Cyclist will boycott next Summer Deaflympics if ICSD do not change their ways.

Professional cyclist and Deaflympic silver and bronze medal winner, Tom Smith from Wales has responded to the latest news on the falsification of audiograms.

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“Your recent article on the falsification of audiograms by the Russian leadership of Deaf sport has touched me in a negative way. I am really disappointed about what I have read.

I have never been comfortable about the outcome of the election at the ICSD Congress in Sofia 2013, where America and Great Britain promoted clear mandates and manifestos in their election campaigns. The Russians provided neither a manifesto nor even a general plan on what they were going to achieve.

Since then, the ICSD President; without reason, has sacked its entire staff, the majority of whom was British and brought in an abundance of Russian personnel.

After this I learned that at the European Swimming Championships (held in Russia), all doping controls were held on the final day after a week’s worth of competition, and not all events were tested. This alone makes a mockery of sporting values, and towards WADA.

The Russian ICSD have made no improvements to deaf sport, no improvements to doping control, no improvements to athletes futures and refuse to answer simple emails from nations about upcoming events. More worrying is that the ICSD President has told the IOC and IPC that he does not need their assistance to develop deaf sport; this misplaced defiance is both arrogant and irresponsible.

And then we learn about a senior member of staff, put there by the ICSD President himself; submitting a false Audiogram under an athletes name, putting them in danger of disqualification. Fortunately for that athlete the situation was rectified but let me ask you this- what right do Russia have to the in charge of the ICSD?

I want to say to my fellow Deaflympians; do you honestly believe that the ICSD leadership has your best interest at heart? They have so far ignored the Athletes Commission chaired by Dean Barton-Smith and Terence Parkin. They have already been found guilty of manipulating audiograms. They have lied, they have cheated, and they have alienated the IOC and IPC along the way. Deaf Sport currently has no future.

Are you really going to sit back and allow this to carry on? We should be in the Paralympics where our best interests will be safeguarded, and also to enhance deaf awareness. There have been talks of a petition for the Deaflympic athletes who really want this change. If you want this change, email Two Big Ears and let them know.
As an athlete who has morals and ethics, I can say that I will 100% not be going any further Deaflympics with these criminals in charge.”

Golovanov Receives Compensation

Our Christmas Day inbox included a message from Russian Deaflympic wrestler Eugene Golovanov thanking us for highlighting the issues over the RSDC submitting a falsified audiogram in his name.

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We can confirm by his message that we received this morning, that the sum of 100,000 rubbles was deposited into his bank account on 19th December, this was unknown to us as we promoted the story on 21st December – so we are pleased to see that Eugene has been compensated for moral damages.

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It is not known to either Eugene or ourselves, if this deposit was made in the knowledge that we were going to go public with the story or if it was a happy coincidence.

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Golovanov said “I hope that after this publication, I would not (be) interfere with participation in the Championship of Russia on March 23-25, 2015.”

ICSD Executive Officials Guilty of Falsifying Audiograms

How many Deaf athletes are guilty of falsifying their audiograms?

The BBC recently stated that a German TV documentary claims that 99% of Russian athletes are guilty of doping. You can find a link to this report at the end of this post.

The TV documentary is another investigation about Russian officials systematically accepting payments from athletes to supply banned substances and cover up tests. Not surprisingly, the Russian Athletic Federation (RAF) says the allegations are ‘lies’. The IAAF and WADA say they are investigating; hopefully they will be thorough.

Now, we mention this because in Deaf sport, it is the audiograms which are sacrosanct – falsifying an audiogram is as serious as it gets, just as ‘doping’ gives athletes an advantage, submitting a false audiogram to pretend that you are Deaf enough to compete in Deaf sport and the Deaflympics is cheating.

Does Audiogram cheating occur in Deaf sport? At the Deaflympics there are WADA anti-doping tests and random Audiogram testing to catch out the cheats. This happens at every Deaflympics, and it is a good thing, because it shows that the ICSD are vigilant about audiograms and the Deaflympic Movement values the inviolability of the Olympic Code as we compete under the banner of the ICSD and IOC.

More often than not in doping and audiogram checks, it is athletes who are caught out and banned, but occasionally coaches and officials are too. But what about a member of a National Olympic Committee or indeed a high –level member of staff at the IOC, what would happen if they cheated by falsifying information, would they be given a ban? Yes, indeed, we expect they would, just as IOC members are stripped of their membership for accepting bribes etc.

Unfortunately, most unfortunately, this type of cheating and cover up is occurring right now at the highest levels of the ICSD. I have read information that the Russian Deaf Sports Confederation (RDSC) was found guilty of falsifying audiograms. I have seen legal Moscow Court documents, supplied by a Russian Deaflympic wrestler Eugene Golovanov, showing that the RDSC have been ordered to pay compensation to him as the court ruled that the RDSC falsified his audiogram in order to discredit him. As well as making compensation payments, the RDSC were also ordered by the court to issue a public statement vindicating the wrestler. The falsification of the audiogram took place in 2011.

RDSC immediately appealed against the decision, which they eventually lost in early 2014. According to my correspondence with Mr Golovanov he has still not received the compensation and he continues to meet resistance form the RDSC to allow him to compete.

Dmitry Rebrov is the man who submitted the false audiogram in 2011 and “strongly urged” ICSD administrators to check the details. After the RDSC had been taken to court, they continued to keep Mr Rebrov in office as they defied the court order and lodged their appeal.

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Photo: Dimitry Rebrov, who submitted a falsified audiogram to the ICSD in 2011.

 Following his appointment as President of ICSD in 2013, Mr Rukhledev personally appointed Rebrov as interim CEO of ICSD and then recently, he was awarded the job permanently and presumably, with the approval of the ICSD Executive. Today, the Deaflympic Movement is lead by its Chief Executive who has been caught behaving in the most malicious way imaginable. This situation of leadership and management is untenable, as Rebrov and the RDSC have still not compensated Eugene Golovanov and shielded this scandal from public knowledge until now.

The problem highlighted by this case, is that National Federations who are trying to win medals are also responsible for the audiograms of their athletes. This is a clear conflict of interest and vulnerable to abuse as we have seen with the RDSC.

ICSD should consider setting up an anti-doping AND audiogram commission to ensure checks are taking place independently and impartial in respective member countries – with what we know already about the Russians, there is doubt that they would push for this to happen.

BBC Report “Russian Doping claims: 99% of athletes guilty, German TV alleges.”  http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/athletics/30324812

Why researching Deaf sport is necessary.

The other day I was intrigued to learn via the BBC that Dr Michael Kearney from the University of Melbourne has discovered why Koala bears hug trees.

They do this to regulate their body temperature and thermal imaging cameras have demonstrated that in hotter weather the Koalas moved to the lower, cooler parts of trees – and the closer they hug trees, the cooler they get. fascinating stuff.

Now, what on earth does this have to do with Deaf sport?

Photo by : Stephen K Johnson

Photo by : Stephen K Johnson

Up until this morning, everytime I have seen pictures of Koalas, they are seen climbing trees, because that’s what they do, it’s their habitat. For most people, it’s nothing remarkable to note.

But from now on, until my dying day, my perspective on these animals will be altered. Everytime I see a Koala hugging his tree I will understand. I will have greater empathy for them and will also perhaps be more concerned about deforestation and its impact on other tree dwellers etc

My perspective has changed because of some interesting research.

Deaf sport and the Deaflympics require in depth research in order for society to accept that for too long now it has misunderstood deafness in relation to sport.

Photo by: Sam Perkins

Photo by: Sam Perkins

When you see pictures of Deaflympic athletes in action – nothing is remarkable, nothing grabs your attention. But once research demonstrates the impact of deafness on sports performance, there will be greater empathy and a willingness to act and ensure that sport no longer excludes deaf people and keeps them on the margins.

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You can read more about how deafness affects sports performance in my new book, Same Spirit Different Team – educating one new reader at a time.

Share your thoughts and experience :

 

 

 

 

Are the Deaflympics really necessary ?

A common question I often get asked : “Are the Deaflympics really necessary?”

The straight answer is “Absolutely.”  However, people seek justification for that assertion – they want to understand it in ways that they can relate to.

Recently, I came across a short video of Helen Willis and her life as a student at university. Helen wears a cochlear implant and the video explains the pros and cons of day to day living. Before you read the rest of this post, you need to watch the film, (there are subtitles and there is some sign language) It is only about 9 minutes long so please bear with me and come  back to this page once you have finished watching here.

Welcome back. Now, I suspect that some of you will have already decided how some scenes in that video give clear reasons why the Deaflympics are really necessary for the benefit of Deaf people. However, if you are still unsure, allow me to elaborate.

The IOC, in its wisdom, believe that the Deaflympics segregate Deaf people from society. On the contrary, the Deaflympics are necessary to provide opportunities to a balanced world of “silence and synthetic sound”. Although there have been advances in Cochlear Implant technology that now overcomes some of the limits in Helens implant, there is still a need for assistive technology and other resources to enable a Deaf person to function independently. Implants are not a cure and flashing doorbells, electronic note-takers, sign language and the company of other deaf people is still required.

The Deaflympics are necessary because the IOC and sport has not yet solved the barriers that prevail in sport. It is said that the ‘rules of the game’ do not need to be adapted for deaf people – but the environment does. Opportunities to improve communication for Deaf athletes and others in the sports environment remain uncharted, untapped and under-resourced. The assistive technology already in use at the Deaflympics is still not a regular feature in the sports competitions run under International Federation rules. Sports officials are also still ignorant to the simple changes that can be made to enable Deaf athletes to respond when play is stopped. Thus, the Deaflympics are necessary in order to teach the IOC and sport what is required to become inclusive.

The Deaflympics are necessarily  important for society because the development of an elite athlete is similar to the career development of every employee of working age and there are two areas that need attention in order to progress, succeed and get promoted. The first area is the development and practice of skills and activity of the job itself, this has to be done in the most efficient and effective way possible. The second area is the continuing professional development, socializing and networking that enables the worker/athlete to take on more information, insights and confidence to develop their skills and activity area further.

Helen’s experience as a student in an elite academic environment mirror the same difficulties facing Deaf athletes who work hard to function in the elite sporting environment. Like Helen, their brains have to work overtime to fill in the gaps so they can understand the complex information that their coaches are conveying. So much brain-power is used, just keeping up with the coaches and other support staff that assistive technology and resources or changes in behavior and working practices are required.

The sports environment is still very much like the pub scenario described by Helen. She is amongst fellow elite students but she feels useless, all she can do is watch people lips move because it is impossible to understand every word despite being skilled at lip-reading. The ability to contribute is an important measure of a persons worth to others.

The Deaflympic pathway is necessary because it is an untapped source of Olympic talent that has only been utilised by a very small minority ( Terence Parkin, Dean Barton-Smith ) to balance out or springboard up to the next level of elitism. Unfortunately, governments and national governing bodies are blinkered by the Olympic/Paralympic monopoly as the only pathway for disabled athletes. By doing this, they have marginalised elite deaf athletes to the back of the queue when it comes to access to the funding and resources required to succeed. I have covered the impact of this monopoly extensively in the book; Same Spirit Different Team.

The Deaflympics are really necessary because sport and physical activity are beneficial to people’s personal health, well-being and academic/economic efficiency. The same is obviously true for Deaf people, well, it was at one time, when educational systems based on Deaf schools fostered the adoption of active healthy lifestyles engineered through the school – community links that prevailed. Nowadays, that has all but disappeared. Deaf sport has been fragmented and in some localities obliterated into extinction.

The workplace is a stressful environment for everyone and it is possible find ‘release’ in sport and physical activity or other forms of recreation that takes our noses off the grind-stone and allow us to relax and recharge. But not so for Deaf people, the bolt-holes everyone takes for granted are still stressful environments for Deaf people and Helen’s involvement in Dancesport is a good illustration that sport is the ‘happy place’ we can all escape to and ‘forget our cares and lose ourselves’.

Like Helen, all Deaf people seek out the benefits of sport within the mainstream environment, in the local clubs and facilities that are close to hand. But as we saw in the video, the acoustic environment of sport does not lend itself well to effective listening and communication. The interviewer in the video asks Helen “When do you hear? – When do you hear about the results?”. Helen answers “I think I am going to be very happy with it. I’ll be very happy with whatever they say”. Realizing that Helen had not understood the question, the interviewer patiently tries again “Do you know when you hear?” and Helen was able to answer the original question, thus contributing effectively.

The important point to consider here is that this was a one off situation in the relatively short relationship between the interviewer and Helen that lasted for the duration that the film was made. But this occurs more often in the daily relationship between Deaf and hard of hearing people and their hearing friends, colleagues and family members. This scenario repeats itself time and time again, people lose patience and draw away and stop communicating with deaf athletes because it becomes burdensome. I once came across a declaration made by a hearing person that you can invite your Deaf friend to a party once, but only once because the situation with communication was too awkward.

In the film, Helen’s parents are supporting her at the dance competition. Whether or not this is a usual occurrence is irrelevant but their presence serves to answer another point about the support structures that elite athletes need and how this can be found in the Deaflympics. There was someone in the sporting environment that was able to communicate more effectively with Helen as a competitor and provide her with the stress-free interactions that enable the athlete to stay calm and composed under pressure.

If we do eventually succeed in persuading the IOC and sport to recognise and support the Deaflympic pathway correctly, the majority of athletes in the Summer and Winter Deaflympic will still not reach the pinnacle of the Olympics, but they will at best have been given the opportunity to reach their potential. This is true in the case of Rajeev Bagga, five-time Deaflympic badminton gold medalist. Bagga never reached the Olympics, but he did compete in the Commonwealth Games and other world –ranking events. Now retired from the Deaflympics, he still competes internationally in mainstream Masters badminton for England and is now sharing his knowledge and experience with Deaf and hearing people as a badminton coach through opportunities that have been created by Sport England recognizing the key strategic importance of UK Deaf Sport, the British representative of the Deaflympic movement and its network of sports opportunities offered by third sector deaf organisations and their partnerships with national governing bodies and other providers of physical activity. We are only just starting to get there.

We can argue that some political decisions that were made in the late 1980s and early 1990s by the leadership of the Olympic, Deaflympic and Paralympic movements have denied Bagga the opportunity to compete at the Olympics. The International Committee of Sport for the Deaf and Deaf sport needs to learn from this and move forwards. Deaf sport needs to teach society that the Deaflympics are necessary and have much to offer non-deaf people in return.

If you want to know what those benefits are right now or need further information on the politics that have shaped Deaf sport into what it has become today, read Same Spirit Different Team, the latest book on the Deaflympic games.

Thank you to Helen for sharing her experiences with us.

 

“Happy Birthday” Deaflympics.

At the start of Deaf Awareness Week, here in the UK, it is important to acknowledge that thirteen years ago last Friday – May 16th, 2001. The International Olympic Committee formally wrote to the CISS giving them permission to use the brand ‘Deaflympics’ in association with what was then the largest multisports event in the world for a single disabled group.

So “Happy 13th Birthday to the Deaflympics”.

There have been many misconceptions about the use of the word Deaflympics.

Some writers have re-written history by saying that the Deaf broke away from the IPC in the mid 1990s and set up their own Deaflympics. The real facts are that the olympic-format for Deaf sport began in Paris in 1924 as the International Silent Games, since then it has changed branding from World Games for the Deaf to World Deaf Games and now Deaflympics.

The Deaflympic Movement reaches its 90th Anniversary this summer.

As soon as the IOC authorised the name change to Deaflympics in 2001, there were some surprises in store. National Deaf Sports Committees began think about changing their own names – the Russians got there first with their equivalent title of Russian Deaflympic Committee – you would think that was such a common-sense thing to do, to bring it into line with other Olympic Movement representatives such as the National Olympic Committees and the National Paralympic Committees.

Unfortunately, the IOC wrote immediately to the CISS ordering the Russians to remove their new title as they were in breach of the IOC/CISS agreement which did not permit derivatives of the word Deaflympics.  The derivatives;  ‘Deaflympic Committee”, “Deaflympian” etc are not permitted.

The IOC lodged a trademark challenge against the organisers of the 2005 Deaflympics  for using the name “Deaflympic Games”. Fortunately, Kevan Gospar, Australian IOC member stepped in to allow the name to stand.

The monopoly of the IOC/IPC has created many difficulties for the ICSD (International Committee of Sport for the Deaf) and its national federations, causing confusion and discord resulting in a lack of respect and recognition for Deaf athletes.

The 18th Winter Deaflympics will be in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, March 28th – April 7th 2015. Followed by the 23rd Summer Deaflympics in Sansun, Turkey, June 2017. Meanwhile, athletes and teams will be competing in regional and World championships.

I hope that through this short piece today, I have used Deaf Awareness week to raise some of the issues facing Deaf sport here in the UK and elsewhere around the world and I ask everyone to give their support to UK Deaf Sport in whatever way they can.

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Women in Deaf Sport

The Twittersphere is a crowded place today with every opportunity to tweet the celebration of International Women’s Day.

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Here in the UK, the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation has launched its “Say Yes to Success” campaign to drive more commercial and media investment and attention to women’s sport. They plan to achieve this through investment and coverage of as many high quality events and competitions as possible.

According to WSFF, women’s sport only receives 0.4% of the total commercial investment in sport and only gets 7% of sports coverage by the media.

Today I am celebrating women in Deaf sport. I want to do this because I am concerned about the lack of deaf women taking up strategic roles in sport. UK Deaf Sport is currently recruiting for new Board members and we are very impressed with the high calibre of applications that we have attracted and we hope to be making some announcements later in the year. However, we need more women to apply for a place to help us go forwards.

Personally I don’t think we are communicating publicly how important women are to UKDS, perhaps people think we already have this sorted ? Maybe there is a lack of inspiration ? or there is a resignation that it remains a male dominated institution and it will be difficult to make an impact?

UK Deaf Sport has, up until now, always had women on its board of trustees, but both remaining women have tendered their resignations this year and we will not have replacements on the board at our AGM on 26th March.

I cannot stress how important it is that we have women represented at board level. There is so much that needs to be done and we need inspirational leaders to come and help us achieve our ambitions.

Did you know that at the first Deaflympics in Paris, 1924, there was only one woman competing. The pioneer of women was Hendrika Nicoline Van der Heyden (NED) who competed alone in the 100m backstroke swimming. According to Same Spirit Different Team  “Her event is probably, the first and only ‘walkover’ in the history of the Deaflympics.”

IMG_0533In the 2013 Summer Deaflympics, the majority of medal winners in the GB team were women. Athletic’s Melanie Hewitt, Lauren Peffers and the GB Womens Football team. The team was inspired by a charismatic Chef de Mission Fiona Brookes who was at the forefront from the moment she took on the role.

The CISS (Committee International Sports des Sourds) was the first international sports organisation to appoint a women, Maria de Bendeguz (VEN)  onto its Executive Committee in Koln 1981.

Donalda Ammons followed next as CISS Secretary General in 1997 and then succeeded John Lovett as President in 2005 and served until 2009 as she celebrated what was the most successful Deaflympic Games in terms of commercial and media coverage to date when the City of Taipei invested $200m of which $4.34m came from commercial sponsors and vastly increased media coverage which saw attendances rise from 12,00 in Melbourne 2005 to 278,884 in Taipei.

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Emile Sheng, CEO of the Taipei DOC said that the real ‘gold’ in staging the Deaflympics was not in the number of medals generated by the national Chinese Taipei team or the financial profit generated but by the raising of Taiwanese international profile, initiating a regeneration of Taipei City and, for the countries leading businesses, showcasing their products and services. Tony Phoo, an economist with Standard Chartered bank Taiwan PLC, observed:

Taiwan has long been seen primarily as a supplier of electronics components. This will change after the nations socio-economic development is displayed for all to see. (Brisebois 2009, p60 Same Spirit Different Team 2014)

The UK Deaf Table Tennis Association, this week has appointed Sereena Gilmour as its Chairperson. She is the mother of Deaflympian Nick Gilmour and the wife of the late John Gilmour who the UKDTTA owe a great debt to for his dedication and hard work.

IMG_1138Swimmer Danielle Joyce is currently enjoying sporting success breaking 3 world records at the EFDS National Juniors last week and destined to go further.

Like the WSFF, we need more media coverage of the Deaflympics. Same Spirit Different Team explains in detail how in 2001 the IOC contributed US$9m for the promotion of the 2008  Paralympics and US$14m for the 2010 and 2012 events but only 150,000 swiss francs for the Deaflympics to cover 2005-2009. The book suggests a plan of action.