From Russian doping to FIFA bribery, 2017 proves dark time

The President of the Russian Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov (C) prepares to start a meeting in Moscow on December 12, 2017 on deciding how to respond to IOC ban on Russia participating in Winter Games. (AFP)
Updated 24 December 2017

From Russian doping to FIFA bribery, 2017 proves dark time

PARIS: Russia being banned from the Winter Olympics stole the headlines but may also have overshadowed an otherwise sorry year for sport in terms of scandals.
It was a particularly damaging year for sporting officials, not least from the world of football and FIFA in particular.
Former Guam football federation president Richard Lai pleaded guilty in April to taking bribes worth almost $1 million while Costa Rican Eduardo Li, Guatemala’s Brayan Jimenez, Venezuela’s Rafael Esquivel and Julio Rocha of Nicaragua all received lifetime bans, with Nigeria’s Amos Adamu handed a two-year ban.
Hector Trujillo of Guatemala, the former general secretary of his country’s football federation, was the first person brought down in the widespread FIFA corruption scandal to be sentenced to jail, given eight months by a judge in New York in October.
Two more, Jose Maria Marin, former head of Brazil’s Football Confederation and Juan Angel Napout, former head of Paraguayan football, were convicted of corruption earlier this month for accepting more than $17 million in bribes between them.
The likes of Michel Platini, the former UEFA president, and Jerome Valcke, the former FIFA general secretary, both failed in their appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to have their FIFA bans overturned while other prominent figures were embroiled in the ever-widening scandal.
Paris Saint-Germain president Nasser Al-Khelaifi was placed under investigation by Swiss prosecutors for allegedly bribing Valcke — a charge he denies.
FIFA decided to bar Russian vice president Vitaly Mutko from its ruling council in March over his involvement in the Russian state-sponsored doping scandal exposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency-sponsored McLaren report.
In June, Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren told German television channel ARD that doping by Russian footballers had been covered up by swapping urine samples.
It was a bad year for Mutko who was also banned from the Games for life by the International Olympic Committee at the same time that Russia were excluded from the Pyeongchang Winter Games next year.
Mutko, though, remains head of the Russia 2018 World Cup organizing committee and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russian athletes can compete as neutrals in South Korea, provided they adhere to strict conditions and have never been convicted of doping.
But the number of Russian athletes banned for doping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics rose to 43 recently, and the country has already lost 13 of the 33 medals they originally won.
Cycling was unable to avoid the negative headlines as Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana winner Chris Froome returned an adverse analytical finding for asthma medication salbutamol.
Froome wasn’t suspended but may yet be if he cannot prove his innocence — his urine sample contained twice the permitted amount of salbutamol.
Coming on the back of the now filed UK Anti-Doping Agency investigation into former Tour winner Bradley Wiggins’s reception of a mystery package at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine race, this has been a damaging year for the credibility of Team Sky — an outfit that has long boasted of its “zero tolerance” policy to doping.
It was the year of the comeback for Maria Sharapova following her doping suspension for using meldonium, but that brought controversy as many of her rivals expressed displeasure.
Canadian Eugenie Bouchard branded her “a cheater” in May and said she should have been banned for life while former world number one Caroline Wozniacki criticized US Open organizers for putting the Russian on a show court.
Back to corruption and Carlos Nuzman resigned as Brazilian Olympic Committee president in October after he was charged over a $2 million vote buying scandal.
Former world athletics chief Lamine Diack and his son Papa Massata were also investigated as authorities in France and Brazil followed the money trail to try to prove Rio had bought votes to win the right to host the 2016 Olympics.
Former world sprint champion and four-time Olympic silver medallist Frankie Fredericks was caught up in the affair and had to resign from posts at both the IOC and IAAF after he received almost $300,000 from Papa Massata Diack.
The two Diacks had already been banned for life by the IAAF in 2016 after accepting bribes to cover up doping by Russian athletes.


Saudi Women’s Football League launched

Updated 11 min 51 sec ago

Saudi Women’s Football League launched

  • The first season of the WFL, a nationwide initiative, will be held in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam
  • League inaugurated by president of Saudi Sports for All Federation

RIYADH/DUBAI: Community sports for female athletes in the Kingdom took another giant step forward after the Saudi Sports for All Federation (SFA) inaugurated on Monday the Women’s Football League (WFL) at a launch event in Riyadh. 

It is the latest initiative led by SFA President Prince Khaled bin Al-Waleed bin Talal to promote grassroots sports activities for budding female and male athletes across Saudi Arabia.

SFA President Prince Khaled bin Al-Waleed bin Talal (L) (AN Photo/Bashir Saleh)

“The development of the WFL came about because we understood there was a need for community-level football for women,” Prince Khaled told Arab News.

“This community league is the first activation of many different community-level sports for women, and it will serve as a great model in terms of league infrastructure and inclusion metrics, contributing to Saudi Vision 2030 and the Quality of Life program.”

Fully funded by the SFA, the WFL is a nationwide community-level league for women aged 17 and above.

In its first season, it will take place in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, with more cities potentially joining in due course. 

With a prize of SR500,000 ($133,285) at stake, the WFL will consist of preliminary rounds taking place across the three cities to establish regional champions.

The winners progress to a knockout competition, the WFL Champions Cup, to determine the national champion, with the date of the final to be announced later in the season. 

Prince Khaled thanked King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sports Authority, for their “boundless support.”

 

 

The WFL “is one more major leap forward for the future of our country, our health, our youth, and our ambitions to see every athlete be recognized and nurtured to their fullest capability,” said Prince Khaled. 

Women’s football is one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, and the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup raised its profile to unprecedented levels, inspiring greater participation across the globe.

Inspiration for female footballers at the grassroots level has come from closer to home, Prince Khaled said.

“I think a big inspiration for young Saudi women to get involved in community-level football is the Saudi Greens Team,” he said, referring to the all-female team established by the SFA.

“The Saudi Greens placed second in the Global Goals World Cup last year, and this was a huge moment for young female athletes in the Kingdom.”

Prince Khaled sees the WFL as a pivotal initiative of the SFA and a major driver behind the realization of the Vision 2030 reform plan, which strives for a healthier and more active society.

SFA Managing Director Shaima Saleh Al-Husseini believes that the WFL will significantly improve the visibility of women in sports and prioritize their fitness, health and wellness.

Some of the women at the launch event. (AN Photo/Bashir Saleh)

“Empowering women comes through positive and proactive programs like the WFL that have been conceptualized to continue to have a lasting impact on health, fitness and wellbeing,” she said.

“The SFA, committed to putting women at the forefront of our mission to grow Saudi Arabia’s healthy and active community, continues to engage public and private sector stakeholders to realize this aim together.”

She said this is a qualitative shift in women’s sports in the Kingdom. Spearheaded by Sara Al-Jawini, the SFA’s director of sports development, the federation “studied all aspects of the new league, conducting continuous workshops to ensure the wider WFL infrastructure and lasting impact metrics,” Al-Husseini added. 

Some of the women at the launch event. (AN Photo/Bashir Saleh)

The SFA has ensured that the football pitches are ready for the start of the WFL in March, with all-female organizational and technical teams in place to manage the various committees working toward delivering the league.

The WFL infrastructure teams will address and complete administrative requirements, refereeing, and technical and medical issues. 

Coaching and refereeing courses are planned to further develop the country’s infrastructure for women in sports.

The SFA’s investment in the WFL includes both women’s coaching and women’s refereeing training to fully flesh out the program’s potential and maintenance. 

At a later stage, the SFA and WFL will be communicating details on additional leagues and football events, as well as festivals targeting girls aged 16 and below.

These competitions, under the banner “Beyond Football,” will focus on building a strong base for future participation at the community level, beginning with girls aged 5.