outstanding questions. One major uncertainty is which city will host each year. In order to find a verdict, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, and the IOC have until September 13 to work out a deal. “We welcome the executive board’s decision to recognize two excellent bids from two of the world’s greatest cities,” said LA Mayor Garcetti prior to the vote, in a statement. “We look forward to working together maybe not in competition but collaboration with Paris. LA is ready to throw these Olympics in two months, if we were asked, or two decades if it came to that. LA is ready because the infrastructure, the love and the vision to make sure it’s something that serves this movement and serves the people of our city."

Of course, inviting the world to your city for the Olympics brings a host of opportunities—both in terms of profits as well as rebuilding infrastructure (not only for aesthetics, but to ensure visitors are safe and can quickly move from one location to the next). According to the Council on Foreign Relations, at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, for example, there $2.6 billion in broadcasting revenue from the television right fees. Much like previous hosts, Paris and Los Angelese would have to build new, or update pre-existing infrastructure. Which is preciously what Tokyo is in the midst of doing as they prepare to host the 2020 Olympics. Other cities that were vying for the upcoming games included: Rome, Budapest, and Hamburg.

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World Boxing after Gender Equality

A few days ago, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made public that boxing in the Olympic Games Tokío-2020 will grant 13 medals, just as its two previous editions, but this time only eight for men, and five among women.

After gender equality, boxing joins the rest of summer sports, where the participation of women equals that of men, to eliminate all the differences seen throughout history.

In this regard, the number of women categories will reach five now, although the weights in which they will participate aren’t decided yet, neither those to be eliminated among men.

Personally I support women boxing, but I don’t think the formula to do so is the right one. I find it fairer, and just equitable that instead of reducing the number of categories for men boxers, it decreases the number of boxers by weight.

Therefore allowing all boxers the chance to reach the Olympics. It’s true it’d be more difficult to win a place for the Games, but the opportunity it’s there, while the other way leaves out a large number of good boxers.

IOC’s main concern is to achieve the gender equality without damaging the number of contestants, hence the costs for organizers, but with this second variant which Cuban boxing authorities want to present at the AIBA Congress, and it would improve quality, because in the preliminary rounds many mismatched combats take place.

If this variant does not succeed, which according to experts, women will have two more medals in their goals and men two less. Hence it’s more than necessary to promote the practice of boxing among women worldwide.

What is Cuba doing about it? Well practically nothing, is still being "studied" the participation of women.

On World Records and Doping: Sotomayor and Yipsi have the Floor.

We are witnessing an athletic revolution as a crusade war against doping, especially in the track and field. Some Cuban athletes offer their views on the subject to CubaSi.

On a proposal by the EAA (European Athletics Association), in the voice of its president Norwegian Svein Arne Hansen, it came to light the idea of removing all world records set before 2005. Such initiative has the support of IAAF current president Sebastian Coe.

As soon as the proposal was aired, athletes and federations from all over the world have reacted.

We are talking about doubts in 30 out of the 43 European records…

If such a thing was not enough, 111 new cases have tested positive in the reanalysis carried out to the samples of Beijing 2008 and London 2012, according to the latest data released by the IOC last April 24th.

Regarding this tsunami associated to doping and doubtful records, which is disapproved by many of the current protagonists, the Cuban Olympic Committee took a stand. Cuba has two world record holders before that date, high jumper Javier Sotomayor 2.43m (indoor in 1998) and 2.45m (outdoor in 1993), and javelin thrower Osleidys Menendez (71.54m in 2001 and 71.74m in 2005).

“Scientific arguments should be given to approve a decision of this kind. It will be only fair if we prove it scientifically. Removing records because you have doubts is nonsense. Those world-record holders are not guilty that samples —at that time— could not be preserved to present times to be tested again”.

Even though the intention is to eradicate any suspicions triggered by the magnitude of certain times and marks, as well as the shameful episodes experienced in the sports, nothing would justify this crusade with no arguments.

We back, of course, any step taken with the help of the available scientific upgrade. We also support all the preventive actions, which seem to be not enough amidst ills such as excessive commercialization, talent drain, nationalization for convenience, and other evils that foster the premise of winning at all costs…” the Cuban Olympic Committee subscribed in an official statement.

VOICES FIRST HAND

Javier Sotomayor, world-record holder in high jump and one of the possible athletes affected if the IAAF congress passes the proposal put forth by Europe, commented to CubaSi:

“I believe excessive the proposal of the European Association. With no scientific basis, a series of records cannot be jeopardized. In my personal view, if my record were to be removed from the IAAF books, I would feel world-record holder as before until someone jumps up to the 2.46m.

It certainly generates uncertainty. Some of us feel awkward, questioned with this situation. The goal is to put into question the results of several athletes. So many years of efforts, sacrifices, jumps, and hard training cannot be jettisoned. I am against condemning to oblivion relevant figures who have given prestige to track and field throughout the years. I am not opposed to the right fight against doping. It is a scourge and any action to reverse it is laudable. However, as there is no scientific evidence, it seems something hasty to me”.

Yipsi Moreno, former hammer thrower who was among the elite of her discipline for three Olympic cycles, was one of those sports athletes who benefitted with the gold medal in Beijing 2008, after Belarus Aksana Miankona tested positive in a reanalysis. The truth is that Yipsi is well-involved in Cuban athletics and she agreed to air her opinion in the Barrientos Memorial.

“I do not agree with this project. I believe that records of such magnitude, if not proven fraudulent, we would be depriving those stars of shine and validity. If you set a record and everyone can break it later…where is the exceptional nature of the record, then?”

Can you picture in your mind that what Usain Bolt does can be done by anyone? Much has been said about the possibility he has been under the effects of doping. In fact, if the samples are tested in a period of ten years, and you do not detect it, you can break the history, his image, and stop motivations and aspirations of many.

How did Yipsi coexist with the doping phenomena? What made you exceptional without using any drugs?

Despite consuming those drugs, athletes have their raw talent. There have been cases of drugged athletes who have maintained their levels of mediocrity. I bet to my star, my sacrifice, and raw talent. I am happy to have won some medals and being in the elite of my sports discipline without cheating.

I would penalize those cheaters in sports with sanctions ranging from 4 years to a lifetime ban. The best example is Russian Tatyana Lysenko, twice exposed.

Cuban athletics have always been in a very good position regarding doping. How would Yipsi assess the past and present times?

“It affected you in the past. But it is not the end of the world. Now and then, there is lack of control, discipline. It is true there are drugs harder to find than others. But in the end, this phenomenon of cheating benefits one, two…perhaps many. But cheaters will be always caught”.

THE HURRICANE EYE

A truly Pandora’s Box, the so-called King of sports is the second with more positive alerts reported after weightlifting. 48 athletes have been caught thanks to these reanalysis. Russia is drawing the attention. Banned since 2015 by the IAAF, the doping issue goes beyond that country. We let you analyze and see the proposal that is being discussed these days as well as its possible implications.

In January, the Executive Committee of the European Athletics Association (EAA) named a special team to reanalyze European records. The IAAF joined the project. After four months of work, such group has proposed four criteria of record recognition from now on:

1) The performance is achieved at competitions on a list of approved international events where the highest standards of officiating and technical equipment can be guaranteed,

2) The athlete has been subject to an agreed number of doping control tests in the months leading up to the performance and

3) The doping control sample taken after the record is stored and available for re-testing for 10 years.

Translated by Sergio A. Paneque Diaz / CubaSi Translation Staff

Paralympic Champion Omara Durand Receives Samaranch Award

Cuban World champion Omara Durand received today the Juan Antonio Samaranch Award of Athletic Excellency for her results in competitions for disabled athletes during 2016.

Durand, who received the prize from the president of the Cuban Institute of Sport, Carlos Becali, and his deputy Roberto León Richard, told Prensa Latina how proud she is of having this important laureate in her record.

'I am very happy to have made it here,' confirmed the runner-up in the sport class T12, a category for deep visual weaknesses.

She also commented that 2016 was full of important results with 'several world records in the three events in which I participate and three gold medals in the Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games, in addition to being nominated again to the Laureus Awards.'

The Caribbean racer won the titles in 100, 200 and 400 meters in Rio games, with world records included in the hectometer, with 11.40 seconds, and the 400m (51.77), in addition to another Paralympic award in the 200m (23.05).

With these results, the Cuban athlete collected five gold medals in this type of competitions added to the two medals achieved in class T13 of the London-2012 event.

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Jamaican Sprinter Usain Bolt Cleared of 'False' Doping Reports

The global Olympic authority re-tested samples from the 2008 games and found that Jamaican athlete did not "abuse" clenbuterol.

The International Olympic Committee said it had not detected any significant abuse of clenbuterol after finding "very low levels" of the banned substance during retesting of samples from the Beijing Olympics, as Jamaican officials slammed the reports of abuse as “outright false.”

RELATED: Bolt Makes Olympic History

The International Olympic Committee's comments Monday came one day after German broadcaster ARD reported that traces of the banned substance were found in samples provided by members of the Jamaican sprint team at the Games in 2008.

Jamaica won 10 medals in the sprint events led by Usain Bolt, who took gold in the men's 100 and 200 meters.

In a statement, the IOC said that "very low levels of clenbuterol" were found in the cases of athletes from a number of countries and different sports. It said the athletes were innocent and could not give any more details.

Without mentioning Jamaica or the ARD allegations, the IOC said that all values were "in the range of potential meat contamination cases". It said it "carefully deliberated" whether or not to proceed with the cases and consulted the World Anti-Doping Agency, WADA.

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According to the IOC, WADA said it could not find "any significant and consistent pattern of abuse of clenbuterol in these cases and that it would be appropriate not to take these cases any further."

Jamaican officials said they hoped the IOC and WADA would set the record straight with regard to the ARD report. "I think some of the innuendoes and assertions have been unfortunate, if not outright false, and hopefully these will be corrected by the IOC and WADA in due course,” Jamaica Olympic Association president Mike Fennell told Reuters.

“It is clear that there are many people in the world that want to get at Jamaica because some of them feel that we have been far too successful and we do not deserve to be successful," Fennell added.

RELATED: Russia Doping Allegations Politicize Olympic Games

"They cannot believe that this little country can produce so many superstars and they are trying to find some way to damage that. Our athletes are clean and we respect the anti-doping rules."

Warren Blake, president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, also questioned if the report was aimed "at trying to destroy Jamaica's good name."

The IOC stores samples for a decade to test with newer methods or for new substances. It ordered re-tests of samples from Beijing in the run-up to last year's Rio Olympics to try and root out drug cheats.

Clenbuterol is a performance-enhancing substance sometimes found in weight-loss pills and is on the WADA banned list.

Jamaica were stripped of the Beijing 4x100 meters gold medal in January when Nesta Carter was found in retests of his sample to have taken the banned stimulant methylhexaneamine. The whole relay team lost their medals as a result, including Bolt.

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IOC Approves Facilities for Olympic Games in 2020

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has approved the facilities, for Tokyo 2020, that will host the five new sports recently incorporated into the Olympic Games.

The new sports are, men's baseball, women's softball, karate (both sexes), skateboarding, surfing and climbing.

Baseball and softball will be held in the Yokohama Stadium, built in 1978. The possibility of first round matches taking place in Fukushima (devastated on March 11th, 2011 by a nuclear accident) is still under analysis.

The karate competition will be held in the Nippon Budokan in the Japanese capital, while temporary structures in the Aomi Urban Sports Complex in the city will be installed for skateboarding and rock climbing.

Surfing will be held on the natural waves off Kujukuri Beach, Chiba Prefecture, a hundred kilometers east of Tokyo.

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On Athletics: Usain Bolt documentary doesn’t go where it should

The plan was to be in London this weekend for the world premiere of I am Bolt and instead that changed to appearing on the Friday lunchtime radio show at Blackrock College. These events may not be as disconnected as they appear. Now read on. 

The invitation to attend the premiere came a few weeks back, and it looked promising. I am Bolt has been in production for over a year and essentially follows Usain Bolt as he prepares to defend his three Olympic sprint titles in Rio – which of course he did. 

It’s shot documentary style and judging by the trailer features several hero-worship contributions (from Serena Williams to Pele) and lots of goofing around with his mates and his coach Glen Mills.

“I really enjoy training,” says Bolt, collapsing on the track. “Ah, let me take that back.” 

Except all is not what it seems. According to Geoffrey Macnab of the London Independent, “there is a dispiriting sense here that the filmmakers don’t have full control of their own movie”.

Certain subjects, he writes, are skirted over (and he’s not just talking about Bolt’s love interests): “There are managers and agents helping call the shots. The directors only refer very fleetingly to the drugs scandals that continue to dog the sport . . . Nor do they look in any depth at the Jamaican sprinting programme from which Bolt emerged.”

Anyway, this may not be the exact reason why my invitation to the premiere was withdrawn. Although not long after it arrived, it was sent back with a note from Bolt’s agent, Ricky Simms, which said: “No need to ask (me) to attend or to write anything positive about our athletes as we already know his opinion and prefer not to read it.” 

Athletics agency

This wasn’t entirely surprising – even though I’ve known Simms since his club running days back in Donegal, before he moved to London and took over the ropes at PACE Sports Management, the athletics agency business first set up the late Kim McDonald.  

By “our athletes” he clearly meant Mo Farah, who Simms also represents. Because his note contained several links to articles that raised some of the concerns about Farah’s performances in Rio (such as this one: http://www.irishtimes.com/sport/other-sports/farah-runs-into-history-books-but-can-t-outsprint-suspicion-1.2756192

As noted at the time, the problem for Farah is twofold: he continues to produce unbreakable displays of championship distance running, winning his fourth Olympic gold in Rio, only the second ever 5,000m-10,000m double-double after Finland’s Lasse Viren.

At the same time he continues to associate himself with distance running coaches of some disrepute, not just the American Alberto Salazar, who single-handedly transformed Farah from mostly also-ran to mostly invincible, but also Jama Aden, the Somalian-born, Ethiopian-based coach who was arrested by Spanish police in June for possessing an array of performance enhancing drugs. 

Simms, it seems, would rather these concerns be ignored, or at least not written about. Farah, by the way, also has a new documentary coming out, No Easy Mile, available on DVD and Digital Download from December 5th.

“Good is not enough to win the gold medal, you’ve got be to excellent,” Farah says in the trailer, which also features some hero-worship from Usain Bolt.

The Aden association will most likely be ignored. This after all is the same athlete who three years ago released his autobiography, Twin Ambitions, without a single mention of doping in athletics.

Bolt, critically, has never associated himself with anyone of disrepute in doping terms, and yet at the same time concerns remain about Jamaica’s anti-doping record, particularly the gaping absence of out-of-competition testing in the five months prior to the London Olympics, which resulted in the resignation of their anti-doping chief. 

Tested positive

Jamaican sprinters won eight of the 12 individual sprint medals available in London, and the following year, five of their top sprinters tested positive. Bolt is also in danger of losing the gold medal he won with in the 4x100m relay team in Beijing in 2008, after the retesting of samples, carried out by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), found that one member of that team, Nesta Carter, should have been originally expelled after testing positive for the banned stimulant methylhexanamine.

This IOC re-testing is ongoing, and on Monday revealed that another six weightlifters will be stripped of medals won at London 2012 due to retrospective failures. As things stand, Poland’s Tomasz Zielinski, who originally finished ninth in the men’s 94kg, is now promoted to bronze, and must now fancy his chances silver if not gold.

There was also the Wada report, last month, which recognised “serious failings” in the drug testing in Rio, with 50 per cent of target testing aborted on some days, while of the 450 planned Athlete Biological Passport blood tests, only 47 were carried out. 

Still, some of us in this business are expected to sit back and watch I am Bolt and No Easy Mile and not wonder or question if all is really as it seems – or at least offer some opinion. 

The students at Blackrock College radio, thankfully, aren’t open to such tomfoolery. Their show goes out for one week, every year, on 97.3FM, and Friday’s lunchtime sports slot was dedicated to the Rio Olympics.

Co-presenters Ed Brennan and Mark Murphy were open to lots of hard questions: Have the Olympics lost all morals? Should we narrow the focus of our sports to win medals? And what on earth is golf doing in there? 

Despite this, and all the other negativity that surrounded Rio, they still believed in the credibility of the Olympics, and that by confronting the issues, rather than ignoring them, there was enough reason to be optimistic about their future, at least for Tokyo 2020.

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