WADA issue statement to ‘clarify facts’ of the UCI decision

Last week Sports Shorts considered the UCI decision to close the investigation against four time Tour de France winner Chris Froome. In the wake of that decision, criticism of Froome and the decision was still present with the Team Sky rider being booed at the team presentation. Froome ultimately did not get off to the best start at the competition crashing into Richie Porte on the first day.

It appears that suspicions remain in relation to the events that have led to the case being dropped, which can only have be compounded by the closed door process that led to that decision. In the light of this, WADA decided to publish a statement last night on 11 July 2018 to “clarify elements that have been subject to much speculation and misinformation.”

The WADA statement was split into two sections, section one being “The substance, the test and the science” and section two “The process”. The key elements of the statement are summarised below.

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All bets are off, as Italian Ministers are accused of gambling away the future financial security of Serie A?

Italy’s Council of Ministers has approved a blanket ban on gambling advertising in the country, which will take effect on 1 January 2019. The Council of Ministers has the power to pass decrees with legal force in cases where Parliament has expressly delegated legislative authority to the Council. In recent years, there has been a shift in legislative power from the hands of Italy’s parliament to the council.  This means that the ban, as it stands, will come into effect as law in the New Year.

It was reported only a few months ago that “Italian betting is finally moving forward” and “stakeholders currently await with optimism”. However, this blanket ban has shattered these expectations, imposing a complete ban on gambling-related sponsorships.

The decree’s explanatory report reads:

“any form [of gambling advertising] even indirect … is prohibited; however carried out and on any means, including sporting, cultural or artistic events, television or radio broadcasts, daily and periodical press, general publications, billboards and internet”.

The report adds that the ban “also applies to sponsorship”. The ban prohibits all promotional activity of gambling in Italy and so prevents clubs from displaying any marks or branding from the gambling sector.

The legislation aims to fight gambling addiction by banning betting advertisements across all media platforms, including television, websites, radios and the sponsorship of sports clubs. The government hopes that banning advertising in this way will reduce the number of vulnerable members of society from engaging in gambling.

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Chris Froome Cleared to Compete in the Tour

On 2 July, the Union Cycliste International (UCI) announced that the anti-doping investigation against four time Tour de France winner Chris Froome had been closed, clearing him to compete in this year’s edition of ‘Le Tour’.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), followed this announcement with its own, indicating that it would not appeal the decision of the UCI. This decision comes just in time for Froome to compete in the Tour, which starts on Saturday.

In an interview published yesterday, David Lappartient commented on the fact that he had previously thought that the decision would not come before the start of the Tour de France, however the UCI received all of the documents necessary to clear the Team Sky cyclist for the competition:

“We received the final explanation from Mr Christopher Froome on the 4th of June and in line with this we received the  statement from the WADA on 28th June, so we have then all the elements to close the case.“

What were the accusations?

On 7 September 2017, following Stage 18 of the Vuelta a España, Froome was subject to a test which showed salbutamol levels in his system over and above the 1,000-nanogram per millimetre limit. Under article 2.1 of the UCI UCI Cycling Regulations (the Regulations) the presence of a prohibited substance in a rider’s sample is an anti-doping rule violation (ADRV).

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How Not To Celebrate a Goal at the World Cup

Scoring at a World Cup deserves a celebration and we have been entertained by a range of them throughout the tournament. From Fortnite inspired dances by Lingard and Griezmann to Colombia’s choreographed routine and Batshuayi’s self-inflicting kick in the face.

Yet none of these resulted in the same reaction from FIFA as Xhaka and Shaqiri’s celebrations during Switzerland’s victory against Serbia. After each player scored, they made a gesture known as the ‘double eagle,’ which is a nationalist symbol that represents the eagle on the Albanian flag.

Both players have Albanian heritage. Shaqiri was born in Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. However, Serbia does not recognise Kosovo as an independent state. Xhaka’s father was imprisoned for demonstrating against Serbia’s government in the 1980s and so both had their reasons to celebrate in such a way when scoring against Serbia.

Under Article 54 of FIFA’s Disciplinary Code:

Anyone who provokes the general public during a match will be suspended for two matches and sanctioned with a minimum fine of CHF 5,000.

The FIFA Disciplinary Committee opened proceedings against the duo but soon concluded they had not breached Article 54. Instead, they had infringed the FIFA disciplinary code for unsporting behaviour.

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FA Announce Restructuring of Non-League

With most footballing eyes firmly on the World Cup, and England’s crunch match with Belgium, the Football Association’s League Committee (FALC) has announced a change in the way the National League System (NLS) is going to be structured going forward in order to create a more consistent system across the country that standardises the movement through the English Football Pyramid.

The changes include reducing the number of clubs in some divisions, creating additional divisions at Step 4 and temporarily suspending the play-off system lower down the pyramid.

How is the NLS Structured?

The NLS, sometimes referred to as ‘Non-League’, is the structure of men’s football that sits below the Premier League and the Football League (i.e. the Premier League down to League 2), see the diagram below from the FA:

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How is President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal related to the FIFA World Cup?

I admit I was disappointed picking Iran in the office World Cup sweepstake. I was even more disappointed when I then discovered the national side had not been supplied with their usual Nike football boots shortly before the tournament.

Nike withdrew their supply of boots to Iran due to US sanctions. In May 2018, Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal between Iran and other world powers. When doing so, he re-imposed the economic sanctions that had been waived when the nuclear deal was signed in 2015. Events on the global stage have resulted in Iranian footballers having to find alternatives, using boots they are not used to playing with and causing frustration across social media.

Nike have been quick to point out they are simply complying with legal requirements and a breach of such sanctions would result in significant fines. Yet this does not seem to concern Iranians as #NoToNike has been used across Twitter, and following the team’s 1-0 win against Morocco, a witty ‘We Just Did It, Without You’.

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Ambush Marketing and the 2018 FIFA World Cup

The 2018 FIFA World Cup has now kicked off in Russia after much anticipation. So far, it has not failed to entertain, ensuring a number of dramatic upsets and last minute goals that remind us why it is the most watched and highly anticipated competition in the world.

As such, one can see why it is tempting for brands to piggyback on the global attention and interest of the tournament, deploying marketing initiatives that take advantage of the hysteria surrounding the World Cup.

This is known as ambush marketing – where brands take advantage of the hype of certain events by creating a commercial connection or association with the event despite no official link. FIFA has defined Ambush Marketing as:

any attempts by any entity or individual to gain an unauthorised commercial association with the Competition itself, or to exploit the goodwill and publicity generated by the FIFA World Cup.”

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US Open 2018 – Phil Mickelson takes a 10 but at what cost to the game?

Last night, Brooks Koepka, repeated his 2017 US Open victory by retaining the title over four punishing days at the Shinnecock Hills course in New York after narrowly beating England’s Tommy Fleetwood by a single shot.

The US Open is often billed as the hardest test in golf with organisers renowned for setting their respective courses to be as challenging as possible. Indeed event organisers faced so much criticism for the course setup on Saturday this year that they were forced to apologise given similar events the last time the same course hosted the event in 2004.

However, the state of the course was only one of several controversies from the weekend’s play.

Five time major winner Phil Mickelson also received his fair share of criticism after deliberately hitting his moving ball before carding an unheard of 10 on the par 4, 13th hole during Saturday’s third round.

Mickelson had bogeyed the previous four holes in what was turning into a horror round for the leftie who was looking to complete a career grand slam having been runner-up in the event a record six times.

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World Anti-Doping Code: Not Guerrero’s (World) Cup of Tea

The 2018 FIFA World Cup, which kicked off today in Moscow, will be Paolo Guerrero’s first.

He is the captain of Peru’s football team and it will be the country’s first World Cup in 36 years. Yet for months it was feared that Guerrero would not be able to play due to his 14-month ban for testing positive for the metabolite benzoylecgonine, found in cocaine.

World Anti-Doping Code

Cocaine is included in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) 2017 Prohibited List under the class S6 Substances and it is prohibited in competition, not out of competition. It is a stimulant frequently associated with recreation rather than performance enhancement, and when athletes test positive, their stories typically recount their night out. Sometimes the cocaine enters their system through unexpected circumstances such as a kiss with a stranger who has taken the drug.

Testing positive for cocaine in competition and a resulting breach of the WADC can result in a four-year ban under Article 10.2 of the Code if it can be established that the anti-doping rule violation was intentional. This means the athlete engaged in conduct which he/she “knew constituted an anti-doping rule violation or knew that there was a significant risk that the conduct might constitute or result in an anti-doping rule violation and manifestly disregarded that risk.” If not intentional, the period of ineligibility will be two years under Article 10.2.2.

Yet the period of ineligibility can be eliminated if Article 10.4 of the Code is satisfied, being the athlete establishes “that he or she bears No Fault or Negligence.” This is defined as the athlete “establishing that he or she did not know or suspect, and could not reasonably have known or suspected even with the exercise of utmost caution, that he or she had Used or been administered the Prohibited Substance or Prohibited Method or otherwise violated an anti-doping rule.”

If this is not satisfied, under Article 10.5 the athlete can instead claim a reduction of their period of ineligibility if he or she establishes “No Significant Fault of Negligence”. This is defined as the athlete “establishing that his or her Fault or negligence, when viewed in the totality of the circumstances and taking into account the criteria for No Fault or Negligence, was not significant in relationship to the anti-doping rule violation.”

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Is Scotland better than England at Sport?

A controversial question I know, but let’s looks at the facts:

  1. Cricket – Yesterday, Scotland beat a full strength England side, the number one ranked side in the World, in a One Day International in Edinburgh. The host team scored a record beating 371 runs before dismissing England for 365 with more than an over to spare.
  2. Rugby – In this year’s Six Nations, Scotland comfortably beat England 25-13, to secure a Calcutta Cup triumph and send Eddie Jones’s team into free-fall, a losing run that this weekend extended to 5 matches. In recent years Scotland’s rugby team has enjoyed a significant improvement in the team’s results including victories over Southern Hemisphere opposition and a near miss against the All Blacks, a team Scotland have not yet managed to beat.
  3. Football – The last time Scotland played England at football in a World Cup Qualifier for the 2018 World Cup, Scotland were a kick away from inflicting the only defeat on England during their qualifying campaign. A 93rd minute equaliser from the boot of Harry Kane kept England’s unbeaten record intact.

Add to the above the individual sporting success of the likes of Andy Murray and Sir Chris Hoy and a record medal tally for Scottish athletes at both the Rio Olympics and recent Commonwealth Games, and it is clear that, when it comes to sport, Scotland is enjoying a period of sustained success.

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