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Thursday, September 11, 2008
USOC Apologizes to 'Masked' Athletes

Admitting the impropriety of its demands to four U.S. Olympic athletes to apologize to Beijing Olympic officials for wearing anti-pollution masks, the U.S. Olympic Committee is now apologizing to those athletes. As noted in my earlier blog, the four cyclists -- Sarah Hammer, Jennie Reed, Bobby Leafter and Mike Friedman -- were castigated by the USOC for wearing the masks upon arrival at the Beijing airport. According to the Chicago Tribune, the letter admits that it was an error not to have athlete representatives present when the demand was made and not have a USOC staff member at the airport to meet the athletes and attempt to resolve the situation at that time.

The four were effectively stifled from getting their story across. They argued that a USOC sports psychologist recommended the wear the masks from the "minute they set foot in Beijing." If that is the case, any "fault" (if you can call such a recommendation a fault) derived USOC personnel, not the athletes. The four claimed that the incident adversely affected their performance at the games.

The apology comes too late and the damage has been done.


Maybe the USOC screwed up here, but I still think the cyclists were acting ridiculous. They have the ability to think for themselves, and should have realized that putting on a mask immediately upon setting foot in a country was rude and over the top.

Also, I don't buy this notion that the scolding from the USOC made them distracted and hurt their performance. We're supposed to believe that they couldn't pedal fast because they got yelled at? Please.

Blogger Tim -- 9/11/2008 4:54 PM  

Yes, it is hard to prove that the incident affected their performance at the games (although they underperformed, based on past competitions). But let's face it: the real reason the USOC acted so quickly and pointedly is because they did not want to offend Beijing, especially since Chicago is a finalist for the 2016 Games. Given the Chinese government's conduct -- breaking promises to the IOC to be nice to demonstrators, for example -- I don't think what the four did was rude at all, especially since the four had no opportunity to explain their actions.

Blogger Mark Conrad -- 9/12/2008 4:24 PM  

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