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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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August 1, 2008 6:16 PM

Hardy withdraws, USA Swimming affirms: No athletes added to Beijing roster

Posted by Ron Judd

This just in:

Swimmer Jessica Hardy has reached a deal to withdraw from the U.S. Olympic Team after a positive doping test. But swimming officials immediately reiterated that other swimmers who would have gone to the Beijing Games if she had not competed -- including Bremerton's Tara Kirk -- will not be added to the team.

(Begin quoted statement:)

Statement from USA Swimming Executive Director Chuck Wielgus:

"As a result of Jessica Hardy's withdrawal from the U.S. Olympic Team, USA Swimming will follow the published U.S. Olympic Team selection procedures, which were approved by the USOC, and posted in their final format on February 22, 2008. According to the pre-approved procedures, swimmers from the existing roster will be placed in the open events. Rebecca Soni will swim the 100m breaststroke and Kara Lynn Joyce will swim the 50m freestyle."

Excerpt from 2008 Olympic Pool Selection Procedures included below…


U.S. Olympic Team Selection Procedures: Section IV - B

If, for any reason, an additional Team position or an additional event position shall become vacant after July 21, 2008, (entry deadline), no additional members shall be added to the Team. If USA Swimming is permitted to fill a vacant event position, such vacant event position shall be filled with the swimmer already on the Team who has recorded the fastest time in such vacant event during the period beginning January 1, 2006 through July 6, 2008, provided, however, that the replacement swimmer must agree, after consulting with the Head Coach and National Team Head Coach and General Manager, to compete in the additional event. If the replacement swimmer does not agree to swim in the additional event, then the replacement swimmer shall not be considered an Available Swimmer for that event. This process shall repeat until the event is filled.(End quoted statement)

The statement confirms that third-place finishers from the U.S. Olympic Trials, one of whom was Kirk (who beat Rebecca Soni, now officially slated to swim the event in the Olympics, at the Trials) will not be added to the team.

USA Swimming's action comes after the Associated Press reported, moments ago, that Hardy, who tested positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol at the Olympic Trials on July 4, has withdrawn from the Olympics on her own accord, "in the best interests of the team."

The Long Beach swimmer, 21, who has professed her innocence and suggested any ingestion of clenbuterol must have been accidental, apparently has struck her own deal: After being granted an opportunity to have testing data reviewed by independent analysts, Hardy reportedly chose not to contest the clincial findings, but instead offered to return and provide reasons she might have tested positive -- perhaps to receive a suspension shorter than the typical two years.

See the story here.

The key portions:

A panel from the American Arbitration Association issued a decision Friday that was jointly agreed to by Hardy and USADA (the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) after Hardy had a full opportunity to review the laboratory test results and to have those results analyzed by independent experts.

Hardy did not contest the laboratory findings and was granted additional time by the arbitration panel to investigate possible causes of her positive drug test.

The decision allows for a two-year period of ineligibility but allows Hardy to come back to the panel to present evidence that could reduce her period of ineligibility.

"While some might have chosen to exhaust their legal options to try to force their way into the games, Jessica instead chose to put her team's interests ahead of her own," said Travis Tygart, chief executive officer of USADA.

More on the story from the Long Beach Press-Telegram:

Hardy's legal team said Friday that they would no longer contest a positive drug finding, according to her stepfather, Bill Robinson, an attorney who has been working on the appeal.

"We didn't want to turn this into a circus and there wasn't enough time left for us to get all the information that would clear her name," Robinson said.

"But we continue to maintain she never knowingly took an illegal drug," he added.

Hardy had qualified for four events at the Beijing Games.

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August 1, 2008 6:08 PM

The view from here -- way over here

Posted by Ron Judd

SOFA, The Living Room -- The rumors are false: My living room actually does NOT look like the Situation Room -- either the one at the White House, or the one manned by Wolf (The Droning) Blitzer on CNN.

But it is a bit unkempt. There's the traditional flatscreen in the corner, hooked up to DirecTV satellite and DVR -- mostly for watching NBC and its mind-boggling array of subsidiaries, in HD. And then that white coax cable running up from the basement, across the floor, into a supplementary, non-HD TV (you have to make sacrifices somewhere) carrying the feed for CBC.

On the coffee table, a pair of dueling laptops, one to watch live coverage from Beijing, the other from which to file columns and posts to this site. Next to those: Hundreds of pages and numerous linear feet of TV schedule printouts and assorted other press-release flotsam.

The Seven-Day countdown has begun: One week to launch, and we're locked and loaded.

If you haven't guessed by now: I'm not going to Beijing. After covering the past five Olympics for the Times, I begged out of this one many months ago, mostly for personal reasons (getting married this summer, with potential date conflicts). But I did have another kernel of motivation: It's been 10 years since I've seen an Olympics from the outside, like most people do, rather than the inside. I suspected that gaining that perspective might open up an entire new field of commentary. And I hope readers will find the inside/outside comparisons illuminating, too.

So, starting at 4 a.m. next Friday with the Opening Ceremony (live on CBC; half a day later on NBC), I'll be stationed here, in Escrow Heights, taking in the Games via cable, satellite and broadband. In addition, when we're awake at the same time, I'll be communicating via telephone and Skype with friends on the scene. I'll be posting random thoughts on Games events, and critiquing media coverage, here in this space and in a daily column in the sports section of the printed paper. The two might share some information, but won't be exactly the same.

Assisting me with event triage -- at least when I goad her into it -- will be my wife, Emjay, another veteran Olympic journalist who will be breaking her own string of personal Games coverage by sitting out Beijing. Emjay, whose Olympic experience began when the five-ringed circus came to her hometown of Lake Placid, NY, in 1980, has been providing much of The Times' early Beijing coverage by writing (under her actual name, Meri-Jo Borzilleri) a weekly Olympic notebook in the Sunday paper, not to mention a large chunk of the Times' special Beijing preview section, which will appear in the paper this coming Thursday. (The section, which includes a fascinating guide to Beijing, full TV schedule and information on every athlete with a Washington connection, should not be missed.)

What it all means is more, not less, coverage of this Olympics by The Times, in spite of lean times in the newspaper biz. We will have an extremely capable, experienced team on the ground: Veteran columnist Steve Kelley will write daily about local athletes and the Games' biggest events. Reporter Kristi Heim, who is fluent in Mandarin and has traveled and reported extensively in China, will cover the Games from a broader perspective, offering insights into China's emergence onto the world stage. As she recently wrote in her blog:

When the Games start in Beijing, the events will be well choreographed, but the way Chinese authorities (and the public) respond to unpredictable situations will be the most revealing. Thirty years ago Deng Xiaoping ended decades of isolation, and now the Olympics will test how far China's door is open.

Photographer Rod Mar will bring all this to life, in print and online, with still images and some video.

In addition to their work in the printed paper and on the Times' Web site, all of them will add their personal experiences from Beijing on their own blogs on the Times Web site, at www.seattletimes.com/olympics. Links to all of our Olympic coverage can be found at that central location.

One another note: My Thursday column, Trail Mix, will be on hiatus during the Games. Sunday's The Wrap by Ron Judd will continue, perhaps taking a week off in the middle of it all.

It'll be quite the ride, and we hope you come along with us.

And no, you can't come over to our house and watch the East Coast feed of NBC.


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August 1, 2008 12:52 PM

Chinese censors give in; we're not taking the bait

Posted by Ron Judd

Reports from Beijing Friday indicate that Chinese censors have capitulated to the International Olympic Committee and restored Press-Center Internet access to sites of China critics, including Amnesty International.

That's cool, but our campaign to get blocked in China will not relent. When it happens, it'll be even bigger news, because we shall stand alone. Mark our words -- in invisible Chinese ink.

Some Web sites specifically decrying the granting of the Games to the Chinese, such as this one, reportedly remain blocked in China.

Meanwhile, a reader asks: "Aren't you worried about riling the Chinese government before you land there to cover the Games?"

Answer: No way. I'm too fearless to let that get in the way of my journalistic mission. That, plus the fact that I'm not making the trip over for these Games. More on that later today.


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Blogroll and links

www.olympic.org: The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information.
www.nbcolympics.com: Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog
www.usolympicteam.com: U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site.
www.aroundtherings.com: Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription).
www.wcsn.com: News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions.
www.beijing2008.com: Beijing Organizing Committee Web site.
www.vancouver2010.com: Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site.
www.london2012.com: London 2012 Summer Games site.
www.sochi2014.com: Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site.
www.chicago2016.org: Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
Bellevue Olympian Scott Macartney's WCSN alpine ski-racing blog
Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.