On the Scene -- IOC, USOC Corral Athletes Into Colorado Springs

(ATR) In between line dance lessons and a real live rodeo, members of the IOC Athletes' Commission tell Around the Rings the overturned “Osaka Rule” is a hot topic yet to be introduced at the Fifth International Athletes' Forum. Matthew Grayson reports from Colorado Springs.


(ATR) In between line dance lessons and a real live rodeo, members of the IOC Athletes' Commission tell Around the Rings the overturned "Osaka Rule" is a hot topic yet to be introduced at the Fifth International Athletes' Forum.

"There hasn't really been time," says U.S. member Angela Ruggiero, also a four-time Olympic medalist in ice hockey.

"The ruling came out, but we already had all of our agenda set."

Mum's the Word

According to Ruggiero, the IOC did not expect the Court of Arbitration for Sport to strike down the Olympic Charter's controversial Rule 45 days before this conference in Colorado Springs.

The landmark doping decision, of course, clears the way for athletes like LaShawn Merritt who return from drug bans of six months or more to maintain eligibility at the next Olympic Games.

Though not addressed formally during Saturday's joint meetings with the athlete committees of various international federations, continental associations and the World Anti-Doping Agency, Ruggiero says she's sure her colleagues are talking informally about the CAS ruling.

"Some are for it, and some are against it," she adds, declining to reveal on which side of the divide she falls.

Taekwondo gold medalist Dae Sung Moon of South Korea is also playing his cards close to his chest. He tells ATR the doping decision is an important one but won't elaborate.

An athlete's take is largely dependent on his or her sport as well as his or her country, explains IOC member and British skeleton racer Adam Pengilly.

Many are so focused within their own disciplines that they don't yet know of the rule change or its implications, he tells ATR.

Pengilly, for one, expects the issue to arise at Monday morning's first session, a plenary on anti-doping.

"We still have our IOC Athletes' Commission meeting on Tuesday, so that might be something," adds Ruggiero before echoing comments made by IOC vice president and Juridical Commission chair Thomas Bach immediately after Thursday's setback.

"Now I think we're going to take the opportunity and figure out if it's something we want to bring to WADA, for example, to integrate into their code somehow."

Only then would the Paralympic Movement take note, says Robert Balk, the IPC's representative on the Athletes' Commission.

For now, he tells ATR, it's a moot point because Paralympians were never governed by Rule 45 in the first place.

Should the IOC persuade WADA to tweak its code come 2013, however, Balk says his Paralympic pals would then be subject to the same stipulations as their Olympic counterparts.

Athletes Atwitter

Doping isn't the only matter front-of-mind for the 100+ athletes from five continents now corralled in Colorado Springs.

Sunday's sessions focused instead on the IOC Athlete Career Program, the all-important entourage as well as communication and social media.

Charmaine Crooks, the World Olympians Association's representative on the Athletes' Commission, moderated the comms panel with help from Twitter's sports and entertainment expert Omid Ashtari.

"We are working on ways to strengthen our link to our fans, to our community, to our supporters and to get these people engaged in the Olympic Movement," she tells ATR.

By no means was the experience a cautionary tale against the often problematic use of Facebook and Twitter by athletes, says Crooks, also a five-time Olympic sprinter for Canada.

Instead, she and Ashtari encouraged attendees to embrace the twin platforms more than ever in the run-up to London 2012.

Not Your Average Olympic Get-Together

Almost nothing about the Athletes' Forum so far resembles a typical IOC gathering.

Thanks to the USOC, Sunday's activities took place mostly on the campus of its Olympic Training Center without a traditional convention center in sight.

In between working group discussions, delegates divided into four teams of 25 apiece and rotated through shooting, table tennis, wheelchair basketball as well as sitting volleyball stations.

Athletes being athletes, a healthy dose of competition – and color-coordinated bandannas – came hand-in-hand with their foray onto the playing field.

The attire too represented a sea change from the traditional coats and ties. Most everyone started the morning in sweats and ended the evening in cowboy hats with a trip to the nearby Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.

Inside the HOF, athletes drank Bud Light, dined on beef brisket, danced the electric slide and demonstrated their best lasso technique before heading outdoors for a taste of the Wild West.

The all-volunteer Pike's Peak Rangerettes opened the show on horseback, a glitzy but somewhat tame act compared to the procession of animals then ridden, steered, hog-tied and everything in between.

One-armed bandit John Payne brought the night to a close by chasing a pair of buffalo around the arena and then herding them atop a tractor trailer, neither before a National Football League score update – and Denver Broncos joke – from the rodeo announcer-turned-comedian.

Again, not your average Olympic get-together.

Written in Colorado Springs by Matthew Grayson.

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