Fight for the East and West

I’ve got to be honest. Until Tuesday night I had maybe watched three games of the NBA playoffs. I’m going to blame it on the NBA. These matches have been nowhere near exciting.

There have been hints of greatness through the process. I actually tuned in for the Warriors’ overtime win against the Trailblazers. I hoped Portland would have a stronger showing than it did, but I guess like the team, I can take OT as a success and leave with that.

The conference finals have been the most impressive, but that isn’t saying much, not when the games in both the East and West have been won by complete dominance. There hasn’t been a single game where in the final quarter the losing team was estimated to make a comeback. Some of the games have been decided by half-time.

CAN THERE STILL BE AN UPSET IN THE EAST?

Never would I have imagined Toronto putting up this strong of a fight. The Raptors had me actually believing they could pull off an upset until Wednesday night. They dominated the Cavs in Games Three and Four to come out in Game Five looking like a deer in headlights. The Raptors will have home-court advantage for Game Six on Friday night. After a subpar performance in Game Five, I think they will put out all the stops and tie the series 3-3. Unfortunately I don’t see the finals in Toronto’s future.

It still won’t be a walk in the park for the Cavaliers. In order to close out the series they need more than just Lebron James. Fans saw James carry the team on his back in last year’s finals with both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving suffering injuries. In Cleveland’s two losses to Toronto, Love and Irving weren’t making the impact required of them by the team.

73 WINS DON’T MEAN A THING WITHOUT A RING

There really are no words to explain the situation in the West. It was a given that Oklahoma City would be Golden State’s toughest opponent. They had been throughout the regular season, but to be down 3-1. I’ll leave it to Golden State head coach Steve Kerr to explain that one.

“We didn’t play very intelligently,” Kerr said in the Game Four postgame conference. “Way too many turnovers (21), careless passes. This is probably the longest team in the league that we’re facing, and we are continuing to try to throw passes over the top of their outstretched arms. It’s probably not a great idea.”

The Thunder seemed to hit their stride three weeks ago and it doesn’t look like they have plans of laying off anytime soon. I’ve been impressed with every player to take the court, but the real MVP in my eyes is first-year head coach Billy Donovan. The ability to make adjustments separates the winners and the losers in playoff season. Donovan has passed with flying colors.

Golden State’s fate will fan on two things: ability to make adjustments and mental toughness. The first is Kerr’s responsibility. OKC has overwhelmed Golden State on the perimeter and dominated the glass throughout the series.

Mental toughness is a big one. There are statements that have been made about Steph Curry playing at 70-percent. All-Star forward Draymond Green is said to set the tone of energy on the court, a responsibility he said he’s fallen short of.

Two-hundred and thirty-twi is the number of times a team has been down 3-1 in a best-of-seven series. Nine is the number of times that team has come from behind to win. To make the finals the Warriors will need perfection.

FINALS PREDICTION: Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

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Latest doping allegations could hurt anti-doping campaign

This is not the first time a sport’s anti-doping movement has come under scrutiny, but with what has come to light in the last year and last week, the World Anti-Doping Agency has some big decisions to make.

Just last week Russia’s former anti-doping director, Grigory Rodchenskov, came forward and admitted that he ran an organized doping program for Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, by helping switch tainted samples for clean ones.

Now the International Olympic Committee and WADA are partnering to carry out a full-fledged investigation planning to retest Sochi samples stored in Lausanne, Switzerland. It’s unsure how many tainted samples are still intact, though.

Russia’s track and field team is dealing with a suspension from global competition. Track and fields governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federation, banned the country after an investigation detailed state-sponsored doping, corruption and coverups in the program. The federation has yet to make a decision on whether the ban will be lifted prior to the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

If the investigation into the Sochi Olympics turns out to be true, I think the IOC needs to ban Russia as a whole from competing this year. Russian authorities have gone on record saying they support the crackdown but that only specific individuals should see the repercussions. In this case, however, it wasn’t individual athletes choosing to make the wrong decision. It was supported and encouraged, and if it weren’t for members of the state hiding the truth, the athletes would have been caught then not now.

Fast forward to this week and retesting stretching back eight years has caught 31 athletes from 12 different countries and six different sports for doping prior to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The IOC has opened disciplinary proceedings for the athletes who were planning to take part in the 2016 Games. And it doesn’t stop there. Retesting of samples for athletes from the 2012 Summer Games in London hoping to compete in Rio will also take place, opening the possibility for more athletes to be banned.

These findings are horrible for the international sports community and for the World Anti-Doping Agency. While the association prides itself on being the “organization for clean sport” and “protecting clean athletes,” without a crackdown after recent findings it may need to find a new slogan.

Athletes competing on the global stage open their bodies to drug testing with hopes of competing on a level playing field. When certain athletes are taking performance enhancing drugs, it’s not a level playing field.

I see where WADA and the IOC are currently standing as a crossroads. The way they choose to handle this situation could go two very different ways. One option is to crack down and crack down hard. Make athletes who cheat realize they are never safe. Make athletes realize that doping isn’t worth it due to the intense repercussions. The other route is going light on Russia and other individuals who have disobeyed the rules. If the organizations fail to crack down this time around, athletes will continue to take the risk and more athletes will start to do so.

The question is will the playing field be balanced by cutting down the number of athletes doping or will it be leveled by more athletes choosing to take performance-enhancing drugs?

Impeachment, Zika and the Olympics

We are 84 days out from the opening ceremony of the 2016 summer Olympics, and until yesterday I had completely forgot. I laughed at myself when I realized I forgot about the world’s largest sporting event, but the thing is there is way too much going on in Rio de Janeiro already.

Rio has been slated to be the 2016 host since 2006. Four years ago, when the summer games were wrapping up in London, I was ready for 2016. Currently sitting less than three months out, part of me wishes the event would get postponed.

This should have been a monumental Olympic Games. It is the first to be hosted by a South American country. Because of this fact it will still be monumental, but for issues that the media has brought to our attention in the past year not concerning the Games, the event will be out-shined and overlooked.

The first thing on the table is the Zika virus. It began to make headlines in the summer 2015 when Brazil became the first country in the America’s to suffer an outbreak. Originally all that was known about the virus was that it was extremely harmful to pregnant women and babies. But now it seems that the virus can spread through sexual relations, and not just pregnant women are at risk. Just earlier this month the United States suffered its first fatality from Zika.

Doctors have warned that the 2016 Olympic Games could spark a “full-blown public health disaster.” Dr. Amir Attaran of the University of Ottawa wrote in the Harvard Public Health Review on May 12 that the games could speed up the spread of the virus and suggested changing the location of the event or even postponing it.

It’s too close to the games for any containment efforts to be successful at this point, but Brazil has failed drastically at trying to contain the virus since the onset.

While health is of growing concern for athletes and spectators, joining Zika at the table is political unrest. After a 20-hour senate session, Brazil’s governing body announced Thursday morning that it reached the decision to impeach President Dilma Rousseff. The vote was 55-22 in favor of impeachment. The trial could last as long as six months, which will suspend Rousseff from her duties during the games.

In office since 2011, Rousseff has helped continue the 13-year reign of “The Workers Party” by continuing to pull millions of people out of poverty. The funny thing is the country is in its deepest recession since the 1930s. With one of the largest economies in the world, Brazil has the ability to hurt world markets.

The country has been sorting through the mess of a potential impeachment for months, and uncontrollable protests have been a regular occurrence. There is no sign that things could change in terms of unrest prior to the opening ceremony.

To top the table off we are adding a $3 billion corruption scandal by state run oil giant, Petrobras. Waters are polluted where events such as sailing and rowing will take place. The state of Rio de Janeiro chopped $550 million from its security budget. The cut of about 20 percent won’t be good if protests become more out of control. And lastly, the state made $500 million cuts to balance the operating budget. How can the country be secure enough to host the Olympics?

On the plus side, if you are interested in going to the 2016 Summer Games, ticket sales are down, so you just might be able to find a great deal.