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Nowadays, a regular feature in major sporting events, 30 years ago, doping control was very much in its infancy; in those days, the World Anti-Doping Agency had not yet been established!

“This was quite an advanced effort for international sports federations; so, we prepared the regulations and carried out all the anti-doping tests by ourselves”, recalled Dr. Matsuo. “Under the direction of ITTF President, Ichiro Ogimura; I conducted the anti-doping tests in this event (1991 WTTC in Chiba) with Dr. François Kahn and Dr. Michael Scott of the ITTF Sports Science and Medical Committee; it was the first anti-doping testing at a World Table Tennis Championships.

Later in 1999, the World Anti-Doping Agency was established, a direct result of police searches finding the existence of organized doping at the 1998 Tour de France. Following a meeting staged in Lausanne, the International Olympic Committee issued the Lausanne Declaration on Doping in Sport; at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games an independent international anti-doping agency commenced operation.

Ever present

One year later at the 2001 World Championships in Osaka; Dr. Shiro Matsuo, was the lead doping control officer, the year in which the Japan Anti-Doping Agency was established.

Ever more experienced in the field, commencing in 2008 in the Chinese city of Guangzhou until 2019 Budapest, without fail, whether the World Championships or World Team Championships, Dr. Matsuo has been the ITTF representative for doping control.

“Anti-doping testing systems in each country were becoming gradually well-organized by the establishment of the World Anti-Doping Agency” explained Dr. Matsuo. “Accordingly, my role changed from being a working member to a supervisor; since I knew well about table tennis and had many experiences in anti-doping, I gave local Doping Control Officers advice.”

Recommendations not only for those conducting examinations, he also afforded support for sportsmen and sportswomen, for whom many the subject of doping control was a new experience.

“It is important to think about the performance of the athletes first; the World Championships is a most valuable event for all table tennis players”, added Dr. Matsuo. “Anti-doping tests should not give a bad influence on performance; for that I expended much energy.”

Most knowledgeable, it was very much to Dr. Matsuo the International Table Tennis Federation looked for leadership; from 2008 to the present day, he has occupied the role of Chief Anti-Doping Officer for the ITTF Sports Science and Medical Committee.

“I co-operated in the creation and revision of ITTF Anti-Doping regulations, I gave advice about the punishment to regulation offenders”, continued Dr. Matsuo. “Also, I gave some educational lectures at workshops which were held during World Championships.”

Workshops

At the 2015 World Championships in Suzhou, Dr. Matsuo conducted workshops on the subject of Anti-Doping activities within the International Table Tennis Federation and on the changes in the World Anti-Doping Code. Later, at the 2016 World Championships in Kuala Lumpur, he addressed the topic concerning the history of doping in table tennis and future ITTF anti-doping activities.

During this period from 2013 to 2018, Dr. Matsuo was Chair of the ITTF Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) panel, examining no less than 55 applications; a change of policy he became a member of the International Testing Agency (ITA) Therapeutic Use Exemption panel from 2019 to the present day.

“Since ITTF outsourced business related to anti-doping to the International Testing Agency, I came to take charge of TUE examinations not in ITTF but in ITA”, explained Dr. Matsuo. “I examined over 100 TUE applications in two years; I dealt with applications from players other than table tennis because of the conflict of interest.”

In addition, during this period, from 2014 to 2019, with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on the horizon, Dr. Matsuo was Chair of the JTTA-ITTF Sports Science and Medical Committee international meetings.

“I wanted the sports science of table tennis to develop further. I organized international meetings in Tokyo”, stressed Dr. Matsuo. “The ITTF Sports Science and Medical Committee members, alongside Japanese researchers, held six joint meetings from 2014 to 2019 in Tokyo; they ended in success and realised many results.”

Support

The success of the initiative pays great tribute to the now 65-year-old, born in Sapporo but now resident in Tokyo; the dedication to duty sets an example to all.

“I would like to express the deepest appreciation to ITTF Executive Committee Vice President Masahiro Maehara; I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it wasn’t for him”, reminisced Dr Matsuo. “He gave me a chance to work for the ITTF and always gave me good advice; I would like to thank him for all the support and encouragement he has given me in the last 30 years.”

Delighted for the opportunities afforded Dr. Matsuo is grateful for the support received over the years.

“I would also like to express my gratitude to Professor Miran Kondric and the ITTF Sports Science and Medical Committee members”, concluded Dr. Matsuo. “It has been a pleasure working as a member of the committee, I want to wish everyone the best luck for the future.”

Now, for Dr. Matsuo, who has played a most significant role in maintaining the image of table tennis as being one of the cleanest sports of all, it is retirement. He intends to spend more time with his family; the whole table tennis world wishes him well.

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall and his coaching team have signed new long-term contracts with the Championship club.

The 53-year-old Northern Irishman will now remain with the north London outfit until the summer of 2025.

McCall has led Sarries to five Premiership titles and three European Champions Cup triumphs since joining the club in 2009.

Nine other backroom staff members have agreed deals of the same length.

Performance director Phil Morrow, head coach Joe Shaw, assistant coach Kelly Brown, backs coach Kevin Sorrell, forwards coach Ian Peel and defence coach Adam Powell have signed four-year contracts.

Senior rugby and mental skills coach Dan Vickers, head of recruitment Nick Kennedy and head of psychology and personal development David Jones have done likewise.

"We believe in the importance of relationships, cohesion and having the best possible people at the helm to help our players," Saracens chief executive Lucy Wray told the club website.external-link

"As we turn a corner and start the next chapter of the Saracens journey, we couldn't be happier to announce that such key people have committed their long-term loyalty to the club."

Saracens are third in the Championship table as they seek an immediate return to the Premiership, having been relegated last season for persistent breaches of the salary cap.

Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones has signed a new one-year contract with the Welsh Rugby Union and Ospreys.

His current deal was due to finish at the end of the 2020-21 season.

The lock, 35, has extended his deal for another year that will take him through until the end of the 2021-22 season.

"Earlier this year I extended my contract with the Welsh Rugby Union and the Ospreys. I'm really pleased to have done so and to continue my career with my region," Jones said on social media.

"In these very different times off the field and with rugby the focus on the field, I didn't feel the time was right to announce when I put pen to paper, but I am very pleased to extend my current contract for another year.

"I'm grateful that I get to continue to do what I love and to continue playing for the Ospreys.

"I would like to thank everyone who has supported me during my career to date and particularly through these difficult times."

Jones is the world's most-capped player with 148 internationals for Wales and nine Tests for the British and Irish Lions.

Although his new contract extension only runs until the end of the 2021-22 season, there remains potential for Jones to continue playing and represent Wales in a fifth World Cup in 2023.

"I'm delighted Alun's contract extension has been announced in what is huge news for the game in Wales," said Wales head coach Wayne Pivac.

"Alun will go down as one of the greatest players of all time but he is still at the top of the game, performing and winning, and he deserves the contract extension. He is an important part of our future.

"It is not just what he does on the field, it is what he does every minute of every training session. He leads both on and off the field in everything that he does.

"He has huge pride in the jersey and playing for his country and that is evident in his preparation, his effort and commitment."

Jones is also the most-capped Ospreys player with 245 appearances for his region since making his debut in 2005.

"Alun Wyn Jones' commitment to delivering high performances, week in and week out, was evident to everybody during the recent Six Nations campaign when he was undoubtedly one of the players of the tournament," said Ospreys head coach Toby Booth.

"His ability to deliver high performances throughout his career is what marks him out as such a world-class player and it is great that he believes the Ospreys can deliver on his and the region's ambitions. His commitment to his home region and his team-mates are obvious for all to see on a daily basis.

"This confirmation of his future plans, despite being agreed for a long time, shows the respect he has for all and not wanting speculation to hinder preparation for Wales and the Ospreys. This gives everyone an insight into the man behind the player.

"His journey with the Ospreys now continues. His presence on the field is mirrored with influence on the culture of our team off the field. This will undoubtedly be at the forefront of our improvement going forward."

Exeter boss Rob Baxter says returning England winger Jack Nowell could be "at his peak" in time for the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa.

Nowell toured with the Lions in 2017 and has won 34 England caps.

"If anything, he could probably enter a Lions tour in the best condition he's ever been in," Baxter said.

"He won't be at the end of a long season, he will be five, six, seven games in if we manage to get into the later stages of the Premiership, so probably absolutely perfect.

"He'll probably be in that golden game time period if he plays through now and gets plenty of minutes.

"He would be absolutely at the peak of his game by the time you get to that Lions scenario."

Nowell has not played internationally since the 2019 World Cup due to injuries and the Covid-19 pandemic.

But Baxter says the Cornish-born winger, who played twice against New Zealand under current Lions coach Warren Gatland on the 2017 tour, has enough time to impress before this year's series in July and August.

"It's down to Warren Gatland but personally I think he's got plenty of time," Baxter added.

"Where he's fortunate is that he's got international pedigree, club pedigree at the highest level and has been on a Lions tour before, so Warren knows him and the character he is and the quality of player he is."

Eddie Jones: England coach gets RFU backing after review

Published in Rugby
Tuesday, 20 April 2021 07:25

Eddie Jones has been backed to continue as England head coach following a review into the team's disappointing fifth-place finish in the Six Nations.

Jones' position had been under scrutiny since defeats by Ireland, Wales and Scotland in the same tournament for the first time in 45 years.

"The debrief was a valuable process, we all learned a lot," Jones said.

"Most importantly, we have identified actions to enable the team to move forward positively towards 2023."

The panel reviewing England's performance consisted of "RFU board members, executives and independent experts", while past and present players - as well as the coaches - also gave their feedback.

The RFU says the overall response from the players was "positive and supportive" and there were a "number of contributing factors" that led to England's poor campaign.

Among them was the absence from the coaching team of Jason Ryles and Neil Craig, who were both unable to travel because of the Covid pandemic. Forwards coach Matt Proudfoot missed the start of the training camp after testing positive for the virus while Jones himself was also forced to self-isolate.

The RFU also admits a number of players - especially those from Saracens - "did not have enough game time going into the Six Nations", while other players were overly-fatigued after back-to-back seasons.

The review also concluded England's stringent coronavirus protocols, which they say were "in some cases greater than other unions", had a detrimental impact on the coaching staff and the cohesion of the players.

The RFU added that several recommendations will be implemented before the July Test matches against the United States and Canada, which are currently under review.

As part of the recommendations, the RFU plans to "deepen its alignment" with England's professional clubs, which will start with a summer conference between the major stakeholders in order "to find common ground and goals for the English game going forward".

There will also be additional refereeing input in a bid to rectify England's alarming ill-discipline, as well as "enhanced sports psychology", a more streamlined use of data, and the counsel of "external rugby experts" to help Jones after each campaign.

"Sport is all about fine margins, which is why every campaign debrief is invaluable in helping us to learn and improve," said RFU boss Bill Sweeney.

"Eddie approached this review with a great deal of self-awareness and humility, allowing us to look at every aspect of the tournament to identify every small change we can make in order to improve."

Jones, who steered England to the World Cup final in 2019, was candid about his side's below-par results so far this year.

"During the Six Nations we were not up to our usual high standards and we recognise that," said the Australian.

"I'm looking forward to the summer tour, which will provide a great opportunity to see more of our emerging talent and I'm confident our next team will come back stronger this autumn building up to a winning performance in the next Six Nations."

$30,000 On The Line For WoO Late Models At Boone

Published in Racing
Tuesday, 20 April 2021 07:30

BOONE, Iowa — The World of Outlaws Morton Building Late Model Series is gearing up for inaugural Hawkeye 100 May 1— the richest event in Boone Speedway history. The winning driver could race away with $32,500.

On April 30, the late models will run two preliminary features, known as the “Twin Hawks.” The winner of each race will collect $2,500.  Each of those features will set the starting lineup for the 100-lap finale on Saturday. The feature will have an unprecedented three-wide start for the first time in World of Outlaws history.

The Hawkeye 100 winner will collect $30,000, and any driver who starts the race gets $1,500.

“This unique event brings the World of Outlaws to Boone for the first time, and we’re excited to add to the history there,” World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series Director Casey Shuman said. “The three-wide start has everyone talking, but a $30,000-to-win and $1,500-to-start event early in the season is tremendous for the teams, too. We can’t wait to get there and put on a show for the fans.”

The World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models aren’t the only ones racing for a big purse at the event. On Friday and Saturday, IMCA modifieds, IMCA sport modifieds and IMCA stock cars will join the series.

The IMCA modifieds will race for $1,000 on Friday, followed by $3,000 in Saturday’s Hawkeye 30. The total purse of Saturday’s race is more than $10,000. The IMCA sport modifieds will race for $500 on Friday and $750 Saturday, while the IMCA stock cars will compete for $500 on Friday and $1,000 on Saturday.

Among those three divisions alone, the drivers will be chasing more than $31,000.

The spectator races at Macon Speedway came to a surprising end Saturday night and left one person with some explaining to do when he gets home…head to SPEEDSPORT.TV to watch the entire event on demand now!

Bowman Honors Crew Chief Ives With Throwback Scheme

Published in Racing
Tuesday, 20 April 2021 08:29

CONCORD, N.C. – Alex Bowman will honor his crew chief, Greg Ives, with a throwback scheme during the upcoming NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on May 9.

Members of the No. 48 team, including Bowman, revealed the car to Ives. The car features a crisp seafoam scheme that was reminiscent of a late model Ives ran in the late 1990s.

“I was more than surprised; I was practically speechless there for a little bit,” Ives said. “I get emotional, maybe I’m a sentimental guy. I like seeing things classic and old school. I never necessarily thought that was going to be a tribute to me or one of my paint schemes on the car, that’s why I never really thought about it, never thought that was going to be an opportunity to happen. So, when I did see it, initially it shocked me back to that moment when I first saw the paint scheme in 1998. Sometimes, the paint scheme picks you.”

Bowman and primary sponsor Ally worked together to create the scheme for the No. 48 Ally Throwback Chevrolet. Bowman said he wanted to get an emotional reaction out of Ives and added his crew chief deserves to be celebrated.

“I think it means a lot to Greg, and it’s really cool for Ally to let me steer the ship on it a little bit,” Bowman said. “Greg definitely had some interesting looking late models, so we’re going to be styling in Darington.”

Ives comes from a large family that worked together to help him race. His father was his crew chief and his pit crew consisted primarily of his six sisters. He also wore hand-me-down firesuits from his brother during races.

“This was not even a blip on the radar,” Ives said. “This was something that was truly surprising. Alex, my wife, (car chief) Austin (Konetski), whoever else was in on this, led me to believe that none of this was happening and maybe I led myself to believe that none of this was happening, as well.”

SPEED SPORT Power Rankings

Published in Racing
Tuesday, 20 April 2021 09:00

It’s time for a new edition of the SPEED SPORT Power Rankings! Which 10 competitors earned places in our Rankings this week? Click below to find out!

NXG Youth Motorsports Announces Detroit Expansion

Published in Racing
Tuesday, 20 April 2021 09:30

DETROIT — NXG Youth Motorsports, an experiential academy for life skill development, is announcing its expansion to the Detroit area and will host its inaugural program June 5-6 at Belle Isle Park. NXG and its programs featuring science, technology, engineering and math; create opportunities; and experiences for its youth participants through motorsports while focusing on minority students from underrepresented communities.

After building a successful program and network that’s connected with thousands of youth participants in Indiana over the last 15 years, NXG became an official partner with INDYCAR and Penske Entertainment through its Race for Equality and Change initiative in 2020, and the academy has targeted the Detroit community as it expands its reach.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has made a multi-year commitment to sponsor the NXG program so youth in the Detroit area can learn about the opportunities for personal growth, education and career development through participation and understanding of the motorsports industry.

Following the current health and safety protocols in the state of Michigan, the NXG Detroit pilot program will launch June 5-6 with its MA100 classroom and on-track activities in the paddock area of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, which will take place the following weekend on Belle Isle. All of the NXG Detroit participants and their families will be invited to attend and experience the Grand Prix, June 11-13.

“As we begin our 15th year of NXG, the extensive collaboration and support between our sponsors at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and our partners at Penske Entertainment and the Detroit Grand Prix allows us to bring dynamic programming and exciting learning experiences for underrepresented girls and boys, 11-15 years old, into the city of Detroit,” said Rod Reid, NXG co-founder and chief instructor.

NXG originated in response to the lack of African American involvement in motorsports and the program introduces urban children to opportunities available in this industry.  In its efforts to increase awareness, increased participation and engagement in motorsports, this 501(c)(3) has an academy of courses that progressively uses performance driving as a tool for life skill development, the application of STEM concepts, interactions with INDYCAR personnel and racing teams, along with exposure to career options in racing.

“Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is proud to support programs like NXG Youth Motorsports that increase opportunities for students in the Detroit area to learn life skills, explore interests and form friendships,” said Daniel J. Loepp, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. “NXG’s expansion in Detroit provides the ability to reach students in some of our state’s most underrepresented communities. I am confident the academy will make a difference.”

NXG program courses, MA100, MA200 and MA300, progressively introduce children to the fundamental aspects of go-kart racing that include advanced driving techniques, track geometry, mechanical equipment understanding, and self-control – each transferable to their future daily lives.  NXG’s curriculum aligns with middle and high school academic standards in science and math related subjects.  The academy is offered to participants in Detroit as a non-fee enrollment due to the generous support of its title sponsor, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

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