Smith and Carlos to represent for Team USA. Right on.

Smith and Carlos to represent for Team USA.  Right on.

It was going to be just a gesture of reconciliation, a long overdue welcome back for sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, an invitation for them to be part of the Olympic family in the United States again after nearly 50 years as institutional outcasts.

Now, thanks to an accident of timing and the good intentions of the U.S. Olympic Committee leadership, it can be so much more.

There is a backstory here, and I will talk about it later.  But, right up front, it should be said that the USOC’s asking the two 1968 Mexico City medalists to be U.S. Olympic ambassadors and to accompany members of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic teams on their White House visit Thursday is an important statement in these troubled times for our nation.

“The conversation they started in 1968 is still relevant today.  They are still relevant today,” USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky said.

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Athletes should just say no to flawed anti-doping system

Athletes should just say no to flawed anti-doping system

Some thoughts while waiting for the lowlife Russian hackers whom Russian officials say have no ties to the government (hoo-hah!) to follow through on their announced intention to dump the next bunch of Olympians’ private medical records in an effort to convince people that athletes are doping even when they have violated no anti-doping rules...

...The overriding point in all this: as U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun has said repeatedly in recent months, the global anti-doping system is broken.

It includes unconscionable conflicts of interest, which included IOC vice-president Craig Reedie (whose IOC term ended in August) serving as WADA president.  And now the IOC dismay that the WADA-initiated McLaren report called for a ban on all Russian athletes in Rio.  Are they in this fight together or each defending a bailiwick?

The TUE regulations are just one of the many complicated, probably unworkable pieces in a well-intentioned but impossibly compromised and Sisyphean effort at doping control.

It is sad that this has led a group of ethically and morally bankrupt Russian hackers to pervert reasonable questions about flaws in the system by violating the privacy of individuals who have violated no rules.

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Of The Golden Stars Of Rio – And Those Who Made All Medals Shine Brighter

Who was the biggest star of the 2016 Olympics?

It depends on your point of view.

From a global perspective, the answer is undoubtedly Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, because track and field is one of the two most widely followed and played sports in the worlds (soccer is the other). And the world’s fastest man is the most prized Olympic distinction. And Bolt’s triple-triple, consecutive Olympic golds in the 100, 200 and sprint relay, may last as long as our galaxy.

From the host nation’s perspective, it would have to be Neymar, who scored the lone goal and the decisive penalty kick as Brazil won its first Olympic title in soccer. Neymar was Sidney Crosby 2010 redux: the athlete assuring soul-salving gold in his country’s national sport.

From a U.S. perspective, the choice isn’t as clear-cut, as Sports Illustrated showed with a cover featuring swimmers Katie Ledecky and Michael Phelps and gymnast Simone Biles, whom it called, “The Greatests.” Plural.

While that SI issue focused on just the first week of Olympic action, the three cover athletes essentially played a successful game of “Can you top this?” Ledecky won four gold medals and a silver and set two world records; Phelps won five golds and a silver, improving his record Olympic totals to 23 golds and 28 total; Biles won four golds, a bronze and the acclaim of venerable coach Martha Karolyi as the greatest gymnast of all time.

Whether you think someone topped those three as the No. 1 Team USA athlete will depend on whether you think an athlete who did brilliantly in his or her only Olympic event should get equal credit with athletes whose sports provide the opportunity to win multiple medals.

I tend to come down on the side of multiples, especially when the achievements were as remarkable as those of Ledecky, Phelps and Biles. If forced to pick one, I would go for…nope, not doing that. Sorry. Don’t want to be trolled to distraction.


Gorging myself on NBC’s moveable feast of Olympic viewing

Gorging myself on NBC’s moveable feast of Olympic viewing

I always thought the only disadvantage of being at an Olympics as a journalist was being able to see just the event I was covering and missing out on action that was more exciting.

Now that I am watching at home for the first time since the 1984 Summer Games, having spent just the opening eight days in Rio, I find myself so overwhelmed by choices provided by NBC and its partners that my brain is ready to explode – with joy.

I understand 1984 might as well have be the Middle Ages of communications.  A single over-the-air TV network provided all broadcast coverage to U.S. viewers, and the only other live information came from radio.

Even that knowledge did not prepare me for the shock of the new until I experienced it on three televisions, two computers placed side-by-side, a tablet and a mobile phone.

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Why Two Runners, One From The U.S., One from New Zealand, Deserve A Gold Medal For Their Humanity

“In the Olympic preoccupation with winners and losers, in the mania for counting medals, it is easy to forget what really constitutes triumph.”

I wrote that in 1992, as the first sentence in my story about British runner Derek Redmond’s “excruciating and exhilarating” demonstration of the human spirit as he staggered to a last-place finish with a torn hamstring in the Olympic 400-meter final.

Those words came back to me immediately as I saw and heard and read about what befell U.S. runner Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealand runner Nikki Hamblin – and, more importantly, how they reacted to it – in a Tuesday morning heat of the 5,000-meter in Rio.

D’Agostino, like Redmond, will win no medal. USA Track & Field announced Wednesday that the serious knee injuries she sustained after a tangle with Hamblin will keep D’Agostino from running Friday’s final.

What D’Agostino has won is more important. She has gained the respect of the whole world because, at likely the saddest moment of her athletic career, she looked beyond herself.

And so did Hamblin.

Each deserves a gold medal for her humanity – and selfnessness that put a golden glow on humanity at large.