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Tuesday, December 8, 2009
IOC considers cycling, tennis changes

Associated Press

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Elimination of endurance events in track cycling and the addition of mixed doubles in tennis are up for consideration this week by the International Olympic Committee.

At a two-day meeting that starts Wednesday, the IOC executive board will make final rulings on requests by sports federations for the addition or removal of disciplines and events for the 2012 London Games.

Most contentious are the proposed changes in cycling, notably the dropping of the individual pursuit race.

The sports proposals are among the top items for a meeting that will consider the reallocation of two of the three individual medals stripped from Marion Jones for doping at the 2000 Sydney Games. But the 100-meter gold will not go to disgraced Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou, according to officials with direct knowledge of the plans told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the decision hasn't been announced yet.

Thanou missed drug tests on the eve of the 2004 Athens Games.

Jones' 200 gold is set to go to Pauline Davis-Thompson of the Bahamas and her long-jump bronze to Tatyana Kotova of Russia.

Cycling had seven track events for men and three for women at the 2008 Beijing Games.

Cycling's world governing body, the UCI, is expected to propose five events for men and five for women as part of a gender parity plan. The events are believed to be individual sprint, team sprint, keirin, team pursuit and the five-race omnium event.

Under that plan, five endurance races -- in men's and women's individual pursuit and points races, plus the men's madison -- would be dropped.

Dozens of current and former cyclists have spoken out against the elimination of the individual pursuit, one of the iconic events of the sport. An online petition with more than 4,000 signatures was sent to the IOC on Monday.

Among those affected is Tyler Phinney, the 19-year-old American reigning world champion in the event.

Britain's Bradley Wiggins, a two-time Olympic individual pursuit gold medalist, has said dropping the event could kill off endurance cycling.

"It fits with the most basic Olympic ideals, 'the highest, the fastest, the strongest, the furthest,'" said 1992 Olympic pursuit gold medalist Chris Boardman of Britain. "The general public get it. It's a straight race, man against man or woman against woman and the first across the line wins. It is easy to relate to an individual."

Contacted by The Associated Press, UCI president Pat McQuaid declined to specify which events were being proposed. But he said the program would promote gender equity and benefit cycling and the Olympics.

The International Tennis Federation, meanwhile, is proposing mixed doubles events for London. Tennis already has men's and women's singles and doubles events in the Olympics.

In August, the IOC said it wanted guarantees that top players in singles would be able to participate in mixed doubles. Outside of the Olympics, the top singles players rarely play doubles or mixed doubles.

The IOC is unlikely to approve mixed doubles unless it is convinced the event will have a world-class field.

"There are still operational issues we are trying to address," ITF executive vice president Juan Margets said. "We are working on a model that would allow [players] to play doubles without increasing the maximum number of athletes, by using the players already on site for singles."

In August, swimming governing body FINA proposed eight more medal races for the Olympics but was told by the IOC it would have to eliminate other events to accommodate new ones.

FINA has since decided to stick with its current Olympic program and offer new proposals later, possibly in 2013, said FINA executive director Cornel Marculescu.

Also this week, the IOC will get progress updates from organizers of the next three Olympics -- the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, the 2012 London Olympics and 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.