Sunday, January 21, 2018
Opinion

These Olympics need gold dunce caps

With apologies to Bill Maher, can we have a new Olympic rule? A gold medal depicting the Three Stooges to be bestowed on the biggest dope to compete — or perhaps not compete — in the London Games.

Apart from the NBC sob stories depicting just about every member of the U.S. team growing up in a log cabin, surviving a treacherous disease and overcoming enough personal adversity to make Job look like a happy-go-lucky chap, the Olympics also offer up no shortage of tawdry tales of athletes attempting to game the system.

It has always been so, especially since the old East German women's teams often had more facial hair than ZZ Top.

We've all heard the scandalous stories of folks like sprinter Marion Jones and others who threw away their careers, their reputations and in some cases their freedom after getting caught using performance-enhancing drugs to give themselves a competitive edge.

Sad, yes. But also perversely understandable. After all, for some high-profile sports, bringing home the gold also means potentially millions of dollars in endorsement deals. Money talks. And runs. So that might explain why Tour de France cyclist Lance Armstrong is widely presumed to be the Keith Richards of steroids.

But Alex Schwazer? Cheater?

You've probably never heard of Alex Schwazer. In short order, you never will again. But the Italian ex-Olympian deserves his gold medal as one of the densest athletes to ever think juicing would give him a competitive edge, or inflate his bank account.

Schwazer was caught using a blood booster to compete in Olympic race walking. Race walking? Isn't this a bit like getting caught stacking the deck in a game of Go Fish?

You know a particular Olympic "sport" has to be the biggest waste of time since The Apprentice hit the airwaves when the competitors look more like a Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks sketch. No golf. No baseball in the Olympics. But medals are awarded to the best John Cleese perambulator in the world?

Winning a gold medal in an event with all the thrills and chills of C-SPAN was so important to Schwazer that he tried to hoodwink the International Association of Pitty-Patters, or whatever it's called.

Even if Schwazer had managed to successfully pull off his scam, what was really in it for him? A lifetime supply of Dr. Scholl's odor control insoles? Bunion cushions? Or maybe the brass ring itself — ingrown toenail removers?

Schwazer was hardly alone. Eight women badminton players from China and South Korea were tossed out of the Games for intentionally losing their matches in order to improve their bracket positions against weaker future opponents.

Could it be The Mouse That Roared was the in-flight movie on the way to Great Britain? Did these so-called world-class athletes think no one would notice they were taking a more obvious dive than Mountain Rivera in Requiem for a Heavyweight by playing with all the skill of a Clampett family picnic reunion? Cheating at badminton? What's next? Using a doctored bocce ball?

Yu Yang, one of the disgraced Chinese badminton scofflaws later proclaimed, "This is my last match." Nobody cared about your first.

And U.S. judo competitor Nick Delpopolo was dismissed from the Games when he admitted consuming a marijuana-laden brownie before departing for London. Perhaps Delpopolo raised the suspicions of Olympic officials when he was discovered at 2 a.m. hanging around Taco Bell trying to order a dozen chalupas.

Delpopolo insisted he had no idea his brownie was prepared from the Timothy Leary Cookbook. Perhaps. But the incident suggests the defrocked Olympian might want to review his list of friends who would allow him to consume something with a banned substance knowing he was about to compete in the Games.

Considering Olympic athletes must provide more urine for drug testing than halftime at a Bucs game, it's hard to fathom why anyone would attempt to get away with bending the rules.

Someday maybe someone will see Alex Schwazer in a cafe and remotely recognize him. Wasn't he an Olympic athlete? What happened? Kicked out for being a world-class chiseler? In what sport? Really?

Yep, he wins our gold medal for imbecility — in a walk.

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