Saturday, August 30, 2008

To Excel, Inspire and Excite (The Paralympic Games)

By Siesta-friendly

3 words that pack a lot reflecting as they do the Paralympic Vision. [1] Succinct and apt.

As we’ve had ample discussion about the Olympics, its time we tackled the Paralympics considering the next edition will begin on September 6.

To be clear, the “Para” in Paralympics is not meant to refer to Paraplegic. “Para” means “beside” in Greek. So the Paralympics are meant to be alongside or parallel, i.e, equivalent to the Olympics. Paralympians are also elite athletes just like Olympians. In fact –

“Five of ten Powerlifting world records are held by Paralympians. One of them is Ahmed Gomaa Mohamed Ahmed from Egypt, whose world record of 193.5kg exceeds the non-disabled record by more than 10 kilograms. Athletes in 100m sprints have posted times within one second of the Olympic record. Adekunde Adesoji, a visually impaired athlete from Nigeria, for example, covers the 100m in sensational 10.76 seconds. Alpine skiers descended the slopes of Snow Basin at the Salt Lake 2002 Paralympic Winter Games with speeds of more than 100km per hour.”[2]

By the way, the Paralympics are not the same as the Special Olympics. The latter is only for the intellectually disabled while the Paralympics are for all disabled (although participation in the Paralympics by the International Sports Federation for Persons with Intellectual Disability a.k.a. INAS-FID has been suspended at present but that’s another matter which we will briefly discuss later below).

The 1st Paralympic Games were held in Rome in 1960 the same place and year as the XVII Olympiad. Although that seems to be just a coincidence as only beginning 1988 were the Paralympics and Olympics consistently held in the same year and city. Now, the selection of the Olympics host city includes evaluating the city’s ability to host the Paralympics.[3] Further proof of the parallel natures of both Games.

The Summer Games can only last 12-14 days while the Winter Games only between 9-12 days.[4]

The Paralympic Sports

The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games

Credit: The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games

A sport may be considered for inclusion in the Paralympic Programme if, among other things: a) the individual sport or discipline is “widely and regularly practiced” in at least 24 countries, or b) the team sport or discipline is “widely and regularly practiced” in at least 18 countries.[5]

International Paralympic Committee

Credit: International Paralympic Committee

There are 20 sports to be played in the Beijing Paralympics. 16 are also Olympics sports, namely, Archery, Athletics, Cycling, Equestrian, Football (5-a-side), Football (7-a-side), Judo, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting, Swimming, Table Tennis, Volleyball (Sitting), (Wheelchair) Basketball, (Wheelchair) Fencing, and (Wheelchair) Tennis, while the remaining 4 are exclusive to the Paralympics.[6]

The 4 distinctive Paralympic sports are:

The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games

Credit: The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games

1. Boccia – A sport which begins by throwing the white target ball or the “jack” into the playing area. The same player also rolls the first Boccia ball as close as possible to the jack. The athletes use their hands, feet or an assistive device where required, to propel the balls. Thereafter the opposing team throws until they get a ball closer to the jack or until they have thrown all of their team’s balls. Play then returns to the first team. The end continues in this manner until both teams have thrown all of their balls.”[7]

2. Goalball - This is exclusive to visually impaired athletes. The object is to roll the ball into the opponent’s goal while the opposing players try to block the ball with their body.

The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games

Credit: The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games

Bells inside the ball help to orient the players indicating the direction of the on-coming ball. Therefore, while play is in progress, complete silence is required in the venue to allow the players to concentrate and react instantly to the ball. Athletes wear ‘blackout’ masks on the playing court, which allows persons with varying degrees of vision to participate together.”[8]

3. Powerlifting – This is weight-lifting

The Paralympian Online

Credit: The Paralympian Online

where the athlete’s entire body must be stretched out on a bench during lifting.[9]

4. Wheelchair Rugby – A sport which combines “elements of Basketball, Handball, and Ice Hockey.

International Wheelchair Rugby Federation

Credit: International Wheelchair Rugby Federation

The object of the game is to carry the ball across the opposing team’s goal line. Two wheels must cross the goal line for a goal to count, and the player must have firm control of the ball when he or she crosses the line.

The ball may be carried on the lap, but must be passed between players or bounced at least once every ten seconds.”[10]

And, yes, there are also Paralympic Winter Games. There are 4, namely:

International Paralympic Committee

Credit: International Paralympic Committee

1. Alpine Skiing – “Skiers with blindness/visual impairment are guided through the course by sighted guides using voice signals to indicate the course to follow. Athletes with physical disabilities use equipment that is adapted to their needs including single ski, sit-ski or orthopaedic aids.”[11]

The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games

Credit: The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games

2. Ice Sledge Hockey – ice hockey where, instead of “standing on skates, players sit on aluminum or steel sledges fitted with two blades. They grip two double-ended sticks, one in each hand. One end of the stick has a sharp pick that the players use to propel the sledge, the other has a curved blade to pass and shoot the puck.”[12]

International Paralympic Committee

Credit: International Paralympic Committee

3. Nordic Skiing[13] – composed of the ff 2 events:

1) Biathlon – consisting of “a 7.5km route divided into three 2.5km stages. Between the two stages athletes must hit two targets located at a distance of 10 metres. Each miss is penalized by an increase in the overall route time. Athletes with blindness/visual impairment are assisted by acoustic signals, which depending on signal intensity, indicate when the athlete is on target.”

2) Cross Country Skiing – “Depending on functional disability, a competitor uses a sit-ski, a chair equipped with a pair of skis. Athletes with blindness/visual impairment compete in the event with a sighted guide.”

International Paralympic Committee

Credit: International Paralympic Committee

4. Wheelchair Curling – This is played by pushing, from a stationary wheelchair, 40 pound granite donuts down a sheet of ice towards a 12 feet circular target that is 40 yards away to try to place them closer to the center than those thrown by the opponent.[14] “The sport is open to male and female athletes with a physical disability in the lower part of the body. This includes athletes with significant impairments in lower leg/gait function (eg, spinal injury, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, double leg amputation, etc), who require a wheelchair for daily mobility.”[15]

Eligibility to Compete

As with the Olympics, the International Federations (IFs) have the authority to set the eligibility requirements for their respective sports. But the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has laid down certain general standards in the IPC Classification Code And International Standards (November 2007), namely:

1. An “Athlete must have an impairment that leads to a permanent and verifiable Activity Limitation.” (Article 5.2) An Activity Limitation is defined as difficulties in executing activities. (Appendix 2: Glossary)

The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games

Credit: The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games

2. This “impairment should limit the Athlete’s ability to compete equitably in elite sport with Athletes without impairment.” (Article 5.3)

The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games

Credit: The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games

So, absolutely no able-bodied athletes are allowed. Remember we said earlier that the INAS- FID has been suspended from the Paralympics? Well, that resulted from the IPC’s finding that 10 of 12 players of Spain’s intellectually-disabled basketball team, which eventually won the gold medal in the Paralympic Games Sydney 2000, were not at all intellectually-disabled.[16] Seems that INAS-FID does not have an acceptable system for verifying athletes’ eligibility (so it was easy for the not intellectually-disabled to pass themselves as intellectually-disabled and proceed to compete in the Paralympics) so it and all intellectually disabled athletes are suspended until INAS- FID meets IPC’s eligibility standards.[17]

The spirit of fair play (including the Anti-Doping Code) are as much applicable in the Paralympics as they are in the Olympics.


In Paralympic sports, classification of athletes (and their sports) depend on the athletes’ function/impairment in playing their particular sports. Classification rules depend on the sports’ respective International Federations (IFs) but are, more or less, based on the traditional disability groups: amputee, cerebral palsy, visual impairment, spinal cord injuries, intellectual disability and the rest.[18]

A simple example will help better describe this. We’ll take archery since it has, thankfully, only 3 classifications (other sports have more than 10):[19]

1) Archery Standing (ARST): Archers in the Standing Class have no disabilities in the arms. The legs show some degree of loss of muscle strength, co-ordination and/or joint mobility. Archers in this class may choose to compete sitting in an ordinary chair with their feet on the ground or standing.

2) Archery Wheelchair 1 (ARW1): Archers in the ARW1 class have a disability in their arms and legs (tetraplegia). They have limited range of movement, strength and control of their arms and poor or non-existing control of the trunk. The legs are considered non-functional, due to amputation and/or similar limitations of movement, strength and control. They compete in a wheelchair.

3) Archery Wheelchair 2 (ARW2): Archers in the ARW2 class have paraplegia and limited mobility in the lower limbs. These athletes require a wheelchair for everyday use and compete in a wheelchair.

Excel, Inspire and Excite. Whatever the classification, whatever the category, the Paralympians - and all disabled athletes – in our eyes, do just that.

[1] International Paralympic Committee. (2003, April) IPC Handbook Paralympic Vision and Mission. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The International Paralympic Committee Web site:

[2] International Paralympic Committee. (2003). Spirit in Motion [Brochure]. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The International Paralympic Committee Web site:

[3] International Paralympic Committee. (2007, July) IPC Handbook Paralympic Games Organization Principles. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The International Paralympic Committee Web site:

[4] Supra.

[5] Supra.

[6] (2008). Paralympic Sports. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games Web site:

[7] (2008). Competition Description. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games Web site:

[8] (2008). Goalball. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The International Paralympic Committee Web site:

[9] (2008). Competition Description. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games Web site:

[10] (2008). Competition Description. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games Web site:

[11] (2008). Alpine Skiing. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The International Paralympic Committee Web site:

[12] (2008). Ice Sledge Hockey. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Web site:

[13] (2008). Nordic Skiing. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The International Paralympic Committee Web site:

[14] (2008). Wheelchair curling - how to play and how to get involved. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The Wheelchair Curling’s Home on the Internet Web site:

[15] (2008). Wheelchair Curling. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The International Paralympic Committee Web site:

[16] (2001). INAS-FID Suspension: Developments in the case. The Paralympian Online, No. 1, Retrieved August 27, 2008, from

[17] International Paralympic Committee. (2007) Position Statement Regarding the Participation of Athletes with an Intellectual Disability at IPC Sanctioned Competitions. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The International Paralympic Committee Web site:

[18] (2008). Classification. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The International Paralympic Committee Web site:

[19] (2008). Classification. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games Web site:


Sunday, August 24, 2008

DYING TO SAY IT (Dying Declarations, Exception to the Hearsay Rule)

By Obiter07

In an old movie of Ms. Charito Solis, there is a dramatic scene where she says to someone that - those who are about to die do not lie, reveals all, then jumps off a high place. It’s a classic film and that heart-rending sight was really done quite well, with the actress’ face forcing a smile while in tears as she speaks and discloses a secret she has kept for so long. But the premise of this film is not something based on just the director’s imagination as it also has basis in law, particularly in the rules on evidence.

What is hearsay

Under the Rules on Evidence, a witness can only testify as to facts that he personally knows based on his own observation. Hence, hearsay is not allowed.
Sec. 36. Testimony generally confined to personal knowledge; hearsay excluded. — A witness can testify only to those facts which he knows of his personal knowledge; that is, which are derived from his own perception, except as otherwise provided in these rules. (30a)” (Rule 130)
What exactly is hearsay? Note that the rule does not define what it is but only what it is not: facts not perceived by the witness himself. Thus, rumours are a no-no. The rule is based on concerns about the trustworthiness and reliability of hearsay evidence, since this is not given under oath and not subject to cross-examination where opposing counsel can test a witness. This is because in a hearsay situation there are actually two witnesses - one who is testifying in court and one other person, whose utterances are the subject of the testimony.(Herrera, Remedial Law, Vol. V (1999), pp. 565-567)

Dying declarations as exception to hearsay rule

However, there are exceptions to the hearsay rule such as the dying declaration.
Sec. 37. Dying declaration. — The declaration of a dying person, made under the consciousness of an impending death, may be received in any case wherein his death is the subject of inquiry, as evidence of the cause and surrounding circumstances of such death. (31a)”
It may seem archaic but the rules do presume that a dying man has the conscience, or enough of it, to tell the truth. However, his declaration can only cover cases wherein the “death of the declarant is the subject of inquiry.” To put in more literary terms, “truth sits in the lips of the dying man” (Ibid., p. 596) Woe to you if he does not have that much of a conscience and repeats a lie despite his impending exit from this world.

Even the Supreme Court has referred to this exception as the “most mystical in its theory.” It further stated that “a dying declaration or ante mortem statement is evidence of the highest order and is entitled to utmost credence since no person aware of his impending death would make a careless and false accusation. xxx [T]he declarant’s death renders it impossible his taking the witness stand, and it often happens that there is no other equally satisfactory proof of the crime; allowing it, therefore, prevents a failure of justice. xxx [The] declaration is made in extremity, when the party is at the point of death and when every motive to falsehood is silenced and the mind is induced by the most powerful considerations to speak the truth. The law considers the point of death as a situation so solemn and awful as creating an obligation equal to that which is imposed by an oath administered in court.” PEOPLE vs. CERILLA [G.R. No. 177147. November 28, 2007.]

There are 4 requisites in order for this exception to the hearsay rule to apply:
“xxx [F]irst, the declaration must concern the cause and surrounding circumstances of the declarant’s death. xxx Second, at the time the declaration was made, the declarant must be under the consciousness of an impending death. xxx Third, the declarant is competent as a witness. The rule is that where the declarant would not have been a competent witness had he survived, the proffered declarations will not be admissible. xxx Fourth, the declaration must be offered in a criminal case for homicide, murder, or parricide, in which the declarant is the victim. xxx.” (Ibid.)
Examples of Dying Declarations

Just to show this exception in actual practice and to try and place you in such a tragic and extreme situation, below are excerpts from a case where a dying declaration formed part of the evidence to convict the accused.

In one case, the father was shot as he walked with his daughter who cradled him in her arms when he fell:
“The victim communicated his ante-mortem statement to three persons who testified with unanimity that they had been told by the victim himself that it was appellant who shot him. Michelle recounted:
Q: You said your father moved towards you, what happened next?
A: I approached my father and cuddled him.
Q: What happened next?
A: While I was cuddling my father he said, “Day, it was Joemarie who shot me.”
Q: How many times he said he was shot?
A: Not once but about 10 times.
SPO3 Dequito, who responded immediately to the crime scene, corroborated the testimonies of the Alexander’s children, to wit:
Q: Meaning you loaded the victim into the ambulance?
A: Yes, Your Honor.
Q: And after he was loaded, what did you do?
A: Before the ambulance left the area, I questioned the victim who shot him and he answered Alias “Pato.” I am referring to Joemarie Cerilla, the accused.
Q: The accused Cerilla, Alias “Pato”?
A: Yes, Your Honor.
Likewise, Alexander’s wife, Sonia, testified:
Q: When you reached that hospital and your own mother led you to where Alexander was, in what part of the hospital did you first see him?
A: Outside the operating room.
Q: What was the situation of your husband when you first saw him?
A: He was leaning on his side and many nurses attending to him and saying “araguy.”
Q: Between you and your husband who spoke first?
A: My husband.
Q: What were the exact words stated by your husband?
A: He told me that it was Joemarie who shot him” (Ibid.)”
In another case, a policeman who was responding to the robbery of a grocery store was shot in the face by one of the perpetrators and literally identified his assailant by means of his own blood.
“More importantly, PO3 Erwil Pastor identified Galingan as the robber who shot him. In the emergency room of the Eastern Pangasinan District Hospital, at around 7:00 p.m. on September 2, 1995, Pastor moaned “I might die. I might die.” in the presence of SPO1 Conrado Hidalgo and SPO4 Emilio Nagui. Hence, PO3 Pastor’s statements were taken down by SPO1 Hidalgo who assisted PO3 Pastor in affixing his thumbmark with his own blood:
Q Who shot you?
A Bong Galingan, . . .”
PEOPLE vs. COMILING, et al. [G.R. No. 140405. March 4, 2004.]
You may try and impugn the witness’ credibility, catch him in an inconsistency, reveal his true motives, cast all kinds of doubt on his testimony, but in the end, it is hard to dodge a dead hand that points a finger at you.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Something more precious than gold (The disabled’s ability to compete in the Summer Olympics)

By Siesta-friendly

To continue our Olympic series, we now discuss the triumphs of athletes we don’t expect to see in world-class sporting events normally participated in by able-bodied athletes.

As discussed previously, propulsion is a big no-no[1] in Olympic competitions. Because these athletes compete without mechanisms that give them advantage over their competitors, they qualified to compete in the Olympics (they may also have qualified to compete in the Paralympics but that’s another matter).

For most of these athletes, there was no legal case filed questioning their qualifications since most of them competed without any artificial limb. The one case filed and discussed later below is a landmark case. It is just unfortunate that the athlete involved was not able to qualify for the Beijing Games due to a slow running time.

George Eyser (1871-?)
The pioneer for all disabled Olympians is U.S. gymnast George Eyser[2] who competed with a wooden left leg in St. Louis 1904 where he won 3 golds, 2 silvers and 1 bronze. He had his leg amputated after a train ran over it.

IOC / Olympic Museum Collections/R. Witschel/IOPP
Credit: IOC / Olympic Museum Collections/R. Witschel/IOPP
Neroli Fairhall (1944- 2006)
The pioneer for paraplegic Olympians is New Zealand archer Neroli Fairhall[3] who competed in Los Angeles 1984. She took up archery only after becoming paralyzed from the waist down due to a motorbike accident. There were questions on the possible advantage her wheelchair provided as support but nothing became of them.
Marla Runyan (1969- )
At 9, Marla Runyan was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease which causes legal blindness. Eventually, her vision deteriorated thus classifying her as legally blind. Regardless, she competed in track and field and won the 100m, 200m, 400m and long jump in the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics, and the Pentathlon in the Atlanta 1996 Paralympics.[4] She qualified for and competed in Sydney 2000 in the 1500m and in Athens 2004 in the 5000m race.[5]
Natalie du Toit (1984- )
At 16, South African swimmer Natalie du Toit[6] was already an internationally competitive swimmer - having nearly qualified for Sydney 2000. In 2001, however, a careless driver directly ran into her left leg causing it to be amputated. She continued swimming and competed in the Paralympic Games in Athens 2004. Now at 24, she qualifies for the 1st time to compete in the Summer Olympics, albeit 1 leg short. She will compete in open water in the Women’s Marathon 10km in Beijing.

© Gaël Marziou (Kranjska Gora, 2007)
Credit: © Gaël Marziou (Kranjska Gora, 2007)
Natalia Partyka (1989 - )
Polish pingpong player Natalia Partyka[7] was born without a right forearm. Like Natalie Du Toit, she competes without any prosthetic. She has already competed twice in the Paralympic Games, in Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004. This year, both she and Natalie will compete in the Beijing Summer and Paralympic Games.
Oscar Pistorius (1986- )
Now on to the landmark case involving South African runner Oscar Pistorius and his artificial limbs called the Cheetah Flex-Foot (made by the Icelandic company Össur).[8] As backgrounder, Mr. Pistorius (aptly nicknamed the Bladerunner) was born with no calf bones nor ankles, and just two toes on each foot.[9] His parents eventually decided to have his legs amputated below the knees before his 1st birthday.

Though already very active in sports from an early age, he only took up sprinting when he injured his knee playing rugby in 2004. In the same year, he won gold in the 200m and bronze in the 100m races in the Athens Paralympics.

Also in 2004, he began to compete with able-bodied runners and began receiving invitations to compete in events sanctioned by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).

In 2007, the IAAF amended its rule on the use of technical devices which now reads and prohibits as follows:
“Use of any technical device that incorporates springs, wheels or any other element that provides the user with an advantage over another athlete not using such a device.” (IAAF Rule 144.2(e))
Also in 2007, and armed with high definition cameras, the IAAF videotaped Mr. Pistorius’ run in a Rome race. Months later, Mr. Pistorious participated in IAAF-sponsored biomechanical tests to determine if his prosthesis really gave him an advantage (contrary to the rule). The tests were made to evaluate his sprint movement, oxygen intake and blood lactate metabolism (together with 5 other “control” athletes).

Based on the tests, the IAAF ruled that there was indeed a violation of the rule because the tests showed that Mr. Pistorius gained advantages from the use of his prosthesis.

Mr. Pistorius then filed an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). In interpreting Rule 144.2 (e), the CAS determined that the ‘advantage’ the rule speaks of can only mean an “overall net advantage” because if the device is found to provide both advantages and disadvantages yet the disadvantages outnumber the advantages, the athlete is competing with an overall net disadvantage and, therefore, not in violation of the rule.

The CAS found that since the tests were only designed to find advantages and were not intended to discover disadvantages, the IAAF failed to prove that there was a violation of the rule as the tests failed to show if there was an overall net advantage or disadvantage.

In addition, the CAS ruled that the IAAF was not able to provide sufficient proof of actual advantages that: (1) the Cheetah Flex-Foot provides any metabolic advantage; (2) that the biomechanical effects of using it gave Mr. Pistorius an advantage over his competitors who don’t use it; or (3) its use acts more, or less, than a human ankle or lower leg in terms of spring-like quality.

The CAS also took note of the 10-year existence of the Cheetah Flex-Foot during which its use by other runners has not resulted in the ability of the latter to run competitively against able-bodied runners as Mr. Pistorius has.

In upholding Mr. Pistorius’ appeal, however, the CAS carefully noted that their decision does not: (1) apply to any future development of the Cheetah Flex-Foot; (2) preclude the possibility that the IAAF will someday be able to prove it that the device does violate the rule; nor (3) apply to any other athlete or any other prosthetic.

It would have been awesome to have seen the Bladerunner run in the Olympics, especially for other disabled athletes. But the decision is groundbreaking enough as to give athletes with prosthetics more hope in being able to compete against able-bodied athletes in the near future.

Certainly, the presence of Natalie du Toit and Natalia Partyka in the Beijing Games provide more than enough awe and inspiration to anyone.

[1] “The Modern Olympic Games”. 2007. International Olympic Committee. 29 July 2008

[2] “George Eyser”. August 12, 2008
[3] “Neroli Fairhall”. 2008. Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. 12 August 2008
[4] “Ouch ! — its a disability thing”. 15 August 2008. BBC. 15 August 2008
[5] “Biography”. 15 August 2008
[6] “Natalie’s Story”. 2006. 15 August 2008
[7] Chang, Anita. “Polish teen to compete in Olympics and Paralympics”. 10 Aug 2008. Chicago Sun-Times. 12 Aug 2008
[8] Oscar Pistorius v. International Association of Athletics Federations, CAS 2008/A/1480, 16 May 2008.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Olympian (Participating in the Olympic Games)

By Siesta-friendly

The XXIX Olympiad Games were declared open last night after the jaw-dropping opening ceremonies. China gets gold and breaks all records in the Olympics of opening ceremonies.

Anyway, the competitions are on.

So how did the athletes get there in the first place? How does one become an Olympian? Is it a matter of just signing up for the Olympics every 4 years? Are there qualification requirements? Who determines the athlete’s eligibility? Are there limits set for participating? How can one be disqualified?

The Organizations

In answering all the relevant questions (and more), it is important to be acquainted with the 3 main constituents of the Olympic Movement (Olympic Charter, Chapter I, Rule 1.2):

1. International Olympic Committee (IOC) – the supreme authority over the Olympic Movement which encompasses organizations, athletes and other persons who agree to be guided by the Olympic Charter. (Chapter I, Rule 1.1).

2. International Federations (IFs) – international organizations that establish and enforce the rules concerning the practice of their respective sports. (Chapter III, Rule 27.1.1) The IFs establish their criteria of eligibility for competing in the Olympics. (Chapter III, Rule 27.1.5) If they say you have to compete and meet a particular score in some world/international competition, then that’s what you must do.

3. National Olympic Committees (NOCs) – national organizations responsible for their countries’ representation at the regional, continental or world multi-sports competitions patronized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). (Chapter III, Rule 28.3) The NOCs shall send to the Olympic Games only those competitors adequately prepared for high level international competition. (Chapter V, Rule 45.4) If for some reason, they deem you’re not good enough, you might have to experience the Games via TV. With our kind of politics – even in sports - that is not such a strange scenario.

The Olympian’s road to the Olympic Games is always regulated by these 3 organizations.


Now, we go to more specific eligibility rules for athletes.

Nationality rules -

1. The athlete must be a national of the country of the NOC which enters him in the competition. (Chapter I, Rule 42.1) However, problems relating to the determination of the country which an athlete may represent are resolved by the IOC. (Chapter I, Rule 42.1) And so, in Sydney 2000, the 4-man team from the newly-independent East Timor which had no NOC yet then, was allowed to participate as individual athletes and marched during the opening ceremonies under the Olympic flag.

2. The athlete who is a national of 2 or more countries may represent either one. However, after having represented 1 country in the Olympics, in international competitions recognized by the relevant IF, he may not represent another country unless 3 years have passed since he last represented his former country. Although this period may be reduced or even cancelled, with the agreement of the NOCs and IF concerned, by the IOC. (Chapter V, Rule 42, By-law 1 and 2)

In Beijing 2008, Becky Hammon a U.S. born and raised basketball player and 9-year WNBA player, will legally play for the Russian team despite having no Russian blood and not even being a full-time Russian resident (she goes home off-season) and will more likely be unaware of the words to the Russian anthem in case the Russians win gold. Although an exceptional player and prolific shooter, she has never been chosen to play for the U.S. team. In 2007, she signed a contract to play in the Russian pro basketball league. And in early 2008, she was given Russian citizenship after which she signed up to play for the Russian team. She might have dual citizenship but she can represent only 1 (at a time).

Age limit -

There is no age limit for competing in the Olympic Games other than as prescribed by the IF as approved by the IOC Executive Board.” (Chapter IV, Rule 43).

The oldest Olympian ever is Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn who at 72 won a silver medal in the running deer double-shot team event at Antwerp 1920 (no, they didn’t use real deer). [1] The youngest Olympian ever could be then 10-year old Greek gymnast Dimitrios Loundras who won bronze in Athens 1896.[2]

In Beijing, the talents of 67-year-old Japanese equestrian Hiroshi Hoketsu and 13-year old British diver Tom Daley, among others, will continue to justify the wisdom behind this rule.


The number of entries in the individual events shall not exceed 3 per country, although the IOC may grant exceptions. (Chapter V, Rule 45.11) For team sports, the number of teams shall not exceed 12 twelve teams for each gender and not less than 8 teams, unless the IOC decides otherwise. (Chapter V, Rule 45.12)

The number of athletes competing in the Summer Games shall be limited to 10,500 unless the IOC provides otherwise. (Chapter V, Rule 45.14) Thus, in Athens 2004, 10,625 athletes played.

The Olympic Charter and the World Doping Code -

To be eligible for participation in the Olympic Games, an athlete must comply with the Olympic Charter and respect and comply in all aspects with the World Anti-Doping Code. (Chapter V, Rule 41)


We discussed the Olympic Charter last week. Now it’s time to tackle the Anti-Doping Rules[3]. These rules are particular to Beijing 2008 and are applicable from “the date of the opening of the Olympic village for the Olympic Games, namely, 27 July 2008 up until and including the day of the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games, namely, 24 August 2008”. (Article 5.1)

These are some of the more crucial rules:

1. Each athlete is responsible that no prohibited substance enters his body. Thus, an athlete cannot rightfully claim lack of intent, fault or negligence once caught. (Article 2.1.1)

2. Mere possession of a prohibited substance is a violation, unless such is pursuant to an exemption granted for therapeutic use or other acceptable justification. (Article 2.6.1)

3. Athletes shall be subject to Doping Control (collection and testing of samples) at any time or place, with no advanced notice. (Article 5.1)

4. Refusing, or failing without compelling justification, to submit to sample collection after notification, or otherwise evading sample collection, is already a rule violation. (Article 2.3)

5. An athlete who is unavailable for testing on 2 separate occasions, or on 1 occasion in the event that he was unavailable for testing on 2 other occasions in the 18 month period prior to the missed test during the Olympic Games, shall be deemed to have violated the anti-doping rules. (Article 5.5.2)

6. Pre-competition tests can be done on blood and urine at any time based on: (i) IF ranking or, (ii) any fact determined upon the IOC’s discretion. (Article

7. Post-competition tests can be done on blood and urine at any time, as follows: (Article

a) for individuals competitions, each athlete finishing in the top 5 placements in all disciplines, plus 2 other Athletes (in the lead-up competitions or the final) unless otherwise agreed between the IOC and the relevant IF.

b) for team competitions, testing will be done throughout the Games. During the preliminary rounds, the quarter and semi-finals, at least 1 athlete will be selected from at least 25% of the competitions. In addition, a minimum of 3 athletes will be selected from each of the top four finishing teams.

On all athletes who set or break a world or Olympic record.

d) Plus, EPO (a banned blood booster) tests shall be done for all 3 medalists and other athlete/s selected by the IOC.

Significantly, athletes can now be tested more than once a day, anytime and anywhere.

“The important thing is not winning but taking part”

In a speech at the London Olympiad 1908, the father of the Modern Olympiad, Pierre de Coubertin proclaimed:

“In these Olympiads, the important thing is not winning but taking part … What counts in life is not the victory but the struggle; the essential thing is not to conquer but to fight well.”[4]

The athletes have spent the past 4 years practicing, preparing and competing to earn a spot in the Olympiad. Time for us to appreciate all their efforts.

[1] ”Oscar Swahn”. August 9, 2008

[2] “Dimitrios Loundras”. August 9, 2008

[3] “The International Olympic Committee Anti-Doping Rules”. 7 May 2008. International Olympic Committee. 2 August 2008

[4] “The Modern Olympic Games”. 2007. International Olympic Committee. 29 Jul 2008


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Citius – Altius – Fortius (The Olympic Values and Sports)

By Siesta-friendly

This is just a short primer on the Olympic Games, with more focus on the Games Programme and its sports. The discussion below is based on the Olympic Charter[1]and “The Modern Olympic Games”[2](both published by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

It is hoped that the information here enlightens, encourages and prepares you to further enjoy the coming XXIX Olympiad, Beijing 2008.

Let the Games begin.

The Olympic Games

Let’s start with some basic rules about the Games as set forth in the Charter (Chapter I, Rule 6):

1. “The Olympic Games are competitions between athletes in individual or team events and not between countries.”
In fact, the Charter prohibits the IOC and Organizing Committee to provide medal rankings per country. (Chapter IV, Rule 58). There’s nothing they can do about media outlets doing it though.

2. “The Olympic Games consist of the Games of the Olympiad and the Olympic Winter Games. Only those sports which are practiced on snow or ice are considered as winter sports.”
By the way, the 1st Olympiad was held in 1896 in Athens, Greece while the Winter Games started only in 1924 in Chamonix, France.

3. “The authority of last resort on any question concerning the Olympic Games rests with the IOC.” However, “any dispute arising on the occasion of, or in connection with, the Olympic Games shall be submitted exclusively to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, in accordance with the Code of Sports-Related Arbitration.” (Chapter V, Rule 59)

4. “Notwithstanding the applicable rules and deadlines for all arbitration and appeal procedures, and subject to any other provision of the World Anti-Doping Code, no decision taken by the IOC concerning an edition of the Olympic Games … can be challenged by anyone after a period of three years from the day of the Closing Ceremony of such Games.”
Fair enough. There shouldn’t be any more controversy carried from the old Olympiad at the start of the new one.

In addition:

1. The Summer Games are held in the 1st year of an Olympiad, the Winter Games in its third year. (Chapter III, Rule 33, By-law) An Olympiad is a period of 4 consecutive calendar years, beginning on the 1st of January of the 1st year and ending on the 31st of December of the 4th year. (Chapter I, Rule 6, By-law)

2. The Olympic Games’ duration “shall not exceed sixteen days”. (Chapter III, Rule 33.1)

Now that we’ve tackled the broad topic. Let’s look into the Games’ Programme and its components.

Sport, Discipline, Event

The line up of competitions for each Olympic Games is called the Programme. Under the Charter, the Programme of the Games has 3 components: sports, disciplines and events. Sports are those sports governed by International Federations (IFs). A discipline is a branch of a sport comprising 1 or several events. An event is a competition in a sport or in one of its disciplines, resulting in a ranking and giving rise to the award of medals and diplomas. (Chapter III, Rule 46.2)

Can’t tell the difference? Let’s take Gymnastics. Gymnastics is the sport. It has 3 disciplines: Artistic, Rhythmic and Trampoline. Artistic Gymnastics has several events (for men and women): balance beam, uneven bars, floor exercises, horizontal bar, parallel bars, pommel horse, rings, vault, individual all-round, and team competition. Rhythmic Gymnastics has 2 events (only for women): individual and group competition. Trampoline also only has 2 events (1 for each gender): Women’s individual and Men’s individual.

Inclusion in the Programme

Now, in order to be included on the Olympic Programme, the Olympic Charter lays down the following basic conditions which a sport has to meet:

1) the sport must be represented by an IF (Chapter III, Rule 46.2).

2) the World Anti-Doping Code must be adopted and implemented (you know, regular and random drug testing, etc.) (Chapter III, Rule 46.3); and

3) the Olympic Charter must be complied with (Chapter III, Rule 46, By-law 1.7).

“The Modern Olympic Games” add that summer sport: 1) must be widely practiced by men, in 75 countries on 4 continents, and by women in 40 countries on 3 continents; and 2) must not rely on mechanical propulsion (such as a motor). On the other hand, a winter sport must be widely practiced in at least 25 countries and on 3 continents. No distinction is made here between men and women.

By the way, IFs are “international non-governmental organizations administering one or several sports at world level and encompassing organizations administering such sports at national level.” As such, each IF “maintains independence and autonomy in the administration of its sport.” (Chapter 3, Rule 26).

The “organizations administering such sports at national level” are called National Olympic Committees (NOCs). The IFs organize the Olympic qualifying competitions while the NOCs make sure their athletes are entered to compete therein.

Sports Core

The sports included in the Summer Games Programme consist of a sports core (“the core”) and additional sports (Chapter III, Rule 46, By-law 2.1.1). The core consists of at least 25 of the sports administered by the 28 IFs below:

1) International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF); 2) International Rowing Federation (FISA); 3) International Badminton Federation (IBF); 4) International Baseball Federation (IBAF); 5) International Basketball Federation (FIBA); 6) International Boxing Association (AIBA); 7) International Canoe Federation (ICF); 8 ) International Cycling Union (UCI); 9) International Equestrian Federation (FEI); 10) International Fencing Federation (FIE); 11) International Association Football Federation (FIFA); 12) International Gymnastic Federation (FIG); 13) International Weightlifting Federation (IWF); 14) International Handball Federation (IHF); 15) International Hockey Federation (FIH); 16) International Judo Federation (IJF); 17) International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (FILA); 18 ) International Swimming Federation (FINA); 19) International Union of the Modern Pentathlon (UIPM); 20) International Softball Federation (ISF); 21) World Taekwondo Federation (WTF); 22) International Tennis Federation (ITF); 23) International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF); 24) International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF); 25) International Archery Federation (FITA); 26) International Triathlon Union (ITU); 27) International Sailing Federation (ISAF); 28 ) International Volleyball Federation (FIVB). (Chapter III, Rule 46, By-law 2.1.2)

Since only 28 sports are allowed for each edition of the Summer Games, once the 25 sports are chosen, only 3 slots are open to be filled from the same list above and/or from Recognized Sports. (Chapter III, Rule 46, By-law 2.1.3 and 2.1.4)

Recognized Sports are those sports whose IFs have been recognized by the IOC but only provisionally.

Recognized Sports

This is off-topic but in case you’re curious, these Recognized Sports (summer and winter) are[3]: Air Sports (which meets the altius part of the motto, at least), Bandy (or field hockey on ice), Billiard Sports (now there’s the Philippines’ chance to finally get a gold), Boules (seems a distant cousin of bowling), Bowling, Bridge (??? is Monopoly next?), Chess, Cricket, DanceSport (sporty name for ballroom dancing), Golf, Karate, Korfball (Dutch basketball/netball. Main come-on is that men and women play together), Life Saving (the sport of lifeguards), Motorcycle Racing (Aren’t motors banned?), Mountaineering and Climbing (Another one for altius), Netball (close cousin of Korfball), Orienteering (to finally make some use of those scout skills), Pelote basque (Jai Alai to Filipinos), Polo, Powerboating (Again, the motors), Racquetball (Isn’t this Squash?), Roller Sports, Rugby, Squash (Isn’t this Racquetball?), Sport climbing (sporty name for indoor climbing), Surfing, Sumo (citius-fortius-magnus?), Tug of War (seriously), Underwater Sports, Water Skiing, Wushu.

Really, a good number of the IFs involved in the “sports” mentioned above should maybe just get together and hold their own Outdoors Olympics.

The Olympic Movement and Olympism

This primer will not be complete without discussing the Olympic Movement (“organizations, athletes and other persons who agree to be guided by the Olympic Charter”). “The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced in accordance with Olympism and its values.”(Chapter I, Rule 1)

Under the Charter, these are the Fundamental Principles of Olympism:

1. Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.

2. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.

3. The Olympic Movement is the concerted, organized, universal and permanent action, carried out under the supreme authority of the IOC, of all individuals and entities who are inspired by the values of Olympism. It covers the five continents. It reaches its peak with the bringing together of the world’s athletes at the great sports festival, the Olympic Games. Its symbol is five interlaced rings.

4. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. The organization, administration and management of sport must be controlled by independent sports organizations.

5. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

6. Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter and recognition by the IOC.

Competition is good, fun, healthy. It is inspiring to watch those who are Citius, Altius, Fortius. But, as embodied in the Olympic Charter, the Olympic spirit is reflected by those who practice Friendship, Solidarity and Fair Play.

[1] “Olympic Charter”. October 2007. International Olympic Committee. 29 Jul 2008

[2] “The Modern Olympic Games”. 2007. International Olympic Committee. 29 Jul 2008

[3] “Recognised Sports”. 2008. International Olympic Committee. 29 Jul 2008