I’ve added a link to BusinessWeek’s Asia section on the Sports Business page of the CSB. More and more over the last seven months of writing the blog, it’s become apparent to me that sport in China is a huge business and media story as much as it’s a story about the score, the games, the championships, and the people playing the games. The subjects are beginning to intertwine so much that I recommend anyone who wants to understand the sports world in China make a point of reading about Asian business on a regular basis.
Track and field world is reeling over Gatlin (The New York Times)
Johnson scoffs at Gatlin set-up claim (Sportal.com.au)
Testosterone in Landis’ body said not to be natural (The New York Times)
The testers can’t win (Guardian Unlimited – this is a great piece that includes some of the history of doping in the 1960′s)
It’s almost too difficult to write about – the news of Justin Gatlin’s positive doping test for “testosterone or its precursors,” the links to BALCO-tainted coach Trevor Graham, the fact that the USATF’s poster boy for clean living has failed a drug test. Like Floyd Landis, Gatlin has already been tried and convicted in the press – but there’s a flip side to that tendency, since we’ve been lied to in the past. Really lied to. Lied to with a straight face. Lied to with the athlete’s devastated parents sitting right there. Remember the Kelli White “I have narcolepsy and it’s none of your business” whoppers? Not to mention the Barry Bonds whoppers, and the Ben Johnson “I’ll pay back whoever did this to me” whoppers (like Gatlin now, Johnson’s first defense in Seoul in 1988 was that somebody had set him up).
So we have both reason and sad precedent to doubt every word that comes out of an athlete’s mouth at a time like this.
Bill Moyers, one of my personal heroes in journalism, has said that all journalism is investigative – everything else is just public relations. At the Play the Game conference on good governance in sport, held in Copenhagen, Denmark last November, it was amazingly refreshing to meet European sports journalists like Andrew Jennings, who actually take this idea to heart. In the United States, we still seem to want our heroes too much to ask the hard questions. “I’m the king of the sprints!” Gatlin crowed to the press corps after winning one of his two indivudual gold medals at the 2005 world track and field championships in Helsinki. Not one American journalist in the mixed zone that night asked Gatlin about his association with Trevor Graham. I know…it was done at nationals, how many times can you ask somebody the same question, blah blah blah. Bottom line: I do not believe the American press corps has pushed hard enough to investigate the issue of doping in track and field. Especially at the major championships, especially when an athlete with a tainted coach has just won two world gold medals – that is the time to be asking the hard questions.
The best and most insightful of the Gatlin news clips from the last few days follow below.
Record holder in 100 meters failed a drug test (The New York Times – note that this link will be available free for a week, then becomes part of TimesSelect)
Sprinter Gatlin fails doping test (Los Angeles Times)
Innocence is lost in Gatlin’s positive test (Los Angeles Times – Helene Elliott)
Sprinter’s test deepens doping crisis (Guardian Unlimited, UK)
Poison corrupting U.S. sport (Fox Sports, Australia)
It’s positively mind boggling (Chicago Tribune – Philip Hersh)
Focus turns to coaches (Times Online,UK)
Americans continue to lead the world in mysteriously tainted urine (Deadspin)
Gatlin nailed for doping – Coach, letter link athlete to BALCO (San Francisco Chronicle)
IAAF urges governments to destroy criminal elements (Reuters)
It’s a big news day, both in China and internationally, on the topic of athletes as role models.
In China, table tennis star Kong Linghui was cited for drunk driving. His image rehabilitation is coming courtesy of some very Chinese-style methods: a “self-criticism” that he is expected to offer to his teammates and coaches (essentially, an acknowledgment of wrongdoing), and a renewed examination of team policies that reportedly now includes bans on both drinking alcohol, and driving (with or without alcohol, evidently) during team training.
China team ban driving after Kong scandal (Guardian Unlimited, UK)
Contrast that with Tour de France champion Floyd Landis of the United States, who reportedly failed a drug test after the 17th stage of the tour – the day he took a miracle ride from the back of the pack to return to contention for the overall title. He says he’s innocent (the failed test involves the controversial testosterone/epitestosterone ratio test, which should be around 1:1 for us mere mortals but has a much higher threshold for elite athletes). The “B” urine sample is in the process of being tested, so we’re waiting for more news before commenting further.
Food for thought: why is it that athletes so often plead innocence when presented with positive drug tests, when it’s blatantly obvious that the mixture of untold riches and fame, and the sometimes astonishingly negligent governing bodies overseeing certain sports, leads many athletes to take drugs to increase their chances of success? The double standards are overwhelming here. Do anything you can to win…just don’t get caught. And if you get caught, deny, deny, deny.
Kelli White and Jason Giambi are two athletes who have my respect, because when they were presented with evidence of their drug use, they admitted it. (Admittedly, it took White some time to do the right thing – she started out by presenting a convoluted story of narcolepsy and a family doctor prescribing modafinil on an “as-needed basis,” then let go of the story when the BALCO investigators confronted her with her drug records months later. But she did finally do the right thing – something that no other track and field athlete ensnared in the BALCO scandal has seen fit to do.)
Not only that, but White and Giambi have made good. They pledged to be better people on and off the playing field. White gives speeches about the dangers of drug use in sports. Giambi appears to be trying his hardest to have a decent baseball career.
More food for thought: Brian Alexander writes for Slate.com about why drug testing doesn’t work. He previously wrote a long feature for Outside magazine about drug testing. I’ve included both links below.
Phonak: Landis had positive test after Stage 17 (ESPN.com) – includes video clips to recent ESPN reports on the Landis case
Floyd Landis’ positive test shows why drug testing will never work (Slate.com)
The awful truth about drugs in sport (Outside Magazine, July 2005)
Titan Sports is China’s pre-eminent sports newspaper. In Beijing it’s available at every newsstand, and of course it’s been full of headlines about Liu Xiang’s world record and his return to Beijing late last week. The sports headlines over the last few days have been too numerous to count – below, a smattering of the best and most timely pieces I’ve seen since the end of last week.
People’s Daily Online: China cheers Liu Xiang as Superman returns
IAAF.org: Day 3 update from the Asian junior track and field championships – the world championships will be held in Beijing next month. Other news ahead of the worlds – Omar prepping for Beijing (Saipan Tribune); Jamaicans celebrate with junior CAC triumph (Jamaica Observer)
BBC.com: Scoring on China’s sports fields – sports marketing in China
ABC News (USA): U.S. ousts China in World Cup of Softball
The Standard (Hong Kong): Dirty Politics on Two Legs – a commentary on sports and corruption in China and abroad
Pacific Epoch: CityTV tackles Olympic media center
The Observer (London): Broadcasters at war over “mad” Olympic start times
Track and field: More on the Hershey’s Track and Field Classic (U.S. vs. China)(Philadelphia Daily News); The Official Press Release for the Event (Yahoo Finance)
The Olympic Scheduling Controversy: Lenton slams NBC TV’s Olympic Swim Campaign and Time Switch May Be A Plus: Talbot (The Age, Australia)
The BOCOG Official-Sacking Controversy: Beijing Corruption Case Signals Political Battle (Reuters India)
Tennis: China Pleased About Wimbledon Seeding for Li (CRIEnglish.com) Editor’s note: This is a big deal. With her 28th-place seeding at Wimbledon, Li Na becomes China’s first seeded player in a Grand Slam singles championsip.
Rugby: Leicester helps build Chinese dynasty and Johnson and Underwood Lead Leicester’s Chinese Takeaway (Times Online, UK); British rugby stars impart skills to Chinese kids (ZeeNews.com)
Winter Asian Games: UAE for Asian Games ice hockey (Gulfnews.com) Editor’s Note: The Winter Asian Games will be held in Changchun, China from January 28-February 4.
Sports diplomacy: Cuban Sport Leader Visits China (Escambray, Cuba)
More on 2008: China prepares Olympic menu with Chinese characteristics (People’s Daily Online)
One of the ugly underbellies of world-class sport is the proliferation of the sex trade when big events come to town. The concern about forced prostitution during the World Cup isn’t a new topic, but the China Daily is running an AP story about it today, which I felt merited its inclusion at the China Sports Blog. The number of people trafficked for others’ profit around the world is staggering. Here’s hoping that the journalists covering the World Cup keep a close eye on this issue and report it to the moon. Is sports journalism the toy department of the newspaper? Not when it can do good – and this is one time when it surely could, if the credentialed media is brave enough to do it.
Doping stories are sure to take center stage this summer as the big endurance and strength sports start their 2006 outdoor seasons. The San Jose Mercury News has just published an excellent piece on the realities of doping in track and field. Though this article isn’t specifically China-related, it’s a must-read for those tracking doping issues ahead of the 2008 Olympics. For the record, the Chinese Olympic Committee has come out very strongly against doping and the Chinese Olympic Committee Anti-Doping Commission has both Chinese and English-language websites devoted to providing the public with information about the nation’s anti-doping efforts.
For more information about China’s anti-doping efforts, check out “China’s anti-doping quality control system wins international certification” on the Beijing 2008 website.
In the news today:
Tennis: Li Naâ€™s run in the German Open came to an end in the semifinals. She was defeated by Nadia Petrova 6-1, 6-0 in her first major tournament semifinal. Petrova went on to defeat Justine Henin-Hardenne in the final, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5. In the Prague Open, Chinaâ€™s Peng Shuai was outlasted in the semifinals by Samantha Stosur of Australia, 6-1, 6-3. Thereâ€™s a full tennis report on the weekendâ€™s tournaments at the Concord (New Hampshire, USA) Monitor Online.
Beijing 2008: The Scotsman is running an article today about the challenges Beijing faces in hosting the 2008 Olympics. Itâ€™s mostly old news â€“ concerns about the climate, air quality, security, and doping scandals abound â€“ but includes an interesting analysis of the British cycling teamâ€™s program for acclimating its athletes in China prior to the games. Their eventual training destination? Macau, the former Portuguese colony located an hour from Hong Kong by hydrofoil.
Sports Marketing/Motorcyle Racing: Despite many sunny predictions, sports marketing in China isnâ€™t always a slam-dunk. An article in the English-language Shanghai Daily talks about the difficulties faced by the Chinese promoters of the MotoGP Chinese Grand Prix motorcycle race, which took place on Sunday, May 14. Reuters UK has the results of the event, won by Spainâ€™s Dani Pedrosa.
Weightlifting: China placed second at the World Disabled Weightlifting Championships in Busan, South Korea. Scroll down a bit at the IRNA (Iran) Sports News Digest website for the details.
It’s Sunday, not a normal publishing day for the China Sports Blog, but after being away for May Day I wanted to get caught up with a few news links.
Tennis: Li Na has qualified for the semifinals of the German Open. According to the New York Times, this is the first time Li has qualified for the semifinals of a major tournament. She will play Nadia Petrova in the semis.
Boxing: Cuba is competing against China this week in Havana, and so far, the Cubans are doing very well. Prensa Latina has a full report.
Volleyball: Scroll down a bit on this page at the Winnepeg Sun for a short news item on China’s men’s volleyball team – they’re playing Canada in an exhibition match at the University of Manitoba on Monday, May 15. It’s rare to hear news of the men’s team – in China, it’s women’s volleyball that rules the roost. There’s even a cheer in Chinese: “çˆ±æˆ‘ä¸åŽ,çˆ±æˆ‘å¥³æŽ’” (“ai-wo-zhong-hua, ai-wo-nu-pai” – “I love my China, and I love my women’s volleyball team”). The women’s team won the 2004 Olympic gold medal and not surprisingly for a country that loves its Olympic champions, it’s one of the most popular teams in China.
Cricket: Australian cricket star-turned-coach Rob Marsh has some complimentary words for the future of cricket in China in this report from CricInfoAustralia on the Dubai Sports City, where Marsh will direct the ICC Global Cricket Academy. I’ve not yet seen a bit of cricket on the mainland (Hong Kong, of course, is another story), but with so many international sports finding their way to China’s shores, who knows what the future holds? Wickets in Wuhan? Stay tuned.
Track and Field: Olympic 10,000 meter champion Xing Huina will join the field for the women’s 3000-meter race at the adidas Track Classic next Sunday, according to this report from Runner’s Web.
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