Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Lance Armstrong Stripped of his Titles


What is it with all of this weeping and gnashing of teeth for Lance Armstrong? He cheated, he got caught.


After years of denial, he has finally agreed to go along with the decision of the United States Anti-Doping Agency. “Today I will turn the page. I will no longer address this issue regardless of the circumstance”.


I have listened to talk show hosts on the radio. I have heard the commentators on television. I am saddened by most of their comments, and those of the people who call into their shows.


Many observers are condemning the USDA for what they refer to as a “witch hunt”. They feel that the employees at the agency went after Armstrong mercilessly, just to exonerate themselves. They have stripped Armstrong of many of his titles, and have given him a lifetime ban. He won the prestigious Tour de France seven times; those victories have been removed from his record.


Armstrong will now be considered in the same category as Ben Johnson, the Canadian sprinter who was stripped of his gold medal at the Olympics in 1988. It was the lowest point in Canadian sport history, that day when they removed his gold medal because of his use of a banned substance. A documentary entitled “9.79” is being shown for the first time at the Toronto International Film Festival this year. That was the time Johnson recorded in winning the 100 metre race.


An American female sprinter, Marion Jones also lost three gold medals following the 2000 Games in Sydney, because she confessed to taking drugs at that time.


Almost a dozen athletes were either sent home from the recent Games in London, or were stripped of their medals for taking banned substances. Once they admit their guilt, they will tell you two things: they did not think they would get caught, and they did not think they could compete without the banned substance.


Despite the best efforts of the drug detection devices and systems, it appears that the bad guys are keeping a step ahead of the good guys. Those who wish to enhance their performances through the use of prohibited drugs and blood doping systems have learned sophisticated methods to avoid detection. They use “masking agents”, and they time their cycles to appear clean.


Baseball put another player on the shelf recently, for fifty games. Bartolo Colon was having an exceptional year, compared to previous seasons. He was a key reliever in the Oakland bullpen. He is well-travelled, sometimes a sign that a particular player might have a checkered past. Throughout his career, he has averaged almost three walks per nine innings. This year, he shaved that number in half, without renewing his prescription with the optometrist! His earned run average was his best in ten years, when he climbed the mound for the Montreal Expos. How soon we forget!

There was a team in Quebec, at one time.


Lance Armstrong’s association with cancer agencies has raised significant amounts of money for the cause. For that he is to be commended. But he has lived his life with that little white lie always hovering in the background, and now he must face the music. Don’t expect to have to support a tag day for Mr. Armstrong. I am certain he is a millionaire, several times over.


But those gains were ill-gotten, says I. And I don’t like it, one damn bit. You now have what you deserve, Lance.


James Hurst


August 26, 2012.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Steroids and Sport-2012

With the recent suspension of baseball’s Melky Cabrera, the ugliness of the steroid era has been exposed yet again. Cabrera has been suspended for fifty games, ending his season. Cabrera has been playing for the San Francisco Giants, and was having a fine year, up to this point.

In fact, he recently won the award as the Most Valuable Player in the All Star game. Now he is out of work.

In a Sun Media article in last Saturday’s paper, Ken Fidlin wrote: “Major League Baseball wants everyone to believe that performance enhancing drugs are a thing of the deep, dark, dirty past, held in check by a thoroughly modern testing apparatus”. As we have now discovered, such is not the case.

Cabrera was in the midst of his best season, ever, in baseball. He was batting .346, had 11 home runs, and 60 runs-batted-in. His two key hits in the All Star Game ensured that the National League would have home field advantage in the upcoming World Series. His suspension will also jeopardize the chances of the San Francisco Giants making the playoffs.

Victor Conte knows a little about this topic. He owned a lab in the Bay area called BALCO, and he supplied many athletes with performance enhancing drugs. He got caught, served hard time, and is now out of the business. But he does go on the record as saying that the use of a new “synthetic testosterone” is now widespread among athletes. He calls it “the biggest loophole in anti-doping”.

Athletes can spread testosterone cream on their body, get the healing benefits overnight, and in the morning their levels of the drug are back to normal baseline counts. Conte said that there is a way to test for the substance, but that it is not being widely used. He said that cheating is currently like “taking candy from a baby”.

In a rather interesting attempt to avoid the suspension, Cabrera and his cronies set up a fictitious website, along with a product that does not exist, to prove that he inadvertently took the drug. But he became entrapped in a series of falsehoods and lies.

Jeff Novitzky is a criminal investigative agent for the American Food and Drug Administration. He and his cohorts are investigating all of the activities surrounding Cabrera’s suspension: his trainers, handlers and agents, his friends, and likely his teammates, as they search for the source of the synthetic testosterone that first became apparent at the All Star Game.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig spoke to a group of owners last week in Denver. He told the owners that they will be “shocked” when they hear what’s been going on.

Cabrera spent his first five years in the big leagues in New York with the Yankees. He then spent a year in Atlanta, and another in Kansas City, before signing with the Giants this year. He was going to become a free agent after this season. With all of the numbers that he was putting in the statistics book, it is estimated that he would have been offered a contract for $75 million over five years. Easy come, easy go.

Many of the players who play it straight are angry that yet another of their fellow players has been caught. Melky should have to pay the piper. His All Star MVP title should be stripped, along with all of the toys he got in the deal.

Sooner or later, professional sports will become clean. Let’s hope so.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


The Flame Is Gone

They have extinguished the Olympic Flame in London, England. The Games have come to a close, the athletes have returned home.

As is always the case, the Brits will have to wait for a year or two to tabulate the financial successes and losses from the event. Certainly, from a showcase point of view, the Games were most successful. For two weeks viewers from around the world were shown the sights of London, as it has evolved in the 21st Century.

Financially, it has always been difficult to assess all of the factors related to the Games. It was recently brought to light that the security cost alone for the Winter Games held in Vancouver was $ 844 million. I am sure that figure is well short of the total for the London Games. Security has always been a critical issue for organizers, especially following the disaster at the Games in Munich.

I am certain that every Canadian athlete who participated in the Games put forth his or her best effort. There were plenty of coaches and other officials on hand keeping a close eye on the participants. Fortunately, none of the Canadian competitors was sent home because of a failed drug test. There were a few other athletes in that situation. An American cyclist who won the gold medal eight years ago was stripped of his title for doping, just prior to the deadline that exists for the Games.

There is ample reason for excitement in Jamaica today. Usain Bolt established himself as one of the greatest sprinters of all time. He won the 100 metre and 200 metre events, the only runner ever to duplicate the feat at successive Olympic Games. He also anchored the Jamaican relay team to victory in the four by one hundred metre race.

The Canadian Women’s soccer team became the darlings of the media at the Games. They lost to the Americans in a terrific semi-final, marred by accusations of cheating and questionable officiating. The head honchos in the soccer world need to realize that the game has progressed to the point that it is ridiculous to expect one official to be able to rule the soccer pitch. There should be at least two referees on the field, maybe even three, to regulate the game properly.

There was a lot of criticism of the behaviour of the Canadian players after the game, and rightly so. They did not exactly display the highest of Olympic ideals, whining and belly-aching about the loss. They did get to play the French for the bronze medal, and won the game. They scored a goal in the extra time, on their very first shot on goal in the entire game!

Our men’s rowing team, the one with eight giants and Brian Price in the boat, came home with silver medals. They have been consistently in the hunt for many years, and were nudged from the top place on the podium by the giants from Germany.

Brian Price

Only one Canadian returned home with a gold medal, a young lady from the Toronto. She bounced her way to the title on the trampoline. Many of us were shocked to learn that jumping on a trampoline had become an official Olympic event.

I will apologize for the following, in the event that I raise a few eyebrows with a final comment or two about the current state of affairs in the modern Olympic world.

First of all, there are far too many sports represented at the Games. All events that are judged should be eliminated form the Games: gymnastics, wresting, combat sports, the lists goes on and on. The Games should be a competition between athletes. No more horses, or bicycles, or boats, or guns. Get rid of the big team events. They have their own World Cups: basketball, (another American “Dream Team”), soccer, volleyball.

We had just relaxed from the finals at Wimbledon and discovered they were playing tennis again at the same venue as an Olympic event. Same players, roughly the same results.

As the Olympic Csar, I will pare down the costs of the Games, make them more athletic, and remove the politics. Fat chance! Alas, I am a small voice in the wilderness. I have been ignored. Golf is on the agenda for the next Summer Games in Rio!

That isn’t cricket now, is it?

James Hurst

August 14, 2012 


Tuesday, August 07, 2012


Olympic History-1910 Mecca Cards

    Recently came across a wonderful set of sports cards dedicated to a variety of athletes. There are several prize fighters included in the group as well as track and field athletes.

Many of the competitors pictured in the set participated in the Olympic Games for the United States. The set is entitled “Champion Athlete and Prize Fighter”, and it was produced by the Mecca Company in 1910 and 1911. Each card in the set opens a fantastic book of sport history.

Card # 32 in the set is John Flanagan. On the back of his card, he is described as “one of the world’s greatest hammer throwers”. Truly an understatement. He won the gold medal in three consecutive Olympic Games: Paris, 1900, St. Louis, 1904, and London in 1908. He also won a silver medal in the “weight throw” in 1904.

Flanagan was born in Kilbreedy, County Limerick, Ireland on January 9, 1873. He emigrated to the United States in 1896. He was already the world record holder for the hammer throw at that time. He competed for the New York Athletic Club as well as the Irish American Athletic Club. He joined the New York City Police Department in 1903. He was assigned to the Bureau of Licences which gave him plenty of time off to train.

In 1905, he participated in the Police Association Games in Queens, New York. He won four of the weight throwing events, then entered the 100 yard dash, winning it as well! At the London Games in 1908, he broke his own world record in the hammer throw, and also competed in the Tug-Of-War, at that time an official Olympic Event!

He returned to Ireland for his father’s funeral in 1924, and remained there until his death in 1938.

Dan Ahearn is pictured on Card # 38. Also an Irishman by birth, he emigrated to the United States in 1909. He held the world record for the Triple Jump from 1909 until 1924. He was also a member of the “Winged Fist Club” representing Irish Americans. His brother Tim won the Triple Jump Gold Medal in London in 1908. He also became a policeman, but in Chicago. He died in 1954.

Platt Adams, on Card # 25, won the bronze medal in 1908 in the Standing High Jump. You read that correctly! You stood there, and jumped! In 1909, he won several events at the National  A. A. U. games; broad jump championship, the standing broad jump, and the running hop, step, and jump.

Martin Sheridan, also another Irish-American, was a phenomenal athlete. In his obituary in the New York Times, he was called “one of the greatest athletes the country has ever known”. He won five gold medals in Olympic competition, three silver and a bronze. Unfortunately, he was a very early casualty in the flu pandemic of 1918, the day before his 37th birthday.

There are fifty cards in the set, each telling its own tale. An entire life captured in the picture on the front of the card, and a few paragraphs on the back. A bit of early Olympic history.

James Hurst


August 7, 2012.

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