Tiger Woods is in the news these days for all the wrong reasons. In case you have been in a cave for the past week, Woods has allegedly had an affair with at least one woman which ultimately led to a domestic disturbance between himself and his wife, Elin. Mixed into this sordid drama is a car crash, a bunch of superficial injuries to Woods and his wife smashing out two of the windows in his car with a golf club.
Some people argue that this is a personal matter between Woods and his wife, and probably his alleged mistress(es). Others contend that Woods is a highly public figure and those who live in the spotlight can't turn the high beams off when things aren't so rosy. Both of the sides of this debate have some good points and it is hard to really decide who is right. But, that is not what I am writing about.
Just like professional cycling, golf exists because of sponsorships. There are big corporate sponsorships like AT&T, Buick and Nike and also lesser sponsors such as the golf companies. Regardless of the size of the sponsorship, the survival of the sport depends on the sponsors.
It is a bit of an oversimplification, but these sponsors give their dollars because of the image of the event or the athlete they are sponsoring. The sponsors want to project a certain image and the event or athlete they choose help them do that.
We saw in the infamous Michael Phelps 'bong' photo that if an athlete's image changes or is tarnished, a sponsor may decide to pull their sponsorship dollars. What remains to be seen in the Tiger Woods situation is if any of his current sponsors feel that his image is no longer a desirable commodity.
So, you can debate whether the general public should be concerned with what is going on in Tiger Woods' world, but his sponsors have every right to pull their money if they feel that Woods no longer fits the image they want to project.
First it was Jan Ullrich getting popped for ecstasy. Then Gilberto Simoni was nailed for cocaine. Next, Tom Boonen tests positive for cocaine, as well. Now uber-swimming phenomenon, Michael Phelps, is taking bong hits. Of course, who could forget Ross Regabliati, the Canadian snowboarder who lost his gold medal he won in the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games after testing positive for marijuana.
Jan, Gilberto and Tom paid a pretty heavy price for their recreational drug use. Jan was suspended for six months, Gilberto was booted from a Giro he could have won and Boonen lost his ride at the Tour where he was a heavy favorite to take his second consecutive green(sprinter's) jersey. Their suspensions definitely affected their careers. I could be argued, that in the counter-culture, non-conformist world of snowboarding, Ross's dalliance may have been more of a positive for his aspirations. After all he did get his medal back. Maybe.
But, what is going to happen to Michael Phelps? He will probably lose a few endorsements, but will swimming's governing body feel a need to take action?
Yes, there are rules governing the use of recreational drugs in most sports, but is this a good thing? It can easily be argued that since most, if not all, recreational drug use is illegal there should be some sort of penalty. The penalty can take several forms. A national anti-doping agency can impose a suspension or ban. A jurisdictional body can hand down a fine or prison sentence.
What is not clear is if recreational drugs can have a positive affect on an athlete's performance. Yes, as mentioned above, an athlete is probably breaking the law by using them, but did they gain an advantage over their competition? Over fifty years ago, the drug of choice for cyclists were amphetamines. Clearly, this recreational drug could increase performance.
Much like the TV show Lost I am asking a lot more questions than providing answers. In Michael Phelps' case regardless of what the law and USA Swimming decide to do, he will lose some $$$. That seems fair to me. I can't tell him how to behave, but if he behaves in a manner which doesn't please his sponsors then he will have to answer to those sponsors.
In cycling, there appears to be a policy of zero tolerance to drug use of any kind. Not surprisingly, cycling is in the fight of it's life to try to keep and attract sponsors. Boyz will be boyz, but they better understand that everyone is watching.
The Olympics are over, long live the Olympics. Now that the Beijing (Peking for those who get confused easily) Games are over I have to say that I have two Olympic moments. The first was the USA's come-from-behind win in the men's 4x100 freestyle relay. Forget that it kept Michael Phelps drive for eight golds alive, the win typified what relays are all about, a team putting it all together and being greater than the sum of its parts. My second Olympic moment was Usain Bolt's WR in the 200m. Yeah, the boy also won the 100m in WR time, but in the 200, we got to see him run all the way to the line and actually lean at the tape. If I was a male sprinter, I would get myself a very good agent and start picking my races well. Bolt is going to be the Federer/Woods/Lance of the next generation of sprinters with everybody else racing for second place.
I thought Sanya Richard's catching the Russians to win the women's 4x400 was also exciting and coupled with the men's victory in the same event restored a bit of US pride after the debacles in the 4x100. Did you catch Jeremy Wariner's relay split at 43.2? That is how you silence the critics. Too bad he came up short in the open 400.
What happened to Bernard Legat? The double 2007 World Champion (that's just last year) got skunked and looked bad doing it. If the USA can't even draft a ringer to do well in the distance events what are we to do? USA Track and Field won only one medal from the 800m on up and that was a bronze by Shalane Flanagan in the women's 10000m. Yikes, it's tough being a USA distance runner these days regardless of your country of origin.
I still think they should toss out race walking. Either that or add a new event, the 400m run while carrying a piano on your back. Time for this sport to go, let's face it, they are all running and just hoping not to get caught before the finish line.
Oh yeah, for the ladies, I think the men in the beach volleyball event should play with their shirts off. If the women have to play in bikinis it seems only fair.
Judged sports have to go as well. Yeah, I know gymnastics and diving are graceful and all that so let's have an exhibition for those sports and forget about the medals. It's not supposed to be about the medals anyway.
And, along those lines, I think they should stop playing the national anthem of the country who wins. It is about sport, let's try to keep the nationalistic aspect out of it. Distance runner Kenny Moore once opined that everyone should compete in white t-shirts and black shorts.