Thursday, June 23, 2016

The New Eligibility Rules of the IAAF

Here are the new rules for eligibility introduced last week (from here in PDF):
And here are the new criteria under these rules announced today (from here in PDF):

IAAF and the Risks of a "Strict Liability" Doctrine

Update: The IAAF released its guidelines about the same time I was writing this post. Safe to say that they did not follow the approach suggested below. See my Twitter timeline for my comments and this new post for the details on the new guidelines.

Earlier this week the ad hoc "Olympic Summit" noted that the Russian and Kenyan national anti-doping agencies are "non-compliant" under the WADA Code. Thus:
The sports organisations, in each individual case, based on the reasons for non-compliance, have to decide on the consequences of such declaration. With regard to participation in the Olympic Games, it is up to the IFs only to decide on the technical eligibility of athletes, in particular in relation to doping issues.
There are 20 sports under the National Olympic Committee of Kenya, not all of which participate in the summer games, and the Russian Olympic Committee oversees 34 summer Olympic sports. The IOC has asked each of these individuation national federations to come up with a process for determining eligibility of athletes:
Because of the WADA non-compliance declaration of Kenya and Russia and the related substantial allegations, the Olympic Summit considers the “presumption of innocence” of athletes from these countries being put seriously into question. As a result, every IF should take a decision on the eligibility of such athletes on an individual basis to ensure a level playing field in their sport. In this decision-making process, the absence of a positive national anti-doping test should not be considered sufficient by the IFs. This means that the respective IF should take into account other reliable adequate testing systems in addition to national anti-doping testing. This decision about the “level playing field” in each of their very different Olympic sports, and eligibility, including of their member National Federations, should be taken by each IF taking into account all the specific circumstances in the relevant National Federations, any available evidence, the World Anti-Doping Code and the specific rules of their sport.
This requirement has been widely interpreted to imply a process is needed to identify "clean" athletes. For instance, @Dopinglist writes of the IOC directive:
The statement goes beyond the WADA Code and is open to criticism, as there is no set actual legal criteria for how the various international sports federations to assess whether an athlete meet some not clearly defined anti-doping requirements to 'be clean'. Special federations likely to base decisions about participation on subjective judgments, which may vary from sports federations for sports federations.
How federations are going to certify athletes remains unclear, but the moment of reckoning is coming. Russia has filed a "class action" against the IAAF on behalf of its athletes before the CAS, which will force the issue. Segej Litvinov, Russian champion in the hammer throw, wrote an open letter to Sebastian Coe which likely previews the sorts of arguments that Russia will bring before CAS.

So how should the various national sports federations - and in particular the IAAF - determine who is a "clean" athlete?

My answer: They shouldn't. Instead of trying to make a substantive judgment on individual athletes, they should follow established procedures as far as those procedures allow. Where existing procedures fall short of providing guidance, sports organizations face choices and risks. Let me explain.

The sports world has established a set of procedures for certifying eligibility for participation in international sport under WADA and its Code. Any steps by sports federations to somehow overlay or reinvent this process runs a huge risk before the CAS. As a matter of due process to athletes, it is unfair to create new standards and then apply them de novo to those who have agreed to compete under an entirely different set of rules.

Sports federations should resist any urge to certify athletes as "clean" using any sort of new process. Instead, sports federations might follow a strategy like the following.
  1. Clearly state that eligibility is determined under the WADA Code.
  2. Note that athletes who have followed the procedures of the WADA Code should be judged eligible.
  3. In contrast, note that athletes who have not followed the procedures of the WADA Code should be judged ineligible.
  4. State that athletes who participate under sporting systems that are non-compliant with the WADA Code are ineligible, because they fall under 3.
  5. Acknowledge that may be the case that some athletes in good faith tried to do 2, but actually fall into 3. 
Number 4 means that an athlete under the Russian (or Kenyan) system who may never have broken the rules, would still be banned as a result of being in a corrupt system.  This is where choices and risks come in.

The problem here is that the WADA Code is essentially silent on sanctions on sporting bodies and the implications for individual athletes. Consider by way of contrast, with respect to the presence of banned substances in an athlete's body, there is a doctrine of "strict liability" which does not consider fault or intent in the judgment of a violation. In sanctioning however, an athlete's suspension can be reduced based on considerations of fault.

Questions that may have to be resolved by CAS include:
  • Are athletes "strictly liable" for the actions of their oversight bodies?
  • If no, then what criteria are to be used to (a) assess guilt, and (b) levy sanctions?
It seems logical that IAAF is going to have the greatest chance of excluding most Russian athletes from Rio if it argues a doctrine of "strict liability" for athletes under bodies that are non-compliant with the WADA Code. The implication however is that not only would track and field athletes be prohibited, but athletes across all Russian (and Kenyan) sports who fall under the non-complaint system.

In contrast, for IAAF, the logical downside to arguing "strict liability" is that if CAS disagrees with the application of such a doctrine, then the crack in the door for Russian athletes to get to Rio becomes much wider. It is conceivable under such a circumstance that a full Russian team goes to Rio, with only those individuals who are suspended prohibited from participating.

If IAAF does not argue for "strict liability" or CAS strikes it down, then we would be in jurisprudential no man's land, with an overlay to the WADA Code needing to be invented in a hurry. How such an overlay might be created is unclear, and includes issues such as consistency across sports, respecting CAS precedent for the due process rights of athletes, and implications for future WADA Code revisions.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Russians in Rio: IOC versus IAAF

Above is an image of how things, in principle, are supposed to work for a Russian athlete to get to the 2016 Rio Olympic games. However, as everyone who might be reading this knows, in 2016 things aren't working as they are supposed to. Over the past few days we've heard two different versions of how things are actually going to work in 2016 from IOC and IAAF. This post tries to make a little sense of the differences.

First, here are some statements from Sebatian Coe of the IAAF and Thomas Bach of the IOC from their respective press conferences.  Sebastian Coe stated last week (at 33:27)
"The eligibility of athletes to compete in international competition is entirely a matter for the IAAF ... It is a very clear proposition that the eligibility for athletes to compete internationally sits and lies with the IAAF."
Thomas Bach, earlier today said a few things that gave a different impression.

At 19:42:
"This decision [by IAAF to create a category of "neutral" athletes] applies to IAAF competitions because in IAAF there is no [Russian] national federation, the Russian national federation is suspended, therefore IAAF has chosen this option in order to allow the athletes to compete in their competitions. When  it comes to the Olympic Games all athletes then are part of the team of the Russian Olympic Committee, and this is a different situation"
And at 20:40:
"If there are athletes qualified, then they will compete as members of the Russian Olympic Committee because only a national Olympic committee can enter athletes to the Olympic Games. There are no teams of international federations there and contrary to the national federation of track and field the Russian Olympic committee is not suspended."
So, I have tried in graphical form to characterize the two perspectives. Here is how the IAAF sees things going:
And here is the perspective of the IOC:
The points of contention are over:

a) the criteria to be applied to determining the eligibility of athletes,
b) legitimacy of the notion of "neutral" athlete.

The former is a matter to be adjudicated between individual athletes and the IAAF (and under the decision today by the IOC, athletes from all Olympic sports in Kenya and Russia). The latter, if it is to be adjudicated, would be between IOC and IAAF.

However this situation resolves itself, it would be wise for IAAF and the various other IFs to "pre-arbitrate" their criteria of eligibility with the CAS in order to establish its legitimacy. Otherwise, there will likely be many substantive and procedural challenges.

Comments welcomed ... this is obviously work in progress on a fast moving target!

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Bulgarian Precedent

The title of this post sounds like a John Le Carre novel. I'm sorry to say that there is nothing that exciting here, unless of course you are a sports governance wonk.

Last week the IAAF decided that Russian track and field athletes would not be allowed to participate in Rio (unless they can squeeze through a "crack in the door"). There will be plenty more to say about that, but this post looks at a recent precedent, the decision of the International Weightlifting Federation to ban Bulgarian weightlifters from Rio. I don't think it offers much of a precedent for thinking about IAAF/Russia several reasons discussed below, but the case does raise some interesting questions about whether international federations should be more explicit about quantifying team sanctions based on individual violations.

Last October in Houston, the IWF Executive Board reported this decision (here in PDF):
Rules quoted that MF producing 9+ anti-doping violations can be suspended up to 4 years. Such MF/NOC is not allowed to enter competitors to the next ensuing Olympic Games. In case such MF participates in a competition, no Olympic qualifying points to be scored by that MF.
Bulgaria had produced 9+ anti-doping violations in 1 Calendar year (Olympic
The decision was based on changes that had been made to the IWF Anti-Doping Policy in 2012 (as reported here in PDF). The rules changes allowed the IWF Executive Board to fine and suspend national federations based on the total number of doping positives. The schedule of penalties ias as follows (from the IWF Anti-Doping Policy here in PDF):
1) 3 violations 50,000 USD; In default of payment of the fine the Member Federation will be suspended for 1 year from the date of default.

2) 4 violations 100,000 USD; In default of payment of the fine the Member Federation will be suspended for 1 year from the date of default.

3) 5 violations 150,000 USD; In default of payment of the fine the Member Federation will be suspended for 2 years from the date of default.

4) 6 violations 200,000 USD; In default of payment of the fine the Member Federation will be suspended for 2 years from the date of default.

5) 7 violations 250,000 USD; In default of payment of the fine the Member Federation will be suspended for 3 years from the date of default.

6) 8 violations 300,000 USD; In default of payment of the fine the Member Federation will be suspended for 3 years from the date of default.

7) 9 or more violations 500,000 USD; In default of payment of the fine the Member Federation will be suspended for 4 years from the date of default.

c) or suspend the Member Federation, from participation in any IWF activities for a period for up to four years in case of point 7 above.
The suspension from Rio for Bulgaria occurred because of  (c) immediately above and the fact that Bulgaria had 11 doping violations.

The Bulgarian Weightlifting Federation took the IWF to CAS over the ban (see CAS release here in PDF). The BWF challenged the IWF on procedural grounds, and the appeal was dismissed - reading through the lines here - because the IWF has a clear statement of regulations in its anti-doping policy quantifying sanctions according to violations.

The situation with Russia and IAAF is far less straightforward, as the IAAF is operating without such clear regulations. The BWF suspension thus offers little in the way of useful precedent, other than to indicate that if Russia goes to CAS, we may have some new case law that emerges.

More generally, however, the IWF policy of associating sanctions according to the number of violations of a particular member offers a useful option for discussion related to other sports. Should the IAAF adopt a similar schedule of sanctions according to the number of violations of a particular member?

According to WADA for 2014 (the most recent year for which data has been released, here in PDF) here is the league table for Anti-Doping Rule Violations in track and field:

1. Russia (39)
2. India (29)
3. Italy (15)
4. France (14)
5. China (13)
6. Kenya, Brazil (12)
8. Sweden (11)

Where might a line be drawn for sanctions against national track and field federations? Should such a line be drawn? Might countries take anti-doping more seriously if penalties were not just levyed on individuals?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Some Nuggets from the November, 2015 WADA Foundation Board Meeting

In principle, the WADA Foundation Board is the body responsible for holding WADA accountable. Comprised of representatives from governments and sports bodies, the Board meets twice a year. Here are some excerpts from the most recently available minutes, published last month for the Board's November, 2015 meeting (here in PDF). There are some interesting nuggets in there.

Dick Pound on the work of the Independent Commission that he chair to look into claims made by the ARD documentary:
It was safe to say that the report was a turning point for WADA. It was the first time WADA had ever acted in that manner, and the first time there had been hard evidence of complicit behaviour that was contrary to the Code and standards.
Thanks to the NY Times yesterday, we know Pound's claim that this was the first time that "hard evidence" was available is incorrect. Here is how that article begins:
In December 2012, the World Anti-Doping Agency received an email from an Olympic athlete from Russia. She was asking for help.

The athlete, a discus thrower named Darya Pishchalnikova, had won a silver medal four months earlier at the London Olympics. She said that she had taken banned drugs at the direction of Russian sports and antidoping authorities and that she had information on systematic doping in her country. Please investigate, she implored the agency in the email, which was written in English.

“I want to cooperate with WADA,” the email said.
So was Pound in the dark or misleading the Board?

Speaking for the IOC, Professor Ugur Erdener, Member of the IOC and President, World Archery said of the report:
With respect to the Sochi 2014 laboratory, the IOC noted that the Independent Commission had not called into question the results of the Sochi Olympic Winter Games, which confirmed the report of the WADA Independent Observers relating to the Sochi Olympic Winter Games, as well as the report of the experts appointed by the IOC medical commission. Indeed, during the Sochi Olympic Games, four directors of leading WADA-accredited laboratories had been appointed by the IOC medical commission as experts for all of the operations at the Sochi laboratory. 
Whoops. We also now know, thanks to German paper FAZ, that the Sochi lab was indirectly referred to in the Pound report. Here is the relevant passage:
Edwin Moses, chair of the WADA Education Committee and also Chair of the USADA Board, made an extremely strong statement about the need to severely sanction Russia:
[B]efore there could be any talk of Russia becoming Code-compliant, there had to be a full-scale investigation into doping in every sport named by the whistle-blowers, and he congratulated the Independent Commission on going beyond the scope of the WADA report to insist on a protocol to work with whistle-blowers so that that kind of information could come out and whistle-blowers would be protected. Before any athlete who refused to cooperate with the Independent Commission was allowed to return to competition, they must be required to submit to interviews and undergo a rigorous and lengthy period of robust and independent testing.

Before there was any talk of Russia becoming Code-compliant, there had to be a detailed, well thought-out plan to reform RUSADA and prevent the possibility of future state-sponsored doping. The plan should be effectively implemented. There had to be a period of successful auditing and testing so as to be able to give the world’s athletes a guarantee that an effective and robust antidoping programme was operational in Russia, and that all of Russia’s elite athletes in all sports had been subjected to at least a six- to nine-month period of reliable testing and investigation. As for the sport of athletics, in which widespread and systematic doping had already been found, censure was not enough. The claim that RUSADA was non-compliant was merely words on paper. The only sanction that would send out the message that enough was enough and that WADA cared about that generation and future generations of athletes was to state loudly and clearly that the Russian athletics team could not go to Rio. 
Pound on scope of the doping problem:
[T]he Independent Commission had made it very clear that it did not think Russia was the only country with a problem and it did not think that athletics was the only sport with a problem.  
Pound on whistleblowers:
[W]hen it came to the whistle-blowers, WADA had not been as good as it should have been. He did not think that the Olympic Movement had not been as good as it should have been. The IFs, NOCs and NADOs had not been welcoming of whistle-blowers; in fact, the whistle-blowers tended to get worse treatment than the perpetrators. 
Beckie Scott, WADA's athlete representative and Canadian athlete, questioning the limited scope of Pound's investigation:
The individual members of the Athlete Committee had been approached by athletes who wondered why only athletics had been targeted as opposed to all sports. The Athlete Committee would like to make a very specific request that WADA expand the mandate of the Independent Commission to include all sports in Russia. It was a pivotal moment for WADA and a chance to really stand behind clean sport and the protection of clean athletes in all sports, not just athletics, and she really hoped that WADA would do the right thing. She felt that there were a lot of athletes watching and waiting, a lot of athletes worldwide in all sports who were really counting on the forces of the anti-doping movement to bring their full strength and resolve to the fight. WADA was at a crossroads, and she urged the members to please consider the athletes and the impact on sport as a whole and as a movement at that meeting as they made their decisions. 
In response to Scott, Sir Craig Reedie, President and Chairman of WADA, seems dismissive:
THE CHAIRMAN responded to the very last suggestion made. It would be quite difficult to agree round the table to investigate all sports all round the world. The issue of investigation and the part that that played in WADA’s operations going forward had clearly been made and it was up to WADA to work out its reaction to that and how it could be delivered. All he could do was thank Ms Scott for reinforcing the view expressed round the table, and he asked her to watch that space.
We are watching.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

It's Time for More Questions for and Answers from Sunil Gulati

I want to think Sunil Gulati - the head of US Soccer and a member of FIFA's governing Council (formerly Executive Committee) - is a good guy. I really do. He is an academic, an American and a soccer guy, all things that bias me in his direction. But Gulati has repeatedly said and done things to raise questions about his integrity and loyalties.

The most recent is to be somewhat economical with the truth to a group of reporters about the recent changes to FIFA's governance that eliminated the independence of key officials in FIFA, roles that were once deemed essential to FIFA's governance reform. Gulati's role as FIFA consigliere is not consistent with a commitment to FIFA reform, and FIFA reform is in everybody's interest.

Here are the details.

FIFA's president Gianni Infantino recently had a conflict with Dominico Scala, the chairman of FIFA's Audit and Compliance Committee. Scala was appointed after a set of governance reforms were passed by the FIFA Congress in 2012, in Budapest. These reforms were based on a first set of recommendations proposed by the so-called "independent governance committee" led by Mark Pieth (here in PDF), of which Gulati was a member (prior to being appointed to the FIFA ExCo).

Long story short, those reforms created several "independent committees" described in the FIFA Governance Regulations (here in PDF) as follows:
[T]he independent committees as well as their individual members shall conduct their activities and perform their duties entirely independently but always in the interests of FIFA and in accordance with the Statutes and regulations of FIFA. 
Scala was the chair of the Audit and Compliance Committee, which has a wide ranging mandate and important role in FIFA governance. Arguably, the chair of this committee has institutional authority that exceeds FIFA's president. One of Scala's responsibilities, as described by FIFA's Governance Regulations was the following:
To determine the compensation of the President, the vice-presidents and members of the Council, and the Secretary General;
This is where his dispute with Infantino originated. Don't take my word for it, you can hear it straight from Infantino in the leaked recording of the FIFA Council meeting in which he explained that he found Scala's salary proposal "insulting" and complained about his laundry bill. As a result, Infantino decided that Scala had to go, and Gulati agreed.

In response to this dispute over Infantino's salary, Infantino and the Council devised a mechanism to authorize them to remove Scala from his position in the form of a change to FIFA's Governance Regulations. The change was proposed to the Congress as a dry technical matter and passed with essentially no discussion, debate or apparent understanding by members of the Congress.

Here is how FIFA described the change after its Congress in Mexico last month:
The Congress authorised the Council to appoint office holders for the remaining vacant positions within the judicial bodies, the Audit & Compliance Committee and the Governance Committee until the 67th FIFA Congress, and to dismiss any office holder of these committees until the 67th FIFA Congress.
See what they did there?

They eviscerated the independence provisions of these committees by placing their "independent" members and chairs under the Council. Thus, these members are far from "independent" but rather, they all serve at the pleasure of the Council and Infantino. To call them "independent" is ridiculous.

To be very clear - this important institutional change was the result of Infantino wanting a higher salary, and Scala standing in his way.  Scala resigned in protest, which actually was a huge favor to Infantino and FIFA, saving them the trouble of removing him. But I digress - back to Gulati.

In a media roundtable before the Copa America Centenario Gulati was asked about this episode. Here are his comments in full, courtesy @thegoalkeeper :
Jeff Carlisle: Speaking of Infantino, what did you make of that resolution that was passed in Mexico City that basically stripped the Audit and Compliance Committee of its independence?

Gulati: Well, I don't think it stripped the Audit and Compliance Committee of its independence, first. What it did was give the Council the ability to add or remove people for the next - what is now 11 months.

I don't know if the Council - what used to be the Executive Committee - has ever recommended someone for any of the independent committees that's been turned down by the [FIFA] Congress. The Congress [voting as a whole] isn't coming up with new names for those positions.

We had a situation in the last year where people that got themselves into trouble legally couldn't be removed, except by the Congress itself. So what Congress did is delegate that authority to the FIFA Executive Committee/Council for the next 12 months. It's a temporary measure.

I don't see any chance - and I've seen this written - that the Ethics Commitee chairpersons or members are going to be affected by any of this. Clearly, there was an issue regarding the Audit and Compliance Committee. But in the end, [Audit and Compliance Committee chair] Domenico Scala resigned, so there wasn't any action by the Council.
Gulati is not playing things straight here. The change completely stripped the committee of its independence, and the issue of individuals getting into legal trouble who couldn't be removed is a red herring. The independent chairs were in no such trouble, and even if they were, the Congress had authority to remove them. There was no problem needing this solution - other than Infantino's desire for a higher salary.

One of the reporters in the roundtable saw through this nonsense and returned to the topic. Here is that exchange, with my comments:
Carlisle: Getting back to the [FIFA] Audit and Compliance Committee, you said that people got themselves into trouble and they couldn't be removed, but I guess I'm confused. If the intention of that body is to be independent from the FIFA Council, that just seems like a contradiction to me.

Gulati: So if somebody gets indicted and they're on a FIFA committee and you can't remove them, I think the independence kind of ends at that point.
To be clear, Gulati is talking about provisions that came from recommendations he helped to author as part of FIFA's governance reform process. The reforms have been eliminated with no discussion and no debate. Gulati's redefinition of "independence" is not in line with FIFA's statutes.

Next Gulati muddies the issue by conflating adding members to committees with authorizing the Council to remove them:
Carlisle: You're saying that's all that's -

Gulati: No, no, I'm not saying that all. But right now, you've got a new president [and] you add members. The recommendations of who's on that committee come from the FIFA Council, from the Executive Committee.

So, Domenico Scala, [ethics investigator] Cornel Borbély and Mike Garcia [who investigated FIFA corruption] and all the people that were independent members, those came from either the administration or the Council. These aren't recommended by a U.N. commission, right? They're added and subtracted by [the FIFA] Congress. My comment earlier was, the Council recommended them [and] sometimes the administration.

Straus: You mean the FIFA president, when you say "the administration"?

Gulati: Yeah. Or the General Secretary, but yeah. And the FIFA Congress has approved all of them that have ever been appointed. They haven't said, "Nope, we don't want this one, we're going to add a different one." That's my main point: that the two have been consistent, number one, and two, it's a temporary measure for 11 months.

And I would be very surprised if any of the existing three groups - and now it's more than three, it's multiple committees now at FIFA have independent members. And there's going to be additions to those.

The Governance Committee is a good example. There's only three people on that. There have to be people added over the next 12 months, otherwise you live with three. So except for that 12 months - then the power will go back to the FIFA Congress.
The powers are temporary because the issue was Scala. Once he is gone, then Infantino wouldn't need these powers ... until the next "independent" official gets in his way.

Gulati does hint at the real reason for the changes, but the reporters do not follow up. What is not revealed (until we hear the tapes) is Gulati's central role in ousting Scala and concerns he expressed about the changes to FIFA's governance regulations. Gulati tells the reporters something different than what he said to his FIFA colleagues - being a good company man, I suppose.
Tannenwald: Can I go back to something you said a moment ago, and try to get more of a layman's explanation of it? Which is, "when a person is indicted, they cannot be removed." Indicted, as in, by the U.S. government? Or by -

Gulati: Under the FIFA statutes, the people on some of the committees are approved, and removed, by only the FIFA Congress. So, it's not only about indictment. It could be anything else. If anything happens in the course of a year, you can't remove them, or you can't add someone new until the [next] FIFA Congress.

Tannenwald: Okay. That's what I was trying to parse out.

Gulati: And look. There was obviously some tension between the chairman of the audit and compliance committee and the president. I'm not going to make bones about that. That's absolutely the case. And I think it's pretty clear that they didn't have a working relationship.

McIntyre: Why not?

Gulati: You'd have to ask one of them.

Carlisle: So, fill us in. I know one of the issues was Infantino's compensation. Has that been resolved?

Gulati: Not that I know of.
Serving in FIFA is challenging. I get that. At the same time, Gulati is being paid more than $300,000 by FIFA, which is far in excess of his compensation by US Soccer (reportedly zero). Gulati has an obligation to uphold the interests of US Soccer, and I am pretty sure that gutting FIFA reform so his FIFA boss can get a higher salary is not among those interests.

Gulati is rapidly becoming the Forrest Gump of international soccer. He has been present when many of the various scandals and controversies have occurred - including CONCACAF, Chuck Blazer, FIFA's secret bonus deals, and now Infantino's dirty laundry. Perhaps, like Forrest he is just a simpleton who finds himself at the right place at the wrong time. What I want to believe and what the evidence suggests are not quite the same.

Gulati owes US Soccer some greater transparency in his FIFA work. The US soccer media should ask some more questions, even if they are uncomfortable.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Infantino's Dirty Laundry Tape

Courtesy of Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger here is the full 17+ minute audio recording leaked following last month's FIFA Congress. The audio is all in English and includes Infantino complaining about his salary and laundry expenses.

The only person who comes out sounding reasonable is England's David Gill, who several times expresses that he cannot really believe what is going on. He's got a point.

Have a listen, it is worth it. Here it is as mp3.

Friday, June 10, 2016

How IAAF Will Decide if Russia Goes to Rio

One week from today the 27 people pictured above, the members of the IAAF Council, will meet in Vienna to decide if Russian track and field athletes will be allowed to participate in the Rio Olympics later this summer. This post describes the decision making process under the IAAF Constitution.  

The IAAF Constitution has authority under Article 14.7 to suspend a member or its athletes, specifically:
(a) to suspend a Member from Membership until the next meeting of Congress or for any shorter period;
(g) to exclude a Member’s athletes from any one or more of the types of International Competitions defined in the Rules;
and perhaps most importantly:
(i) to impose any other sanction it may deem to be appropriate.
The Council decisions are made by a "simple majority" which is defined as the most votes, not necessarily an overall majority (which would be 14 if everyone is present and no one abstains).

The Council has very wide latitude for levying a suspension, which is justified based on criteria described under Article 14.8:
(b) in the opinion of the Council, the Member is in breach of the Constitution or any one or more of the Rules (other than the Code of Ethics); or
(c) the conduct of the Member, or the Government of the Country or Territory that the Member represents, breaches, or remains in breach of, the Objects of the IAAF; or
(d) the Council considers that the Member does not fulfil the requirements of eligibility for Membership;
The vote will be preceded by a report from a five-member Taskforce investigating Russia's response to the various claims and recommendations of the recent Pound Reports. Four of the teams members are from the IAAF Council.  They are

Geoff Gardener (Norfolk Islands)
Frank Fredericks (Namibia)
Abby Hoffman (Canada)
Anna Riccardi (Italy)

The Committee is chaired by Rune Andersen (Anti-doping Norway) - the so-called "independent chairperson."

The Terms of Reference for the Taskforce can be found here. These include the criteria for the reinstatement of Russia's track and field federation and its laboratory. It is not clear if these criteria are also the same ones that the Council will apply in its decision, given more recent revelations by the New York Times and ARD.

It is hard to overstate how unique this situation is - the formal guidelines above give a sense of how the process is supposed to work on paper, but given that no nation has ever been suspended from the Olympics for state-sponsored anti-doping, how things work in practice might be quite different.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Naive Baseline Says England to Win Euro 2016

For your (and my) prediction evaluation purposes, this post presents a naive baseline prediction of Euro 2016, based on the transfer market value of each team. This is an exercise I've done frequently over the past years, and history shows that the naive baseline is hard to beat.

The tournament's winner will be England, pictured above. Here is what I have done for this exercise.

1. I take the transfer market valuations from CIES.

2. I use these to rank the teams from 1 to 24, based on transfer market valuation - the higher valued team is ranked higher. (The spreadsheet I am using comes from here.)
3. The higher ranked team wins each match, there are no draws. Group stage matches are shown below, with the projected winner highlighted.

4. This procedure is applied to all 51 games. Here is how the groups are projected to finish.
The evaluation has 2 parts.

1. Total games picked correctly from the start of the tournament, maximum of 51.
2. I'll also run a "reset" when the knock-out rounds start, using the teams that actually make it. That total will be out of 15 games. Here is how the knock-out rounds look from the start.

Skill is calculated simply by the number of predicted victories greater than that anticipated by the naive baseline. I will likely provide a post-Euro evaluation of various predictions. If you would like me to include a prediction in my evaluation, please suggest it in the comments, ideally with a link.

Eventually, all of these fun prediction exercises I've been doing will find their way into an academic paper, once The Edge is out and I have the time. I already have a great dataset. This will add to it.


Monday, June 6, 2016

USADA's Travis Tygart in the NYT and WADA's Response

Last month the head of the US Anti-Doping Agency, Travis Tygart, had a remarkable op-ed in the New York Times. I say remarkable for several reasons.

First, Tygart takes an unambiguous and principled stand on Russia's eligibility to participate in Rio 2016:
[T]he position of my organization, the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which is a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code, has not wavered: To protect clean athletes, the Russian track and field federation must not be allowed to participate in the Rio Olympics.
Second, Tygart calls for an expanded investigation of Russian sport, beyond the narrow mandate given to the McLaren commission:
But along with many athletes and other advocates of clean sport, USADA has been calling for a comprehensive investigation of all Russian sport, beyond just track and field, since the November revelations.
Finally, and most significantly, Tygart expresses some his strongest criticism for WADA itself:
Finally, WADA’s foot-dragging has raised serious questions about the agency’s willingness to do its job. Since it was founded in 2000, the United States Anti-Doping Agency has advocated separation between those who promote sport and those who police it. To do otherwise is to have the fox guarding the henhouse.

WADA’s governing rules allow its board members also to serve in an executive capacity for sports organizations. This inevitably gives rise to conflicts of interest.
WADA's incoming Director General, Olivier Niggli responded to Tygart's accusations this week:
Ever since the revelations late last year WADA has been stung by criticism that it dragged its feet for years before telling Stepanov to take his evidence to reporters.

Olivier Niggli, who will take over as WADA director general later this month, forcefully hit back at that criticism on Friday explaining the top priority was to protect the Stepanovs, who were in fear for their lives and that the anti-doping agency was being prudent rather than slow. . .

"This has been a process. We had the first meeting with Mr. Stepanov in Vancouver in 2010 and it was followed by two emails that year."

Niggli said that initial contact was followed by more discussion and another meeting in 2011 and the same in 2012 but it wasn't until 2013 when Yulia was caught for doping that the Stepanovs decided to get serious about delivering WADA the information it was asking for.

"It was really only in 2013 when he and his wife started talking to each other about what was going on that they were saying we will try to get more evidence and do the right thing," said Niggli.

"In 2013 they said, ok now we are ready to gather more evidence because we all agreed that is what was needed."
But Niggli's comments may not have made things better for WADA:
However, even when the Stepanovs had brought enough credible evidence to WADA's attention the agency found its hands tied with no provision in the Code at that time allowing it to launch an investigation.

Fearing for the Stepanovs safety, WADA was reluctant to even bring the information to the attention of its own board with Russian members sitting at the table.

"We could not get more evidence on our own and passing it onto the Russians was not an option," said Niggli. "We were prudent, we were very careful about moving forward at a pace, that now might seem too slow.

"Our first preoccupation was that this young man trying to do the right thing would not be harmed. We would not do anything until we would be sure he was in a place that would be safe."
Go ahead. Read that bolded part again.

WADA was afraid to bring the allegations forward to its own board out of concern for the safety of the whistle blowers. That admission is a sure sign that sport in general and WADA in particular has far deeper problems than anti-doping.

A 100-Day Report Card on FIFA President Gianni Infantino

At Sporting Intelligence, James Corbett provides a summary "report card" on how Gianni Infantino has done in his first 100 days as president of FIFA, based on his election promises.  Corbett explains:
In February, when he launched his FIFA presidential campaign at London’s Wembley Stadium, Gianni Infantino practically invited scrutiny on this so-called landmark – which falls this Sunday (5 June) – following 18 years of Blatter, when he unveiled 11 pledges that would be achieved in his first 90 days.

Unlike a proper government – on which FIFA under Blatter sometimes fashioned itself – a sports governing body should be nimbler and more capable of exacting meaningful change in a shorter timeframe. Indeed wide ranging governance reforms were passed shortly before the vote on the new leader.

But notwithstanding those reforms, what has really changed in football’s world governing body? Frankly very little. 
Here is the full report card from Corbett:
Infantino is not done making promises. Here is what he says this week about his salary:
I will gladly reveal all the details of it to you, and you will see that it will be lass than the two million Swiss francs that the press has been talking about.
Whatever the salary winds up being, you can be sure that the press will be talking about it, and remembering this pledge. Stay tuned.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

USA Cycling Takes the Wrong Fork in the Road

A follow up to this post.

Markus Rehm and the Limits of Science

Back in April I discussed the case of Markus Rehm, a German Paralympian and world record holder in the the long jump (see his world record jump above). Rehm, who jumps off of a prosthetic leg - hence his nickname, the blade jumper - wants to jump at Rio this summer.

Yesterday, an international team of scientists reported their initial results on whether Rehm gets an advantage from the prosthetic. The issue of "advantage" is important in any decision to allow or exclude him from competition in Rio, under IAAF regulations: ( Rule 144.3 at p. 153 in the IAAF Rules)
The scientific team, from Germany, Japan and the USA, was initially organized by a Japanese TV channel (NHK), and in April they performed tests on Rehm along with a long-jumper who jumped off his leg.The AP summarizes the team's results, which were reported yesterday in Cologne:
Wolfgang Potthast of the German Sport University in Cologne said Monday that it was "difficult if not impossible" to determine whether the 27-year-old Rehm gets an advantage or not.

The study conducted by the German Sport University along with the University of Colorado and the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Tokyo found that athletes with a running-specific prosthesis have an impaired ability in the run up but a better technique for the long jump, leaving open the question of whether a prosthesis helps or hinders the athlete.
Science is often generous to regulators and this case is no different. The research team's results offer something for Rehm, who stated "The study could not identify any advantage through the prosthesis, and I think that for me is a good result." At the same time, Alena Grabowsi (a colleague of mine here at the University of Colorado-Boulder) notes that with respect to the jump itself (as compared to the run up): "the use of the prosthesis is an advantage for the long jump." This last bit could easily be the basis for the IAAF to rule against Rehm's petition to jump at Rio. The IAAF is expected to rule in about 2 weeks.

The more fundamental issue here is that science is not the best tool to use to determine whether a Paralympian should participate in the Olympics. The reason for this is that the notion of "advantage" is not precisely or uniquely defined.

Grabowski explains:
I think the science is very important in these decisions and should continue to provide advice to the sporting regulations. However, I believe that define an advantage or a disadvantage is an impossible task, which explains in part why we were cautious.
As we see in the context of "sex testing," the appeal of science as a means to side-step difficult decisions is appealing. But asking science to do the impossible simply opens the door to hide what are ultimately value judgments behind a fig leaf of objective expertise.

My guess, and that is all that it is, is that the IAAF will deny Rehm's petition and he will not jump at Rio. Further, I expect that the exclusion will be justified in terms of the science of "advantage" despite the fact that this science is either ambiguous or overdetermined. If this scenario plays out we will have missed a chance to have an important debate about inclusion, equality, competition and the meaning of sport. The good news is that in coming years we will have many more such opportunities for such a discussion.

The subject of the technological augmentation of the human athlete appears as a chapter in the Edge, coming out this summer.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Guilty Until Proven Innocent

The BBC reports that the IOC is coming up with a clever strategy to ban Russia from the Rio Olympics while letting Russia into the Rio Olympics. If that sounds like doublespeak, well, there you have it. 

The BBC explains the emerging compromise:
BBC Sport understands that senior figures in the Olympic movement are now actively discussing the possibility of a controversial compromise agreement that would enable Russian athletes to compete in Rio - even if the IAAF refuses to lift the ban on 17 June.

Remember that the Olympics comes under the jurisdiction of the IOC, not the IAAF.

So while an IAAF ban would apply to the Russian athletics federation, the IOC could then decree that Russian athletes who prove they are clean, with additional independent tests, would still be allowed to compete. Not under the Olympic flag as has been suggested - but under the Russian flag itself. So a 'ban', but only a partial one.

Many critics would no doubt attack such a proposal as a contradiction in terms, and a fudge. They would ask how any athlete could actually prove they are clean. They would insist that this falls a long way short of the proper punishment that Russia deserves and which is needed to establish a true deterrent.
IOC President Thomas Bach laid the groundwork for such a compromise (emphasis added):
The results of the WADA [Sochi]  investigation will also greatly influence the nature of the participation of Russian athletes in the Olympic Games Rio 2016. Should there be evidence of an organised system contaminating other sports, the International Federations and the IOC would have to make the difficult decision between collective responsibility and individual justice. It would have to consider, whether in such 'contaminated' federations the presumption of innocence for athletes could still be applied, whether the burden of proof could be reversed. This could mean that concerned athletes would have to demonstrate that their international and independently proven test record is compliant with the rules of their International Federation and the World Anti-Doping Code, providing a level playing field with their fellow competitors.  
In other words, athletes from "contaminated" federations would be assumed to be guilty until proven innocent -- that is what it means to reverse the burden of proof, which generally holds that athletes are innocent until proven to be guilty of doping.

Let's set aside the issue of "proving innocent"(and it's a big one, as it is impossible to do), and simply note that such a compromise strategy, if implemented would threaten the entire foundation of sports jurisprudence developed over decades.  It can't work.

Imagine, if you will. A Russian athlete is given an passes a pre-competition set of drug tests. She is clean, proven innocent, Yay! She then enters the Olympics under the Russian flag. She runs and wins a medal, Yay!  Is she then tested along with others on the podium?  Sure.

Under this scenario there is no practical difference from how things work now, except that the Russians are subject to targeted testing (which is probably the case now anyway).  One big difference is that the IOC will have introduced the notion of a "reversed burden of proof" potentially confounding the work of CAS when inevitable challenges occur.

The proposed compromise is little more than an elaborate way to avoid the consequences of the agreed-upon rules of anti-doping that sports organizations agreed to follow under WADA. The IOC stands on a precipice of lost legitimacy. Will it jump?  

More Questions for Sunil Gulati

The US soccer media has a curious blind spot when it comes to US Soccer, rarely asking probing or critical questions in favor of the puff piece. This week news broke via German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that Sunil Gulati worked behind the scenes in support of FIFA President Gianni Infantino's effort to oust  FIFA’s Audit and Compliance chief Domenico Scala (a media report in English here).

FAZ obtained audio tapes of FIFA's recent Council (formerly ExCo) meetings in Mexico. Here is what FAZ reported (translation with help of Google):
The American FIFA Council Member Sunil Gulati reported several meetings with the then head of the Audit and Compliance Commission, Domenico Scala to reach an amicable agreement for him to resign before the Congress. This effort failed. Infantino stressed that FIFA Council members should nonetheless continue to work on a solution with Scala in the time remaining before Congress.

If a withdrawal by mutual agreement did not succeed, he points to two ways to remove Scala from FIFA, one is that he could be removed by the FIFA Congress. The other variant: A new congressional mandate that gives the FIFA Council for one year the mandate,the ability to remove members of supervisory bodies from the Council. This eliminates the separation of powers. As a consequence, Infantino said, Scala could be discharged in a week or two.
Scala preempted all these machinations by resigning in protest.

Gulati shows up again in the transcripts noting that Scala can't be removed without due process:
"We can’t operate that way. We can’t dismiss people without a piece of paper and facts"
Given Gulati's reported role in trying to quietly usher out Scala, it is unclear what the reasoning was behind his concern about process. The past years have seen enough dubious actions by Gulati (such as here and here and here) to suggest that it would be appropriate to ask him a few questions about his role in the undermining of FIFA reforms. It wouldn't be the first time that Gulati said one thing in public and did another behind the scenes. Gulati remains the only member of the 2009 CONCACAF ExCo not caught up in corruption and currently makes $300,000 per year to sit on the FIFA Council. A little public accountability is not unreasonable.

However, we don't know much about this episode because the US soccer media, for whatever reason, gives Gulati a free pass.