Category Archives: Olympics

Total Loss: Will Lance Armstrong Be Stripped of His Olympic Bronze Medal?

By:  Richard Braun, Ruling Sports Intern (Twitter:  @RicBraun)

Despite being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, Lance Armstrong appears likely to keep the bronze medal he won at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

At this time, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is taking the stance that it is “unclear” if they have the authority to take the medal away from Armstrong. The case will turn on how the IOC chooses to interpret the eight year statute of limitations imposed by the World Anti-Doping Code (WADC). The participation eligibility section of the Olympic Charter states that “the World Anti-Doping Code is mandatory for the whole Olympic Movement.” Accordingly, the IOC follows all World Anti-Doping Code protocols.

However, the WADC did not include the statute of limitations until 2003, after Armstrong won his bronze medal. The IOC is currently wrestling with the idea that since Armstrong won his medal before 2003, the statute of limitations does not apply.

The IOC is welcome to interpret the WADC in whatever manner they please, but taking away Armstrong’s medal would defeat the very purpose of having a statute of limitations. In American jurisprudence, one of the main underlying policy arguments behind the statute is that at some point in time a person should not have to worry about being held liable for acts that occurred many years ago. For example, if a person in their 20s committed a hit-and-run but was never arrested or otherwise sued for it, he or she should not have to worry about being arrested when they are in their 40s. At some point in time, there is no longer any societal benefit to anything but an acquittal.  When the statute was enacted is not the relevant point – what is relevant is when Armstrong won his medal.

The IOC has yet to encounter a situation such as this. There is no precedent where they stripped an athlete of their medal when they otherwise would have been protected by the statute of limitations. The World Anti-Doping Agency, the authors of the WADC, has in fact dealt with this situation, however. Back in 2009, tennis great Andre Agassi admitted to using crystal meth in 1997, a substance that is banned by the WADC. However, since the 8 years statute of limitations had passed, the Agency was powerless to penalize Agassi and instead could only ask the ATP to look into the matter. At the time, the ATP had their own anti-doping agency, and could potentially punish Agassi. In the end, however, no action was taken against Agassi.

As of now, the IOC is not involved in the Armstrong case, and they are waiting on the United States Anti-Doping Agency to provide them with the materials they need to make a determination. However, what they don’t have are any positive drug tests or admissions of guilt by Armstrong. In addition, the statute of limitations imposed by the WADC, the code mandated by the Olympic Charter, seemingly puts the IOC in a corner. Any action by the IOC to strip Armstrong of his medal would likely be more for political reasons, than legal ones.

Leave a comment

Filed under Bicycling, Drug Testing, Olympics

Why a potential strike by the Public and Commercial Services union could have severely disrupted the London Olympic games

By:  Danielle Blanchard, Ruling Sports Intern (Twitter:  @Elle087)

Thousands of members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) threatened a strike on the eve of the Olympic games in London, which would have had a detrimental impact on the games. The PCS is the fifth largest trade union in the United Kingdom and represents thousands of workers, including operating members of the London tube and bus system, train drivers, platform guards, and the Home Office, which is responsible for passport checks at Heathrow Airport. This strike has been brewing for quite a while now, last year legislation was passed that would cut the value of public sector pensions. This prompted the biggest strike in three years in November of last year. In addition, the union was trying to get extra pay/bonuses for the workers working during the Olympic games. This was denied. Len McCluskey, leader of the Unite, spoke in February in an interview with the Guardian and said that the attacks on the public sector workers were “so deep and ideological” that targeting the Olympic games would be reasonable.  Around July 23, members that were a part of the bus and subway staff cancelled a walkout after receiving an Olympic bonus package, but members of the Home Office were still planning on a strike.

A strike during the Olympics would have had a significantly negative impact on the games, and on London as host of the games. As of July 25, 2012 the PCS has called off the strike after the government promised to create 1,100 new jobs. This figure includes 800 jobs for the border force and 300 at the passport service.  This is not necessarily a win for the union. The PCS called off the strike only hours before the court was supposed to hear an injunction application that was aimed at blocking the strike. The British government sought a High Court injunction to prevent border staff from taking strike action.  The Government believed there was a “procedural error” in the ballot of members of the PCS union. Apparently, only about ten to twelve percent of the PCS union members voted for the strike because of pay and jobs. Only about half of the members of the union even voted on the ballot and less than half of those members voted for the strike. Roughly one per every ten union members voted for the strike. This is the procedural error that the government is arguing. There are many reasons as to why the PCS called off the strike; for one, the strike was highly unpopular according to public opinion and even among members of the union. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is coordinating the Olympic games, also said that enough immigration officials could be deployed to prevent disruption if the strike happened as planned, and the government agreed to provide 1,100 new jobs within the Home Office department.

If the strike had gone on as planned, and the passport service workers failed to show, it would have resulted in chaos at Heathrow airport on what is expected to be the biggest travel day the airport has seen. The lines for checking passports to get into the country have already be two plus hours over the last few weeks, and this strike would have made getting into the country even worse.  The director of the Home Office has said, even after the strike has been called off, that it does not guarantee smooth sailing for the thousands of people trying to enter the country. In the days leading up to the Olympics some of the biggest modes of transportation that connect London with the destinations where Olympic events will be held are facing possible strike action and mechanical failures due to spending cuts. Union drivers at Stagecoach Group Plc (SGC)’s East Midlands Trains, that will be largely responsible for travel of U.K. athletes are threatening a strike, as are members Serco Group Plc (SRP)’s “Boris Bike” cycle-borrowing service, named after the mayor. The latter’s members have threatened to refuse overtime too. It remains to be seen whether these remaining strikes are just empty threats, but if not they could potentially irreparably harm the centuries-long Olympic tradition, a history icon for international sports.

Leave a comment

Filed under Labor Law, Olympics

When Will Augusta National Offer a Woman Club Membership?

Thirteen years after women gained the right to vote in the United States through the Nineteenth Amendment, and in the same year that the country’s unemployment rate hit its highest percentage in history, the pristine greens of Augusta National opened for play.  Since its opening day in January 1933, the club, most recognized for hosting The Master’s annually, has limited its membership to men. 

However, that may soon change.

In recent decades, the club has come under scrutiny for its all-male membership.  Membership to Augusta National is obtained strictly by invitation.  Up until 1990, no African-American had been extended a membership invitation.  At the turn of the 21st century, conversation over Augusta National’s membership policies turned from whether it would admit African-American members to whether it would admit female members. 

The female membership debate was largely punctuated by a public campaign led by the former chairwoman of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, Martha Burk.  Burk began her campaign in 2002 by sending Augusta National’s chairman Hootie Johnson a letter suggesting that the club admit female letters.  It later boiled over when sponsors were pressured to pull their advertisements from The Masters.  In response to this campaign, Johnson said, “There may well come a day when women will be invited to join our membership but that timetable will be ours and not at the point of a bayonet” and proceeded to pull all advertising for the 2003 Master’s broadcast.

In the meantime, Augusta National has continued to offer membership to select groups of individuals, including CEO’s of IBM–one of its sponsors.  Reports indicate that all four of IBM’s most recent CEO’s received membership to the club.  While this fact may not seem noteworthy, it is important, because in January of this year, IBM named Ginny Rommety its new CEO.  Rommety is a woman.

For a club which has dictated that it will not offer a woman membership “. . . at the point of a bayonet,” perhaps Rommety’s IBM CEO status provides Augusta National the perfect opportunity to break with tradition and accept its first female member.

However, if Augusta National opts not to break with tradition and offer Rommety membership to the club, what options are there to persuade, without the use of the point of a bayonet, Augusta National to accept a female member?

The Law

Augusta National’s long-standing male-only membership is legal. 

In a 1958 case, NAACP v. Alabama, the Supreme Court found that the right to freely associate with others is a fundamental right under the First Amendment.  Subsequently, the Supreme Court in Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston, held that a group may not grant certain people membership whose presence would hurt the group’s ability to promote its interests.  Thus, Augusta National has a fundamental right to only allow men into its club under the freedom of association.

In 1883, the Supreme Court ruled on a group of five cases more commonly known as the Civil Rights Cases.  In those cases, the Supreme Court held that citizens are protected from discrimination by the government, but not by private entities.  In 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act.  Heralded as one of the greatest pieces of legislation in recent times, the law failed to protect one key group from discrimination in public facilities:  women.  Subsequent to the Civil Rights Act, states have enacted individual civil rights laws which protect various groups, including women.  While Georgia has enacted civil rights legislature related to employment and housing, it does not have an overarching civil rights law which protects against discrimination in public places.  However, even if Georgia had such legislature in place, it is unlikely that it would apply to Augusta National, since it is a private club.

Economics

From the Selma Bus Boycott to Martin Luther King’s call to boycott companies like Coca-Cola, the Civil Rights movement largely relied upon economic boycotts to gain ground.  However, in the case of women gaining membership to male-only golf clubs, similar efforts have not gained positive ground.

As noted above, when Burk and the National Council of Women’s Organizations called for a sponsorship advertising boycott of The Master’s, Augusta National circumvented this movement by pulling advertising from the 2003 Master’s altogether.  That August National had enough funds to not feel the pinch from not receiving sponsorship income signifies that economic boycotts may not be the best method for women to use to gain club membership.

The Olympics

Golf has not been an Olympic sport since 1904.  In 2016, however, golf will make its return to the Olympics.  This move came after the International Olympic Committee voted in 2009 to approve golf and rugby sevens as Olympic sports beginning with the 2016 Olympics.

The Olympic charter sets forth the role of the IOC.  In relevant part, the charter provides that the IOC is
“to act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement” and “to encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women.”

The IOC’s votes for golf and rugby sevens are telling.  The IOC voted 63-27 with two abstentions to approve golf, and  81-8 with one abstention to approve rugby sevens.  That a sport which has less worldwide viewership and participation received 18 more votes than golf, signifies discriminatory hurdles that golf faces in integrating women into the sport. 

Ultimately, the addition of golf to the 2016 Olympics came as the result of a year-long study of the sport and its role in the Olympics by the IOC.  However, given that it does not appear that the law nor economics are enough to grant women membership access to one of the sport’s greatest courses, perhaps reconsideration of the sport’s Olympic presence by the IOC would be enough for Augusta National to open its membership to women.

Or, maybe, tomorrow Augusta National will be true to its word, and without a bayonet pointed at it, grant IBM’s new female CEO, Ginny Rommety, membership.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Olympics, PGA

His Best Foot Forward: Olympic Gold Medalist Rafer Johnson’s Legacy

In 1945, a young man’s family moved from the segregated farming town of Hillsboro, Texas to a land of new opportunities found in central California.

In the central California town of Kingsburg, a principal at Roosevelt Elementary School handed students a two-inch by three-inch paper called the “Roosevelt R,” which was meant to remind them to be the best they could be wherever they went in the world.

Upon leaving the halls of Roosevelt Elementary School, the young man, Rafer Johnson, eventually found himself attending Kingsburg Joint Union High School.  There, Merrill Dodson, a social studies teacher who doubled as a track and field coach, instilled a sentiment in his track and field prodigy which would become Johnson’s mantra:  Be the best you can be.

In an effort to encourage Johnson to become the best he could be athletically and take up the decathlon, Coach Dodson drove the incoming high school junior to Tulare, California to watch Bob Mathias, then the holder of the decathlon world record, compete in the Olympic decathlon trials.

The decathlon is such an extreme series of physical challenges that its ten events span the course of two days.  To prepare mentally and physically for the challenges faced in the decathlon and to compete against the likes of Bob Mathias, Johnson knew he would have to be the best he could be.

“When we moved to Kingsburg, the people in that town gave all their kids the most optimistic outlook they could possibly have.  My social studies teacher and my track coach was Merrill Dodson.  Nobody knows who Merrill Dodson is except for in that little town.  But he put a positive spin on everything we did.  It was the first time I ever heard someone say, “All I want you to be, is the best you can be.”  So I’ve always just followed that—“be the best you can be,” said Johnson.

In 1954, the United States Supreme Court, in an effort to further the United States of America on its path to becoming the best it could be, ruled in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

That fall, Johnson enrolled at UCLA.  At UCLA, Johnson found a legacy of other athletes who subscribed to the notion of being the best they could be.  These athletes included the likes of Jackie Robinson who, after leaving UCLA, broke professional baseball’s color barrier, and Ralph Bunche, the former UCLA athlete whose role as a United Nations mediator between Israel and Palestine earned him the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize.

With a legacy of student-athletes committed to being the best they could be preceding him, Johnson quickly found coaches who motivated him to be his best.  At UCLA, Johnson performed under track coach Elvin “Ducky” Drake.  During Johnson’s recruiting trip to UCLA, Coach Drake implied that he would help Johnson become the best he could be at track and field, by telling Johnson he believed he could earn a spot on the next Olympic team.

Under Coach Drake’s guidance, Johnson participated in the 1955 Pan American Games in Mexico City.  Johnson not only brought home an American decathlon victory in those games, but a new Pan American decathlon record.  Johnson set this record during the event dreaded by every decathlete:  the 1,500 meters.

Johnson described a decathlete’s distaste toward the 1,500 meters by explaining,

“I would suggest that there probably isn’t a decathlete anywhere in the world who loves the 1,500 meters.  It’s the tenth event, the last event of two days’ of competition and by that time you’re tired.  I don’t care how good of shape you’re in, how prepared you were—at that point, you’re tired.”

Although his closest competitor at the 1955 Pan American Games sat out the 1,500 meters event–meaning that Johnson could have won the gold medal without completing the event–Johnson knew that he would not be the best he could be if he did not run the 1,500 meters.

Johnson’s best that night turned out to be good enough to break the Pan American decathlon record.

Johnson’s training and dedication toward becoming the best decathlete he could be allowed him to secure his place on the 1956 U.S. Olympic roster.  Although battling a knee injury and torn stomach muscle, Johnson won the silver medal for the decathlon in the 1956 Olympics.

While Johnson’s injuries during the 1956 Olympics acted as a setback to his earning an Olympic gold medal, Johnson never backed down from challenges in the face of adversity.

“Adversity. . . is just temporary.  The next event or opportunity is coming along.  Everyday, we face obstacles that we may or may not think are going to be difficult.  They turn out to be one or the other.  What you do, is learn from it, but always look at it as a temporary setback,” noted Johnson.

Alicia and Rafer Johnson in Hermosa Beach, CA

Returning to UCLA in the fall of 1956, Johnson conditioned for the track and field season by playing basketball at UCLA.  On the basketball court, Johnson encountered another influential force whose coaching method mirrored Johnson’s adopted motto of being  “the best you can be.”

By the fall of 1956, the man who would become known to the world as the “Wizard of Westwood” had racked up 184 of his 620 wins at UCLA.  Later, Coach John Wooden’s popular Pyramid of Success featured a top block declaring, “Perform at your best when your best is required.  Your best is required each day.”

“People wonder how he was able to win.  To me, it was very simple.  That’s all he asked of his boys [to be their best], and he got them ready to play the game, physically and mentally.  Being the best you can be is what I think of all the time, whether I’m on the field of competition or not,” explained Johnson.

Johnson’s dedication to becoming the best he could be ultimately granted him a second chance at earning Olympic gold in the decathlon.

At the 1960 Olympic games in Rome, Johnson was named the captain of the American contingent, which was composed of athletes including an eighteen-year old boxer named Cassius Clay and a pioneer in women’s sports named Wilma Rudolph.

Over the course of two hot and humid days in Rome, where temperatures reached up to 90 degrees, Johnson’s chance at Olympic gold came down to the decathlon’s final event:  the 1,500 meters.

Ahead of his UCLA classmate and track and field teammate, C.K. Yang, by only sixty-seven points going into the event, Johnson knew that he could not let Yang win the 1,500 meters by more than ten seconds.  Johnson also knew that Yang’s 1,500 meters best was fifteen seconds better than his personal best.

“I was up against one of the best athletes I’ve ever known in C.K. Yang, my friend and classmate.  My coach Ducky Drake, gave us specific instructions as to how we were each to run that race,” said Johnson.

In that moment, Johnson knew that he had to be the best he could be.

Finishing 1.2 seconds behind Yang, Johnson gave the event his best, as he ran the 1,500 meters in the fastest amount of time he ever had.

“Each of us did exactly what [Drake] told us to do,” noted Johnson.

In recognition of being the best he could be, after completing the 1,500 meters, Johnson stood on a podium in Rome when a ribbon laced with a gold medal was placed around his neck.

“One of us finished first and one finished second.  I believe that’s why he [Yang] and I have remained friends all these years, because he knew he was the best he could be and I felt I had my best performance, as well.  That’s really what it’s all about.  Yes, I wanted to win gold, but I would have been a lot more disappointed winning gold, or any other medal, knowing that I hadn’t brought everything I could to that competition,” said Johnson.

In explaining how he achieved Olympic gold medal success, Johnson emphasizes the importance of one being his best in every moment:

“The way I did my decathlon is, I did one event at a time.  I did the best I could do at that event.  The second event, I didn’t look back at the first thinking, “Oh, I could have done that better,” or “that was a great event for me.”  I tried to be my best in the second event.  And I didn’t look forward to the third event when I was doing the second event. I went through ten events.  That’s all I wanted to do, was be the best I can be.  Sometimes it worked out, sometimes it didn’t.  But what I wanted at the end of ten events, was for it to add up to be my best ten events,” explained Johnson.

Johnson’s lifetime personal commitment to being the best he could be allowed him to cross paths with a family recognized by most Americans as exuding excellence.

In 1961, Johnson was awarded the Athlete of the Year award by People to People.  The keynote speaker of the event was United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.  After the ceremony, Kennedy invited Johnson to Washington, D.C., as Johnson expressed interest in international relations and foreign exchange programs.  Johnson accepted the offer and subsequently formed a lasting friendship with the Kennedy family.

Through his friendship with Robert F. Kennedy, Johnson became familiar with Kennedy’s sister, Eunice Shriver.  During the period in which they became friends, Shriver was organizing day camps for individuals with intellectual disabilities at her home.  In 1968, Shriver’s efforts culminated in the first-ever International Special Olympics Summer Games, during which 1,000 athletes competed in various events in Chicago.

While previously involved in community service projects, Johnson’s friendship with the Kennedy’s allowed him to become intimately involved with the Special Olympics and exercise his personal best to support the needs of others.  Since 1966, Johnson has committed himself to giving his best to ensure the success and development of the Special Olympics.

“I was involved in the Robert Kennedy Presidential Campaign in 1968 and I had been involved with the Special Olympics just prior to that in 1966.  Eunice Shriver, Bobby’s sister, started the Special Olympics  because she wanted to involve her sister [Rosemary], who had an intellectual disability and at that point, wasn’t getting any recreation or exercise activities.  Eunice thought life could be better for her.  So she worked on this program,” said Johnson.

At the 1968 International Special Olympics Summer Games, Johnson led 40 California athletes to Chicago to encourage them to be the best they could be.

In 1969, Johnson served as the co-founder of the California Special Olympics by organizing the first annual Western Regional Special Olympics, at which 900 individuals from seven states participated in five athletic events.  In 1995, the California Special Olympics divided into Special Olympics Southern California and Special Olympics Northern California.  Today, 9,000 athletes participate in the Special Olympics Southern California, which hosts a two-season sports calendar during which athletes are given the opportunity to participate in twelve events.

Throughout the 42  year history of what became the Special Olympics Southern California, Johnson has served as a member and president of the board of directors.  Today, Johnson’s commitment to giving his best to supporting Special Olympics Southern California’s athletes is as strong as ever, as he attends every Special Olympics Southern California event.

“I’ll never forget what Mrs. Shriver said [at the 1968 International Special Olympics Summer Games] that, “every athlete here today deserves our attention and deserves this opportunity.”  I remember those words and I think I’ll always be involved with the program, because I came up as a youngster in a very small town in central California and that’s what I think provided the basis for the rest of my career—that somebody helped me be the best that I could be.  That’s what Mrs. Shriver was doing with her inception of Special Olympics and what the Special Olympics program has done ever since.  It has helped special athletes be the best that they can be,” said Johnson.

In a room in a house in Los Angeles, there lies a gold medal that was won by a young man who put forth his best effort on a hot summer night in Rome.

Next to that gold medal, is a crinkled up “R” that his elementary school principal gave him.

Rafer Johnson has never forgotten what it takes to be the best that he can be.

1 Comment

Filed under Nonprofits, Olympics, Pro Bono