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  • Federations Roundup-- Iraqi Rowers Heading to Beijing, Cycling Leader Rejects Keirin Scandal Report and FIFA Clubs Must Release Players


    Hamzah Hussein and Haidar Nozad during a practice session on the Tigris river in Baghdad. (Getty Images)
    Iraqi Rowers Heading to Beijing

    After having their Olympic aspirations dashed by the IOC, Iraqi double sculls rowers will be allowed to compete in Beijing. The IOC and the International Rowing Federation reinstated Hamzah Hussein Jebur and Haidar Nozad today.

    "We are very happy now to be able to go for Beijing," Nozad said.

    Tuesday night, an Iraqi delegation reached an agreement with the IOC to create an independent national committee and hold elections by November 2008. The Iraqi government dissolved NOCI, accusing it of corruption, which led the IOC to suspend Iraq for government interference.

    Two other athletes, Haidar Nasir in the discus and sprinter Danma Hussein, will compete in the Summer Games. However, athletes from judo, archery and weightlifting are still disqualified.

    Cycling Leader Rejects Keirin Scandal Report

    Former USA Cycling President Mike Plant disputes a BBC report that Japanese proponents of the keirin cycling event may have paid its way onto the Olympic program.

    Keirin is a "more relevant" discipline than the kilometer, says former USA Cycling President Mike Plant. (Getty Images)
    "It's tabloid stuff and it's irresponsible," Plant told Around the Rings.

    "They didn't do a good job of checking their facts."

    The BBC cited documents showing that Japanese officials gave $3 million to the International Cycling Union (UCI) and that Japan's Keirin Association paid the expenses of then-UCI President Hein Verbruggen to make several plane trips.

    The BBC said the UCI considered dropping keirin in 1992. Instead, it was added to the Olympic program in 2000. The kilometer was dropped from the Olympics after the 2004 Games.

    No "Big Fix"

    Plant, who served on the management board of the UCI from 1997-2005 and was president of USA Cycling from 1995-2002, said there was no "big fix" to put keirin into the Games. He also defended Verbruggen, an IOC member who is now chairman of the coordination commission for the Beijing Olympics.

    "It was very transparent," Plant said.

    "Hein brought forth a number of times his discussions with the guys who ran keirin in Japan, and I believe they made a donation -- like a number of entities did -- to the world cycling center in Lausanne. There's no way Hein Verbruggen put some money in his pocket. First of all he doesn't need it."
    Former USA Cycling President Mike Plant defends the UCI and Hein Verbruggen. (USOC)

    Plant also said it was normal for Verbruggen's travel expenses to sometimes be paid by entities other than the UCI.

    "Pat McQuaid (the current UCI president) travels all over the world," Plant said.

    "Their job is to promote the sport. Sometimes the national federations will subsidize it.

    When Hein is over here (in the U.S.), he doesn't pay for his hotel."

    Verbruggen has denied any wrongdoing.

    Keeping Sports Relevant

    Plant said keirin has supplanted the kilometer because it is "more relevant" to today's audience. Like archery, biathlon and skiing, Plant said, cyclng had to change with the times.

    Keirin is an eight-lap race in which six riders are paced by a motorcycle for the first 5 1/2 laps. The motorcycle gradually increases its speed before leaving the track. The event began as a betting race in Japan in the 1940s and people still gamble on it.

    "It's a very, very, popular sport, not only in Japan, but it's popular at the World Championships," Plant said.

    "It's one of the best events you can watch in the velodrome. It's head-to-head competition. They're big guys, they're fast, they're in there banging and it's exciting."

    By contrast, in the kilometer, one rider at a time races the clock in a time trial.

    "No disrespect to the guys who were great kilometer champions," Plant said, "but a lot of sports had to change. Why is BMX in the Games? It's more relevant to young kids. Every sport has to look at their program. When you stop being relevant, you die."


    A single FIFA-appointed judge ruled that players younger than 23 must be released by their club teams to play in the Olympics. Clubs Barcelona, Werder Bremen and Schalke appealed to FIFA, arguing that because the Olympics aren’t on the FIFA men’s calendar, clubs aren’t required to release players. The clubs will appeal the judgment to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The Olympics clash with the beginning of the Champions League, and clubs are reluctant to lose under-23 stars, such as Lionel Messi, Diego and Rafinha.

    Russian pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva broke her own world record at the Herculis Grand Prix on Tuesday
    Hein Verbruggen was UCI president from 1991 until 2005. (Getty Images)
    in Monte Carlo, Monaco. She cleared 5.04 meters, a one centimeter improvement. Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell also provided a highlight by winning the 100m in 9.82 seconds without any wind.

    The International Gymnastics Federation cleared U.S. Olympic gymnast Morgan Hamm to compete in Beijing. Hamm tested positive for an anti-inflammatory drug that is legal to use, but must be properly documented. Hamm failed to submit the papers, and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency gave him a warning. FIG accepted the warning as sufficient punishment. Hamm’s brother Paul, a gold medalist at the 2004 Games in Athens, pulled out of the Beijing Games because injuries to his hand and shoulder will prevent him from competing at an Olympic level.

    Nigeria will send a 4x100m women’s relay team to Beijing despite failing to be one of the top 16 teams. Finland pulled out, so the IAAF granted the open slot to the Nigerian team of Damola Osayemi, Franka Idoko, Gloria Kemasode, Alimat Sumaila and Agnes Osazua. Nigeria previously petitioned the IAAF to allow them to compete because some European countries denied them visas, limiting their chances to qualify. “This is the greatest news this period, and the magic is on. The 4x100m women relay would not have been complete without Nigeria on stage,” said Brown Ebewele, a Nigerian sport commissioner.

    Team USA basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski tried to keep his players focused on gold in Beijing saying, “We haven't accomplished anything yet.” The team will play exhibitions against Turkey on Thursday and Lithuania on Friday in Macau. On Sunday, they travel to Shanghai to face Russia. Olympic competition begins on August 10 against China.

    The International Triathlon Union added two events, the Corporate Triathlon Championships and Age-Group Sprint World Championships, to their 2009 World Championship in Perth, Australia. "The Corporate and Sprint Championships will be a wonderful complement to an already exciting program of events for the 21st edition of ITU's flagship event," said Sheila O'Kelly, ITU director of the World Championships.

    Edited by Trista McGlammery

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