Author: Toni Reavis

TONI REAVIS has been informing and entertaining audiences for over thirty years with his signature baritone pipes, encyclopedic knowledge, and sharp wit. One of the most respected names in running journalism, Reavis today mixes his passion for sport with his wide-ranging interest in politics, media, and culture. Reavis currently lives in San Diego where he writes his influential tonireavis.com blog, while serving on the board of directors of the Entoto Foundation, a 501C3 charity that brings needed health care to Ethiopia. In 2009 Reavis was inducted into the Running USA Hall of Champions. *****

CASTER SEMENYA TO CHALLENGE IAAF CLASSIFICATION RULE

Semenya has been making it look easy

There’s almost no way to address the issue of hyperandrogenism in sport today in a coldly clinical manner.  The politics of gender identification remain too sensitive, too complex.  Yet the issue is in the spotlight once again, as legal representatives of two-time Olympic and three-time World 800-meter champion Caster Semenya of South Africa prepare to challenge a female classification rule imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF)  before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne, Switzerland today.

The IAAF rule, established in April 2018, and scheduled to be enforced beginning this November, will require female runners with naturally high testosterone levels to either race against men, or change events unless they take medication to reduce their testosterone levels.  The ruling will involve athletes in events ranging from 400-meters to the mile.

In what amounts to an amicus brief, South African law professor Steve Cornelius resigned from the IAAF disciplinary tribunal on May 1st to protest the IAAF classification rule. Professor Cornelius, who was appointed to the IAAF tribunal late last year, wrote that he could not in good conscience continue to associate himself with “an organization that insists on ostracizing certain individuals, all of them female, for no reason other than being what they were born to be.”

27-year-old Caster Semenya has been dogged by the gender controversy since she won her first of three 800-meter world titles in Berlin 2009 as a teenager while winning competitions with noticeable ease for the last several years.  She is currently on a 24-finals win streak in the 800, with her last loss in her specialty coming in Berlin in September 2015. She spoke out against the IAAF classification rule through her legal representatives at the Norton Rose Fulbright law firm, saying “I just want to run naturally, the way I was born. It is not fair that I am told I must change. It is not fair that people question who I am. I am Mokgadi Caster Semenya. I am a woman and I am fast.” (more…)

Advertisements

OUT WITH THE OLD, IN WITH THE NEW

It’s said you can tell what a society values most by ts skylines. Through much of history, it was the steeple of the local church that pricked the sky above any other edifice, giving living testament to the role of faith and the religion in the lives of the people. So, too, did the imposing castles of kings and their feudal lords speak power to the peasants who toiled in their service.  Then, with the arrival of the American experiment in self-rule, we began to see the majestic state capitals rising as cathedrals of civic pride. And with the coming of the industrial age and its vast commercial fortunes, towers of brick, then glass and steel sprang up in urban centers to reflect that wealth, bearing witness to the rank that commerce now held in modern society. To witness the order in one place, visit Salt Lake City, Utah where the sacred, the secular, and the governmental stand in close ordered ranks beside one another.

Today, it’s cathedrals of sport that burst with devotion, even as the teams are comprised of free agents selling their talents to the highest bidder.

While the Coliseum in Rome still stands some 2000 years after its erection, modern-day stadia seem to come and go like castles of sand. Remember the Astrodome in Houston, dubbed the eighth wonder of the world? Construction began in 1962, and it officially opened in 1965, home to the Houston Astros until 1999, and to the NFL Houston Oilers from 1968 until 1996.  But by the 1990s, the Astrodome was considered past its prime.  Today, NRG Stadium is the major stadium in Houston while the Astrodome was mothballed onto the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. The same out with the relatively old, in with the brand spanking new can be seen with ballparks in Atlanta, Dallas, St. Louis, San Francisco, and San Diego among others.

These days up to $2 billion is spent to erect houses for games, even as the infrastructure of our cities – roads, bridges, schools, tunnels, and airports – continues to crumble because of lack of funding. We have indeed become a society with its priorities turned upside down. (more…)

HOT CARS ON A COOL EVENING IN OREBRO

Late on a soft summer’s evening in June 1985, we arrived in the town of Örebro, Sweden a little over halfway between Oslo and Stockholm as we followed the European track circuit on its Scandinavian swing.  As we made our way toward the town square, the full-throated rumble of gas-guzzling twin carbs incongruously came bullying through the centuries-old town like thunder in the drums of the ears.

Muscle cars in the land of the fair and reserved?

Even as the young and elderly with real travel purpose pedaled their bicycles in upright indifference along the swept-clean curbs, down the middle of the road came Swedish Graffiti riding atop Detroit mag wheels. We watched in wonder as raked roofs on deuce coups smacked hard along the cultural cusp.

One block up the squeal of wide-track rubber stabbed the night air as a 1966 396 El Camino breached a traffic signal’s command.  Chevys, Plymouths, Pontiacs, and Buicks, all from the 1960s and `70s, roared by, resembling escaped road warriors from a California time capsule.

Orebro Castle

Glass-packed bellowing blanketed the silence of a hollow ride to nowhere as kids rode relentlessly around the same blocks, changing the same gears, flashing past the same Orebro Castle sitting in the center of its moat since 1200. The circle constricted as their pace increased.

Their future was now. Don’t think, react.  Perhaps it was a good lesson for those racing on foot on the track, as well.

Tomorrow we would depart, continuing on to Stockholm for the DN Galan meet staged in the 1912 Olympic track, while the boys of Orebro would fill their tanks and cruise their narrow streets once again, not realizing that theirs would be the last generation of cars from America that would afford them the horsepower which, till now, had been their only escape.

END

WINNERS

A newly-wedded friend recently traveled to his bride’s out-of-town family christening, a conclave that he couldn’t have been dragged to in any of his pre-wedded years had the combination of free money and easy nubility been offered.  In other words, the guy had proven himself capable of compromise and emotional growth.

Another friend, on the other hand, remained stunted beneath a thick layer of emotional silt.  So when his girlfriend asked him to join her at a family wedding, he parried, “you don’t want me to go, you want who you want me to be to go.”

See, that’s how it works.  So there’s a lot to dredge up from that fetid moat of childhood angst when searching for the cause of our myriad maledictions, malfeasances, and misalignments.  Of course, speaking for myself, I’m now wearing orthotics, so I’ve got that alignment thing on the right track.

But it has become vogue, this cathartic hip-wade through the fetid pools of formative experience in search of any and all trauma – real and imagined – with which to absolve our adult transgressions and their teared-stained consequences.  Yeah, it can’t possibly be me, could it?  Had to be someone else who caused my gibbery-assed condition.  Why be master of my own domain – in the non-Seinfeldian sense – when I can put the blame on somebody else?

(“Cough, cough.  Mommy?  Daddy?  I can’t see you.  Are you there?  It’s dark.”)

This superego search for release has not only stirred up the indelicacies once interred beneath the open-air temple of free will but also caused a brackish light to be cast through our rectory of subsequent responsibility. (more…)

CAN’T HIDE YOUR LYIN’ EYES

Pre-race interviews are tricky things. Though regularly scheduled at most road races and track meets, I’ve always found them to be of limited use.  Maybe I’m just a poor interrogator, but I’ve always likened the experience to a trip to the dentist, with me being the dentist and the athletes in the role of reluctant patients as I try to pull teeth, or in their case information out.  Inevitably, nobody says jack to give their condition away, which is totally understandable, though on rare occasions you can elicit a telling story to share with readers or a TV audience.

In general, however, a pre-race interview is a ritual with both sides accepting the other as readily as two eighth-graders at a fortnightly dance.  And yet it remains one of the only means of reading an athlete’s tea-leaves to determine their readiness and frame of mind beyond traveling to their training camp and observing their workouts first hand.

But in the not too distant future, the pre-race TV interview may come to be one of the most important tools in the sport, the means of screening for drug cheats.  (more…)

TAKING A GAMBLE ON THE FUTURE

While the sport of athletics may be irrepressible, it is just as fair to say it is hardly flourishing.  For decades, the sport has been caught in a netherworld between its amateur past and a never-quite-professional present, all the while fighting a losing PR battle in the war against performance-enhancing drug use and the corruptions in governance that accompany such a vast extra-national aggregation of players, agencies, events, and federations.  To the general public, PED use has spread like an acrid stain over actual performance as the defining characteristic of the athletics’ game, though it may be no less prevalent than in many other sports.

Within the industry itself, there have been innumerable symposia searching for a solution to the sport’s public image problem.  And though strides have been made in the short rein under Sebastian Coe’s leadership of the IAAF, a lasting resolution still remains down the track. Today, however, the U.S. Supreme Court may have offered a saving, though not ideal, grace.

As reported by AP, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 today to strike down the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a law barring state-authorized sports gambling. The court’s decision came in a case brought by the state of New Jersey, which had fought for years to legalize gambling on sports at casinos and racetracks in the Garden State. Nevada was the lone state grandfathered in at the time of the 1992 law where a person could wager on the results of a single sporting contest.

“The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito for the court. “Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.”

With this ruling in hand, New Jersey is set to take bets within a matter of a few weeks at their casinos and race tracks.  It has been estimated that as many as 32 other states would likely offer sports betting within a five-year span. (more…)

RUPP REBOUNDS IN PRAGUE

       Galen Rupp wins in Prague

This morning the Galen Rupp we saw at the Prague International Marathon (1st, 2:06:07 PB) was the Galen Rupp we expected to see in Boston 20 days ago before the conditions blew everyone into Dante’s second circle of Hell. Leading into Boston Rupp fashioned a perfect build-up after his win in Chicago last fall, tuned up with an excellent half-marathon in Rome, and spoke not a whisper of the plantar fascia niggle that compromised him a smidge in Boston 2017 in his duel with eventual champ Geoffrey Kirui – another casualty of the 2018 Boston nor’easter (casualty in the sense that he finished second after building a 90-second lead).

This morning in the Czech Republic, though, a retooled Rupp rode along on a solid, but not over-cooked 1:03:00 first half pace, then kept the momentum rolling when the rabbit dropped away and had gas enough left in the tank to put away 2:04-man Sisay Lemma of Ethiopia in the final two miles (9:26) on an ok, but not ideal marathon day.

The beauty of racing is that it is a given-day situation, this field on this day on that course in these conditions, have at it, see ya at the finish.  And though great respect goes to 2018 Boston champion Yuki Kawauchi – because on that day, in those conditions, he made all the right decisions – is there any doubt that we would have likely witnessed another Geoffrey Kirui vs. Galen Rupp duel if the conditions had been anywhere near normal, before the frigid, wind-driven rain knocked Rupp out at 19 and then locked Kirui up tighter than a mute with lockjaw over the final 5k? (more…)