Suit questions skateboarding group's anti-doping practices
A lawsuit accuses the group trying to bring skateboarding into the 2020 Olympics of skirting anti-doping rules and giving favors to an IOC official that led to the ouster of a rival group from the negotiating table.
Skateboarding is one of five sports the International Olympic Committee will vote on Wednesday for possible inclusion in the Tokyo Games, but there's friction between groups that seek to run the sport.
A large portion of the lawsuit, filed last week in California, concerns anti-doping - an issue in the headlines, as Olympic leaders sort out which Russian athletes are eligible to compete at the Rio Games. Investigators have found Russia's government oversaw a widespread doping program that helped dozens of doped athletes avoid positive tests.
The lawsuit, filed by the World Skateboarding Federation (WSF), alleges the International Skateboarding Federation (ISF) abruptly canceled scheduled drug testing at an event last year because of fears that several riders would test positive.
The lawsuit outlines another episode, from earlier this year, in which IOC president Thomas Bach criticized the European X Games, also sanctioned by ISF, for failing to implement a thorough testing program.
And the lawsuit says ISF received its accreditation in 2009 from the World Anti-Doping Agency using false information, which precluded the WSF from receiving the same sanctioning because WADA will only recognize one federation per sport.
The lawsuit claims ISF violated WADA standards by handpicking athletes who were tested, and notifying them ahead of time. It says the ISF conducted no tests after 2010, then tried to reinstate a testing program in 2015, only to scratch testing at one event for fear athletes would test positive.
A WADA spokesperson said ISF is in compliance with the agency's rules.
Though the IOC oversees the Olympics and makes the ultimate call for which sports are on the program, it largely leaves the running of the sports to the federations that oversee them on a daily basis. In many cases, such as in track and gymnastics, it's not hard to identify the internationally recognized federation. In others, especially action sports that have populated the Winter Olympics schedule over the past two decades, it's more difficult to identify the governing body.
When snowboarding was voted into the Olympics under the control of skiing's international federation (FIS), many athletes in a sport full of non-conformists protested, saying the skiing group had virtually no experience putting on top-line snowboarding contests.
In the lawsuit, WSF portrays itself as the world leader in producing skateboarding events and a key player in the movement to bring the sport to the Olympics. WSF claims that neither the ISF, nor its president, Gary Ream, have ever operated or managed a skateboarding contest. The lawsuit claims ISF moved to exclude WSF from the Olympic process. WSF seeks to be brought back into the process and whatever other damages the court finds appropriate.
''Now that the IOC has acted to exclude the most significant event organizer in the sport ... `(it) appears to be acting in a manner detrimental to skateboarding in the Olympic Games and detrimental to the welfare of skateboarding, skateboarders, and their fans,'' WSF president Tim McFerran said.
The lawsuit also alleges Ream struck up a friendly relationship with Christophe Dubi, the IOC Olympic Games executive director.
The lawsuit says Ream provided Dubi's son with free training at a skateboarding camp he owned. It also alleges Ream hired a $5,000-a-month consultant who ''was or is currently in a personal relationship with Dubi.''
The lawsuit says Dubi was to remain uninvolved in the process to add skateboarding to the Olympic program to avoid the appearance of impropriety. But it also says that Dubi was in regular meetings with the ISF consultant and IOC sports director Kit McConnell, who works for Dubi.
Ream, in Rio de Janeiro for Wednesday's vote, told The Associated Press he could not comment because he hadn't seen the lawsuit. An IOC spokesman said ''these allegations are groundless.''