Doping

The Slightly Confused Sports Awards for 2015

Sportsman of the Year

Ashton Eaton – USA – Athletics

2015 was the year the greatest athlete in the world just got a little bit greater.
For someone who grew up on the exploits of Daley Thompson, Ashton Eaton is the equivalent of the second coming in terms of athletic excellence but maybe without the rough and occasional offensive edges to the Thompson character that we seemed to ignore at the time.
The only thing missing from Eaton’s CV in 2015 was the sight of him in a blue vest with a stylized “S” on the front and a red cape flying onto the pole vault mat.
Maybe 2016 will fix that omission.

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Sportswoman of the Year

Simone Biles – USA – Gymnastics

In March 2013 Simone Biles made her international debut at the American Cup in Worcester, USA.
By the end of 2015 she was a ten-time world champion and has an outside chance of sweeping all six gold medals at the Rio Olympics. It would certainly be no surprise to see her match her achievements of the 2015 World Championships and win four titles.

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Team of the Year

The Mercedes F1 team

I freely admit this is the most boring of my choices and that the awards really deserves to go to the designers, aerodynamicists and strategists more than Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. However the 2015 season saw Mercedes dominate to an extent that they ruined the sport as a spectacle. In the long run this will do damage to F1 but that’s hardly their fault – any sportsperson or team has to strive to be as good as they possibly can be. Whether the sport can prosper has to depend on strong leadership from the rules makers.

Moment of the Year

Japan beats South Africa in the Rugby World Cup

Japan had qualified for every World Cup since the inauguration of the event in 1987 but had only scored a single victory against fellow fall guys Zimbabwe in 24 years and 7 tournaments. Their performances against the world’s top nations had veered between poor and humiliation with the nadir coming with a 145-17 disaster against New Zealand in 1995.

This time it would be different.
With a mix of high risk/high reward attack, obdurate defence and accurate kicking Japan kept the score level until five minutes from time. South Africa kicked a penalty to go 32-29 ahead but Japan mounted one final heroic attack. With the clock on zero South Africa were penalized in front of the posts and well, you can see what happened next in the embedded video.

In the words of Daley Thompson, yes that Daley Thompson.
Whenever the little guy beats Goliath, it so enriches our lives and let’s us all believe that the impossible is possible. Thank you Japan

Anti-Sportsman of the Year

Viktor Chegin – Athletics

Once upon a time in a land far away that people called Mordovia, a mysterious ogre built a castle and stacked it full of wondrous machines and magic potions. Very soon all the villagers from miles around benefited from the kindness of the ogre and walked with a spring in their step and they become known as kings of the world. As time passed the rest of the kingdoms became suspicious of the Mordovians and sent the wise Prince Dick of Wada down from the great frozen north to investigate. The ogre denied he had done anything wrong but Prince Dick found large quantities of dragon’s blood, ground griffin’s claw and essence of powdered orc (or EPO for short) in the castle’s strongrooms. In the magical kingdom of Iaaf the young emperor said “we really should do something about this” and placed a curse on Mordovia so that no one could leave the kingdom for at least six months. Enraged by this the Mordovians burnt the castle to the ground but not before they implicated the former Grand Vizier of Iaaf and his court magician in a massive bribery scandal. Chegin the ogre was never seen again (probably).

For a less tongue-in-cheek explanation click Here

Sports Commentary of the Year

Jim Maxwell – Australia – Cricket

Australia 33-7 within an hour of the start of the 4th Test.
“If you’re an Australian and you’ve just switched on, switch off and go and do some gardening instead”.

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Don’t Believe the Hype Award

Mixed Martial Arts

The most hyped men’s fight of 2015 ended in bizarre fashion when one of the world’s most feared fighters, Jose Aldo of Brazil, made a mistake which even the novice of boxers would be embarrassed by and literally led with his chin against Conor McGregor of Ireland. It was a fight that should be remembered for the sheer incompetence of the Brazilian rather than any great Irish heroics. The fact that the sport is so well marketed shouldn’t eclipse the fact that most of the fighting is tedious and uninspired.

The Be Careful What You Wish For Award

The IAAF

The year ends with Sebastian Coe under mounting pressure as head of the IAAF. Whilst accepting the possibility that the legal issues surrounding the organization in France might make him weary of talking too much about the case it’s clear that his links to Nike and a few unhelpfully vague statements have weakened his position. But let’s not be certain that the removal of Coe will help the sport of athletics move on from recent controversies. Unless he’s actually tied directly to the mismanagement and/or criminal activity connected to the investigation on Russia, a weakened Coe forced to make amends for the sins of his predecessor might well be the most effective figurehead for the sport.
If you look at the results of the last IAAF election you’ll note that any possible replacements come with a more conservative, “Let’s keep things in-house”, attitude that seems not to be realistic anymore and are more friendly to the workings of certain federations and governments. Better the devil you know this time?

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How Britain’s sprint relay women were robbed of a place at London 2012

Many of you may remember the controversy concerning the Great Britain women’s 4 x 100 relay team missing qualification for London 2012 and allegations that the then GB head coach Charles van Commenee was, at best, unenthusiastic about the team’s attempts at qualification.
Now, nearly two years later it seems that, due to a retrospective doping ban on an Olympic finalist, they actually did earn a place at their home Games.

The athlete in question is Semoy Hackett, a Trinidadian who reached the final of the 200m in London, and the story starts at the 2011 Trinidad and Tobago National Championships. It was there that Hackett failed a drug test for Methylhexaneamine and earned a retrospective drug suspension that disqualified her nation from 4th place in the 4 x 100 m at the 2011 World Championships. This also had the effect of voiding times that would have helped Trinidad qualify for an Olympic sprint relay place.
After serving a six month suspension she returned in early summer 2012 to qualify for a place at the Olympic Games. In early June she helped her American college, Louisiana State, win the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships but again she tested positive for the same drug.
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Semoy Hackett
This is where things get interesting – in an interview with Baton Rouge newspaper, The Advocate, LSU Coach Dennis Shaver said that the University had told by the NCAA of the failed test in late June.
This may have been too late for the IAAF to set the full disciplinary process into action but it’s possible that Trinidad may have considered voluntarily removing Hackett from the Olympic team or even withdrawing the relay team completely. None of this proved possible as the test findings were only released when it was announced that Louisiana State had been stripped of their title in November 2012. After the announcement it was reported by the Trinidad Athletics Federation and IAAF that they had not yet been advised of the failed test by the NCAA. In this regard, the IAAF were innocent bystanders.

Eventually Trinidad cleared their athlete of any misdemeanour but, on the eve of her competing at the 2013 World Championship, the IAAF appealed the case to the Court of Arbitration of Sport.
The case never actually reached the court as the two parties made an agreement before which resulted in Hackett being banned for 28 months and losing all results since the NCAA meeting.
And if Hackett lost her results then so too do the Trinidad 4 x 100 women’s relay team. Their two best times were set on the same day which now sits in the middle of the period where her results were annulled. The Trinidadians, who originally placed 11th of the 16 qualified relay teams for London 2012, now find themselves with only one valid time and ineligible for Olympic qualification.
So that brings us back to Great Britain’s female sprint relay team who missed London after finishing 17th on the qualifying table. With Trinidad dropping out they move up to 16th and earn a theoretical place at the 2012 Olympics.

All this is probably no comfort to the British sprinters who missed out on a place at a once-in-a-lifetime event but at least they can say they earned a place at the Olympics. Small consolation.