Dimitris Chondrokoukis fell off Olympus the old-fashioned way. Greece’s 24-year-old world champion high jumper learned on Thursday that he had tested positive for the well-known steroid stanozolol. Humiliated, he promptly withdrew from the Hellenic Olympic contingent a day before the official start of the Games.
“The more drug cheats we can catch the better,’’ harrumphed IOC spokesman Mark Adams.
Amen, and pass the pee bottle and World Anti-Doping Agency manual of banned substances. The cheating theme is beyond tired, and worse, seemingly a story line without an end.
As for Greece’s star triple jumper, 23-year-old Voula Papachristou, she made her way into the Olympic record books a day earlier when Team Greece informed her not to bother making the trip to London. Her drug of choice was the ultra-addictive twitterzolol, its street name Twitter. Papachristou was the first person bounced from the 2012 Games and the first ever to be refused entry to the Five Rings hoedown because of her abuse of social media.
It was Papachristou’s not-so-rare cocktail of Twitter blended with humor, along with ample splashes of stupidity and hubris, that did her in even before she could bring her bags to Jump Street. Humor is often a tricky art form when written, and even trickier on Twitter, where triple jumpers and jokesters alike are restricted to the 140-character confines of the medium.
On Twitter, the joke is pretty much over by the time you’ve tapped out, “Take my wife . . . please!’’ Henny Youngman would have been huge on Twitter. Jack Benny, too. Bob Newhart would struggle, though I bet the struggle itself would be a chuckle, one teased out with perfect timing and an engaging stammer.
Papachristou, her country a punch line in world finance and economics, aimed her wit and keyboard at Africans. Now, there is probably a joke to be had with the word “Africans” wedged somewhere into 140 keystrokes, but any sane individual, especially one hoping to create an Olympic moment or legacy, probably ought look elsewhere for a laugh.
You know, there’s got to be some real gut-buster out there related to, oh, such whimsical subjects as AIDS, leprosy, 9/11, child rape at Penn State, the Aurora shootings. All those jokes and more, frankly, can be found regularly, maybe even this very moment, on Twitter. I know because, well, I’ve got twitterzolol coursing through my veins 24/7 via @GlobeKPD. I never thought I’d get there, folks, but for most of us in the news dissemination biz, even those of us who teethed on pulp and newsprint and carbon paper, Twitter has a high that is 100 times that of five hours alone in a La-Z-Boy with the Sunday New York Times.
Unfortunately, Twitter also matches those highs with some dreadfully low jokes.
If you missed it, here is the tweet that knocked Papachristou out of medal contention:
“With so many Africans in Greece . . . at least the West Nile mosquitoes will eat homemade food!!!’’
Bad in so many ways, right to the end, including where she drove home the kicker of the punchless joke with not one, not two, but three exclamation points. I’m no comedian (spare me the laugh, OK?), but I’d say a joke that needs that extra “!!!’’ to bring it home is precisely the kind that had Conan O’Brien gifting the night job back to Jay Leno.
What some may have missed in Papachristou’s Greek tragedy was her initial response when the yogurt first hit the fan. Oh, she eventually transitioned to contrition — when it became clear that her laugh didn’t play well with the Team Hellenic heavies — but she first fired right back once initial objections came her way. If you don’t tweet (OMG, u r the one?), response is often immediate, as in seconds. The quick return is a huge part of what feeds the addiction.
But here was Papachristou when first realizing her one-liner had flatlined:
“That’s how I am. I laugh. I am not a CD to get stuck!!! And if I make mistakes, I don’t press the replay. I press Play and move on!!!’’
LOL. She’s not only a dope, but a defiant one!!!
Hey, I get it. Papachristou is young, and the new 23 is actually the old 13. She isn’t the first perpetual adolescent to be great at a sport and stone stupid about life, and she won’t be the last. Now she will be remembered as the knucklehead who tripped over her mindless, tasteless joke, one that attempted to bundle Africans and a deadly virus into a knee-slapper of 140 characters or fewer. All in all, a couple of keystrokes short of funny, and decency.
As the cudgel was being aimed her way, and the adults in the Team Hellenic room made it clear they weren’t easily amused, Papachristou finally turned contrite. She labeled her tweet an “unfortunate and tasteless joke.’’ She added, “I never wanted to offend anyone, or to encroach human rights.’’ Of course not. Who would ever think it?
Not appeased, also not into suffering fools, the Greeks summarily bounced her off the team. Message: This is crazy, so call us, maybe . . . like, you know, in four years?
Papachristou quickly responded, as tweeters typically do, telling Reuters, “I’m very bitter and upset. But what has upset me the most is the excessive reaction and speed of the disciplinary decision.’’ Being expelled from the team, she added, is “highly excessive.’’
The thrill of victory. The agony of defeat. The toxicity of Twitter.
Chondrokoukis is a doper, so he’s all done at these Games. Papachristou is just a dope, and she’s done, too.
“She made a mistake,’’ Isidoros Kouvelos, head of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, told Skai TV, the Greek news channel. “And in life we pay for our mistakes.’’
True that, although like most social media, Twitter is free. The cost of the mistakes it can lead to: priceless.