The independent commission set up to probe doping in cycling said that "an amnesty for those who admit to past involvement is needed if the truth is to emerge," according to Matt Slater of the BBC. The Int'l Cycling Union (UCI) appointed the independent panel (UCIIC) but has "rejected an amnesty." As a result, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and pressure group Change Cycling Now "will not take part in the inquiry." The UCIIC has "called for an emergency meeting to resolve the stand-off" (BBC, 1/16). In London, Doug Gratton reported the dispute has "effectively brought the commission’s probe to a standstill before it has started." A "Truth and Reconciliation" process, which would have offered partial protection to any rider or team member who confessed to involvement in doping, "was considered a key component of the investigation, but that proposal is now in tatters" (LONDON TIMES, 1/16). In a separate LONDON TIMES article, Owen Slot wrote, "Just when the sport of cycling most required strong leadership," the UCI, was "publicly humiliated and made to look weak in its stance on doping." Only after it was "exposed as out of tune with world anti-doping authorities" did the organization "partially agree to a Truth and Reconciliation process that may finally allow a line to be drawn under the crimes of the past" (LONDON TIMES, 1/17).
CONCERNS RUN RAMPANT: REUTERS' Julien Pretot reported WADA said that it had "a number of serious concerns regarding the commission's terms of reference and its ability to carry out its role without undue influence." WADA said, "In particular, WADA is concerned that the scope of the inquiry is too focused on sanctioned former cyclist Lance Armstrong ... and will therefore not fully address such a widespread and ingrained problem." WADA also said that the commission's June deadline "would not offer enough time for a proper investigation" (REUTERS, 1/16). In London, Nick Hoult reported USADA joined WADA "in pulling out." USADA CEO Travis Tygart said, "UCI's refusal to agree to allow a limited opportunity for riders to come forward and be truthful without fear of retribution or retaliation from the UCI obviously calls into question the UCI's commitment to a full and thorough investigation and creates grave concern that the UCI has blindfolded and handcuffed this independent commission to ensure a pre-determined outcome" (TELEGRAPH, 1/16).
UNHOLY ALLIANCE: The LONDON TIMES' Jeremy Whittle commented the final hours before Armstrong’s mea culpa to Oprah Winfrey is broadcast "are the death throes of an unholy alliance between Armstrong and the International Cycling Union (UCI), founded on greed and opportunism." The likely conclusions will see "both Armstrong and the UCI eviscerated." Whittle: "One way of the American salvaging something of his honour would be by detailing the scale of his deceit not to Winfrey, but to the UCI’s self-appointed Independent Commission (UCI IC), set up to investigate the governing body’s role in the Armstrong affair." Whittle concludes: "Few within cycling doubt that, if the Texan chose to tell the whole truth, he could take the house down. The victims of an unbridled confession would stretch into the corridors of power, far beyond the peloton and the flotillas of team cars that follow the riders around Europe" (LONDON TIMES, 1/17).
A building complex called "Am Inselpark" in Hamburg, Germany, which was built for around €13M, "could someday become the home of a Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) team," according to Rainer Grünberg of the HAMBURGER ABENDBLATT. The remodeled arena "could offer seating for 3,500 people." The city and the district of Wilhelmsburg "would welcome such a development." So far, the idea "is only a vision, but for the first time in four years there are serious plans to bring a BBL team to Hamburg." Hamburg businessman Wolfgang Sahm, 50, who is the managing director of Sahm Consulting GmbH, "has presented his concept in front of the city's chamber of commerce, Sport Senator Michael Neumann and Sport Office Dir Thomas Beyer." The talks with potential sponsors, investors and public authorities "are so far advanced" that former German national team player Pascal Roller, who supports Sahm's efforts as a consultant for sports marketing agency United, said: "It isn't the question anymore if Hamburg gets a Basketball Bundesliga team, but only when." The city has the foundation for a top-flight team with four teams in Germany's youth basketball leagues JBBL and NBBL. Roller said, "Basketball is a perfect fit for Hamburg, the interest in the sport is big here. In addition, the league and its sponsors want teams in metropolitan areas." Should Hamburg get a BBL team, Roller "would become the new team's sport director." The Hamburg Towers "could join the BBL as early as September" when the '13-14 season starts. A Wildcard, which is awarded by BBL shareholders at the end of April, "could make it possible." The most-important requirement for getting a Wildcard "is a solid financial budget." Hamburg's last top-flight basketball team, the BCJ Tigers, "went bankrupt in '02" (HAMBURGER ABENDBLATT, 1/16).
The Rugby Football Union "has agreed an inflation-busting pay deal with the England squads for the next four years designed to prevent a repeat of problems before the 2011 World Cup, when players threatened to boycott events in a dispute over remuneration for commercial activities," according to Paul Rees of the London GUARDIAN. The new deal "will be worth an estimated" £100,000 ($160,000) a year on average to the 33 players in the elite squads. Together with the money paid to clubs to release players for int'l duty, it means the Rugby Football Union "will be spending" some £10M ($16M) a year on the senior national team, the Saxons and the U20 squad. The RFU "is confident it will not face a revolt by its players over fees and bonuses." It has spent months "negotiating a new four-year agreement with the Rugby Players' Association." RFU CEO Ian Ritchie said, "The agreement recognises the importance of the elite squad and our relationship to it" (GUARDIAN, 1/16).
The Rugby Football Union, the Rugby Players' Association and Premiership Rugby have agreed to a new four-year agreement for the England Elite Player Squad, according to RUGBY WEEK. The EPS agreement covers England senior, Saxons and U20 squads until June 30, 2016 and includes "confirmation of squad and match fees and performance bonuses." Together with the existing eight-year Heads of Agreement between the RFU and Premiership Rugby, it "ensures a stable future for club and country beyond the 2015 Rugby World Cup" (RUGBY WEEK, 1/16).
Pakistan Cricket Board Chair Zaka Ashraf has suggested moving the Women's World Cup from Mumbai, India to South Africa, following "simmering tensions on the Indo-Pak border,", according to the PTI. The Board of Control for Cricket in India has sought the Int'l Cricket Council's help "in taking a final call on whether to stick to the original venue" or change it to avoid security problems. Ashraf said, "Women's World Cup is an ICC event and if the security is not good enough in India, then the world governing body should consider shifting it to a neutral venue like South Africa or somewhere." Asked if he is keen for a change in venue, Ashraf said: "I am not saying that. The first option should be India, but if the BCCI is unable to host it then I am saying the second option could be South Africa" (PTI, 1/16). In Mumbai, Indranil Basu noted the BCCI "made it clear" to the ICC that is is "very keen to host the event in India." A top BCCI official said, "It's a prestigious event, and we would like to host it." It "will be a tough decision to make," as the ICC will "struggle to shift the venue to some other country at such a short notice." A source said, "Under the current situation, India hosting Pakistan looks very unlikely." The source added that Shiv Sena political party chief Uddhav Thackeray called up Indian Premier League Chair Rajeev Shukla "and told him that his party would not allow the Pakistan women's team to play in Mumbai" (TIMES OF INDIA, 1/16).
LOCAL VIEWS: The PTI noted the Mumbai Cricket Association and local police authorities suggested to the ICC that it would be better if matches involving Pakistan in the women's tournament "are shifted out of the city." An MCA official said, "It was told [to ICC representative] that adequate security could be provided to the women cricketers. But the public feeling on the issue was also conveyed, and it was mentioned in the current scenario that it would be difficult to stop political parties [from protesting against Pakistan women's team] if the matches are held here." Another MCA official said that there is "specific threat of disruption of the matches from the Shiv Sena" (PTI, 1/16). The PTI reported the Gujarat Cricket Association "has refused to host" the upcoming Women's World Cup, after the "skeptical" BCCI approached it with a "verbal" proposal to host the tournament in its city of Ahmedabad. Rising tension at the Line of Control, after Pakistan's violation of the ceasefire and the killing of Indian soliders, has led to protests by Shiv Sena in Mumbai against the Pakistani players' participation in the ongoing Hockey India League, "prompting all the franchisees to send back their Pakistani recruits" (PTI, 1/16).
FIFA Head of Security Ralf Mutschke revealed that organized criminal gangs are targeting around 50 national football leagues for "possible match-fixing and any country is vulnerable regardless of its record on corruption," according to Brian Homewood of REUTERS. Mutschke said that a convicted match-fixer had "personally told him at a secret meeting that the activity was preferred by many criminals to the drugs trade." Mutschke said, "I met a match-fixer, a convicted match-fixer, here in Zurich next to the zoo and he told me organised crime is moving out of the drug trade and getting involved in match-fixing because of low risk and high profit." Match-fixing has become a "huge concern" for football's authorities recently as criminal gambling rings pay players, referees or officials to "manipulate matches and make enormous amounts of money by betting on the outcome." Mutschke added that in some cases national leagues and confederations had been "infiltrated to the point where referees were able to boost their careers by taking part in manipulation." Mutschke said match-fixers would "sometimes approach players, referees or officials out of the blue." Mutschke: "You have a 50%chance of acceptance and what upsets me is that it demonstrates to me that they have no fear of us because nobody is reporting these approaches" (REUTERS, 1/16).
However "impressive ONGC and Air India's performance" may have been this season, "it will still not be enough for them to earn a place in the next edition of the I-League," according to Marcus Mergulhao of the TIMES OF INDIA. The All India Football Federation exec committee has confirmed that the two institutional teams in the I-League failed to meet the club licensing criteria and thus "will not be allowed to continue in the league." Instead, their place in the competition will be handed over to two new corporate teams that AIFF President Praful Patel is confident, has "many takers." The AIFF said in a statement: "The committee decided to bid for two new clubs in the 2013-14 edition of the I-League." This move means that ONGC and Air India "are now definitely out, even if they, on the evidence of the current standing, finish above the relegation zone." I-League CEO Sunando Dhar said, "It's not a question of relegation. It's a matter of ONGC and Air India not fulfilling the club licensing criteria, and there is no place in the league teams who do not do that" (TIMES OF INDIA, 1/16).
Korea Association of Athletic Federations Chair Oh Dong-jin "is open to naturalising foreign athletes to lift marathon's standard" in South Korea. Oh said, "I've had extensive discussions with experts in the field on how to revive our marathon. To help improve our national record, giving South Korean citizenship to foreign-born athletes is considered an option" (REUTERS, 1/16). ... South Korea "unveiled measures aimed at protecting athletes from violent coaches," as a survey showed that physical and mental abuse was widely accepted in both amateur and elite sports circles. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced a principle of "zero tolerance" for coaches caught beating athletes to force them to train harder (AFP, 1/16). ... La Liga club Malaga "will appeal against a future minimum one-season ban from European competition" to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The club has been punished for unpaid bills, as UEFA "gets tough on finances." The ban does not apply this season but will take effect the next time it qualifies for European competition in the next four years (REUTERS, 1/15).