- The Washington Times - Monday, August 30, 2004

ATHENS — No need for the final, disputed score. Mark it down: In terms of sheer Olympic dubiousness, the Athens Olympics outpointed every Games that has come before, as surely as Paul Hamm earned his gold medal.

Everyone ganged up on the judges. Almost everyone flunked a drug test. A lightsaber-wielding centaur said hello to the world.

The Games were ridiculous. They were ignominious. They were — with eternal apologies to Esquire magazine — nothing short of dubious:

I see tangled ribbons in your future

Heading into the Games, the Ukrainian rhythmic gymnastics team claimed it lost the European championships because it was hexed by 15 psychics hired by Team Russia.

The horse also received breast implants and Botox injections

German equestrian rider Ulla Salzgeber booked her horse, Rusty, for a 30-day pre-Olympic stay at a tanning solarium.

“Excuse me, sir? That won’t fit in the overhead bin”

Pole vaulter Dmitri Markov’s pole was lost during his flight from Australia to Greece.

$1.5 billion only buys so much security

A British reporter claimed to have planted three fake bombs around Olympic Stadium, getting into the facility with the aliases “Michael Mouse” and “Robert bin Laden.”

Police were busy looking for Michael Mouse

The synchronized men’s diving competition was interrupted by a fan who sneaked onto the platform, then dived into the water.

Doesn’t he know figure skating is in the Winter Olympics?

The 31-year old man was wearing a tutu and clown shoes.

Animated? We were thinking water-filled

Local newspapers described Olympic mascots Phevos and Athena as animated condoms.

“Also, they look like condoms”

The team that created the mascots dubbed them “full of vitality and creativity, perhaps mischievous and hence lovable.”

Guess you can forget

A British cycling champ fell off his bike while riding in the Olympic village.

Aristotle frowned on sod

Olympic organizers said the dusty landscaping at Olympic venues wasn’t the result of last-minute construction but rather an intentional choice to reflect the ancient Games.

Oh, so that’s why they used dirt

The pyrotechnics show at a party thrown by chief Olympic organizer Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki caused a fire in a nearby woods that burned out of control for half an hour.

Ahead of the curve

Kenyan boxer David Munyasia failed a drug test before the Olympics began.

That, and they didn’t want to sit through the opening ceremony

Greek sprinters Kostas Kenteris and Katerina Thanou pulled out of the Games in a scandal over missed drug tests.

Where’s Jeff Kent when you need him?

Kenteris and Thanou reportedly attempted to avoid a test on the eve of the Olympics by staging a motorcycle accident.

Big deal. Who doesn’t have 641 boxes of tainted supplements in their garage?

Greek officials found 641 boxes containing food supplements with the stimulant ephedrine in a warehouse used by Christos Tzekos, the coach of Kenteris and Thanou.

He might be a cheat, but he’s our cheat

A capacity crowd at Olympic Stadium whistled, booed and chanted for Kenteris, delaying the start of the men’s 200-meter final by four minutes.

Come to think of it, those syringes are pretty heavy

Greek weightlifter Leonidas Sampanis was stripped of his bronze medal for a doping offense.

Just other kinds of drugs

Protesting his innocence, Sampanis swore on his two children that he never used “this kind of drug.”

When in Greece …

Six other weightlifters were suspended on the same day for flunking drug tests.

Did she eat her shoes?

U.S. sprinter Torri Edwards was banned for two years after testing positive for something called nikethamide.

Zeus would not be pleased

Russian shot putter Irina Korzhanenko, the first woman to win a gold medal at ancient Olympia, tested positive for steroids and was stripped of her title.

This urine is mine. Get your own

Robert Fazekas, the Hungarian gold medalist in men’s discus, was stripped of his title for failing to provide a drug test sample.

God told me not to pee in that cup

Hungary’s Olympic delegation claimed Fazekas “is a deeply religious person who has always had difficulty to produce a sufficient quantity of urine in front of sample collectors.”

The other three? Slackers

Ukraine’s four-woman rowing team was stripped of a bronze medal after one member flunked a drug test.

But he’s completely innocent!

Olympic hammer throw champ Adrian Annus retired from sports rather than take additional drug tests.

Lousy, no-good doper

Greek-American baseball player Derek Nicholson was suspended by the Greek Olympic Committee after testing positive for a prescribed blood pressure medication that contains a diuretic.

Because I got high, because I got high, because I got high

Sprinter John Capel did not run on the U.S. 400-meter relay team after testing positive for marijuana.

Er, they have a beach there?

The U.S. men’s beach volleyball pair of Dain Blanton and Jeff Nygaard was eliminated by a team from Switzerland.

Over and Out

Belgian horse Over and Over was put to sleep after breaking a leg in the equestrian contest.

It’s all American to them

Greek fans started a stomping rally chant while their national baseball team was fielding.

Make it the 51st state and this will never happen again

The U.S. men’s basketball team lost its opening game to Puerto Rico.

But we’re still really good at dunking!

Team USA was 3-for-24 from beyond the arc in that game.

Dream deferred

The American men finished without a gold medal for the first time since the original Dream Team.

Well, they couldn’t exactly use USA Basketball

The Bush campaign ran ads featuring the Iraqi national soccer team.

Neither did more than half of the country

Told that President Bush might drop in to watch the Iraqi soccer team — as opposed to the U.S. basketball squad — forward Richard Jefferson quipped, “I didn’t vote for him, anyway.”

So much for gratitude

A number of Iraqi soccer players criticized Bush.

Get this man a ball!

One member of the Iraqi soccer team said if he wasn’t at the Games, he would be in Fallujah, fighting American troops.

Keeping politics out of the Games

Iranian judoka Arash Miresmaeili, a gold medal favorite, announced his intention to withdraw from the Olympics because he did not want to fight an Israeli athlete.

That Arabic copy of “Mein Kampf” weighs at least two pounds

Miresmaeili was then disqualified for being too heavy at a morning weigh-in.

One of the good guys

Track coach Trevor Graham admitted he was the person who turned over the THG-coated syringe at the heart of the BALCO drug scandal, calling himself “just a coach who did the right thing.”

Or maybe not

Nine of Graham’s current or former runners either have been accused of doping or have tested positive.

Hey, it could happen

Graham once said a runner tested positive because the athlete had tripped and fallen before his test, resulting in elevated testosterone levels.

Hmm — maybe too much outside pressure?

A Chinese table tennis bronze medalist was asked by reporters, “You failed to win gold or silver again. What do you think your problem is?”

You’ll have plenty of time to rest … when you’re dead!

Australian rower Sally Robbins, who collapsed with exhaustion three quarters of the way through a race, was dubbed “Lay Down Sally” by the Aussie press.

True Olympic spirit

Robbins said her own teammates threatened to throw her overboard.

Wait, what do you mean no one asked?

Following the first day of the field hockey competition, International Field Hockey Federation president Els Van Breda Vriesman issued a press release announcing “everything is fantastic.”

In related news, Eminem was granted a wild card into the singles draw

American tennis player Vince Spadea rapped on the “Today” show.

Yeah, and too bad it’s such a long flight to Vegas

USA basketball’s Shawn Marion on staying aboard the Queen Mary II: “Too bad the casino isn’t open.”

Been eating at the media cafeteria?

Baltimore swimmer Katie Hoff threw up after her loss in the 400 IM heats.

Good, since the sport could use some sex appeal

Beach volleyball featured dancing girls in bikinis during breaks in the action.

She said, adjusting her bikini straps

Australian beach volleyballer Nicole Sanderson called the dancers “disrespectful.”

Hey, this isn’t beach volleyball!

The Brazilian and Australian women’s basketball teams wore skintight uniforms.

I’m No. 1!

After winning silver in the women’s road race, German cyclist Judith Arndt made an obscene gesture toward her nation’s cycling federation authorities while crossing the finish line.

We’re No. 11!

The Nigerian women’s basketball team celebrated on court for several minutes after finishing in 11th place.

Burkina Faso better watch out

Nigeria had just won its first Olympic women’s basketball game, breaking a 0-18 skid.

Couldn’t they just play shirts and skins?

The U.S. and Lithuanian men’s basketball teams both arrived at the bronze medal game wearing white uniforms, delaying the tipoff by 48 minutes.

Attention to detail

Taekwondo referee Zhao Lei counted out a Central African Republic fighter while he was lying unconscious from a roundhouse kick to the head that left him hospitalized with a concussion.

Fighting spirit

After a lopsided quarterfinal loss, American boxer Jason Estrada told reporters: “If I’m going to lose, I’m going to lose getting hit as little as possible. I’d rather not get hit at all.”

Oops

The International Gymnastics Federation suspended three judges after concluding that Korea’s Yang Tae-young was incorrectly docked a tenth of a point, costing him a gold medal that went to American Paul Hamm.

Whoops

Video review revealed a number of unpenalized mistakes in Tae-young’s routine.

D’oh!

A Hungarian fencing referee was expelled from the Games and suspended for two years after making several errors in the men’s team foil gold medal match between Italy and China.

Just asking

The IGF pressured Hamm to give his gold medal to Tae-young.

Not that she’s bitter or anything

Three days after losing to America’s Carly Patterson, Russian gymnast Svetlana Khorkina carped about judging bias, stating, “I knew even before I stepped on the stage for my first event that I was going to lose. I practically did everything right; still, they just set me up and fleeced me.”

Well, except for the fleecing part

After winning silver, Khorkina called it the “best day” of her career.

La Costa Pixie

Russian gymnastics czar Leonid Arkayev called Olympic gymnastics judges a “mafia.”

You mean you were watching?

American officials complained about biased rhythmic gymnastics judges.

He was then hired as an Olympic judge

American shooter Matt Emmons blew a surefire gold medal by firing at the wrong target.

If you can’t beat ‘em …

Khorkina said she wanted to work for the IGF.

You could start by eating a freakin’ sandwich

The waifish Khorkina also said she wanted to engage in “self-cultivation” and “be a healthy person when it is time for me to have a baby.”

And you thought “Achy Breaky Heart” was shameful

Coca-Cola’s Olympic poppy theme became the No.1 song in Greece.

Hey, that sounds vaguely familiar

France, England and the United States teamed up to protest and overturn a German gold medal in equestrian.

Can you blame them?

Hamm and Patterson skipped the closing ceremony to attend the MTV video awards in Miami.

Er, so we’ve heard

Twelve Olympians, including American high jumper Amy Acuff, posed nude for the September issue of Playboy.

Mental note: Take up modern pentathlon

Said Acuff: “One of the big misconceptions is that every athlete is 100 percent serious about being there. A number of athletes in the village — people who know they don’t have a chance — are there to have a party.”

They thought they were watching USA Basketball

When Russian gymnast Alexi Nemov got a low score on the parallel bars, the crowd booed for 10 minutes, bringing the competition to a halt.

His interests are canoeing and world peace

Australian canoeist Martin Marinov was named “Mr. Bulgaria” in 1993.

Say it ain’t so!

The BBC filmed Bulgarian Olympic Committee head Ivan Slavkov discussing how votes could be bought in the bidding for the 2012 Summer Games.

And finally …

Guatemalan swimmer Gisela Morales blamed her poor backstroke performance on staying up too late during the previous night’s opening ceremony.

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