You’d think that after sabotaging the 1980 Moscow Olympics by invading Afghanistan, the Russian government would think twice about provoking boycott talk with the Sochi Games six months away.
While the International Olympic Committee has been assured that the new law outlawing homosexual “propaganda” won’t affect gay athletes and visitors, international critics say that it’s a chilling example of the Vladimir Putin regime’s repressive approach to social activism. Human Rights Watch has called it “a profoundly discriminatory and dangerous bill that is bound to worsen homophobia in Russia.”
Anyone promoting “nontraditional sexual relations” around minors can be fined and jailed, with foreigners also being deported. What constitutes gay propaganda is unclear, but it could include anything from public same-sex hand-holding to displaying a rainbow flag.
The US Olympic Committee, which dismissed the possibility of boycotting the Games if Russia granted asylum to document leaker Edward Snowden, is committed to sending a team to Sochi.
“If there are any lessons to be learned from the American boycott of 1980, it is that Olympic boycotts do not work,” spokesman Patrick Sandusky said.
Johnny Weir, a Russophile whose husband is Russian and who calls the government’s treatment of gays “heartbreaking,” insists that he’ll compete if he makes his third Olympic figure skating team.
“There isn’t a police officer or a government that, should I qualify, could keep me from competing,” he declared.
How the West won
German sports doping wasn’t just an East Side thing. According to a 500-page study released Monday by the country’s federal institute of sport science, West Germany indulged in state-sponsored doping as early as 1972, with the government funding research into steroids, testosterone, estrogen, and other drugs at multiple labs. While athletes’ names weren’t mentioned because of privacy issues, the institute said that the doping program was designed to parallel what was being done by the GDR’s system. Although the West wasn’t nearly the medal powerhouse that the East was during the ’70s and ’80s, it still was fourth in the summer standings . . . The US track and field team, which is favored to top the table for the fifth straight time at the World Championships that begin this weekend inside Moscow’s mammoth Luzhniki (formerly Lenin) Stadium, is packed with defending champions (nine) and London medalists (20). The marquee names include Carmelita Jeter (100 meters), Allyson Felix (200), Lashinda Demus (400 hurdles), Brittney Reese (long jump), Jenn Suhr (pole vault), Ashton Eaton (decathlon), Dwight Phillips (long jump), Christian Taylor (triple jump), and Aries Merritt and Jason Richardson (110 hurdles). As usual, the Americans’ top challengers will be the Russians, who led the medal count in 2003 but have been second since. To mark the squad’s appearance in the Russian capital, the US federation is putting out a Moscow Collection of running gear with an old-school look (like the NRA-style eagle from the Depression) to pay homage to the 1980 Olympic team that was kept home by the boycott.
Missy misses out
How did Missy Franklin win a record six gold medals and not be named swimmer of the meet at the World Championships in Barcelona? Because teammate Katie Ledecky set two world records and one American record in her sweep of the distance freestyle events. “She’s not normal,” US women’s coach Dave Salo said about the 16-year-old Marylander, who won a fourth gold leading off the 4 x 200-meter relay. Franklin, who missed a seventh medal by .05 seconds in the 100 free, is off to Cal-Berkeley, where she plans to swim two seasons before turning pro and picking up the sponsorship payoff that she bypassed after the Olympics. “If I do all four years of college, that would be the biggest financial mistake of my life,” said Franklin, who would have finished second in the gold-medal count if she’d been her own country. Ryan Lochte, who won three golds to run his career total to 15 in five meets, was deprived of another when breaststroker Kevin Cordes left the blocks early in the medley relay. It was the second time that Lochte lost a potential medley gold — the 2007 relay also was disqualified, costing Michael Phelps an 8-for-8. The Americans still left the rest of the world in their backwash, winning 13 golds and 29 medals, more than twice as many as runner-up Australia . . . The US women emerged from the harbor with a couple of medals in the open-water event as Haley Anderson won gold in the 5-kilometer race by .2 seconds and former titlist Eva Fabian of Keene, N.H., took bronze in the 25-kilometer. Missing bronze by .1 seconds in the men’s 25K after nearly five hours of swimming was Harvard grad Alex Meyer, who won the 2010 global crown by just over a second. This time he and Evgeny Drattsev got entangled just before the finish and the Russian managed to slip his hand over the line. Nobody ever said that open water wasn’t a contact sport. The women’s 10K, in which Brazil’s Poliana Okimoto and Ana Marcela Cunha went 1-2, was a maelstrom of elbows. “I’m so disappointed that girls can be that rough during the race and get away with it,” said British two-time defending champion Keri-Anne Payne, who described the race as “absolute carnage. It was absolutely brutal.”
The Chinese all but ran the table at the world diving championships, winning nine of the 10 gold medals. The Germans spoiled the sweep in the men’s 10-meter synchronized event as Sascha Klein and Patrick Hausding knocked off Olympic titlists Cao Yuan and Zhang Yanquan. London champion David Boudia again claimed the only US medal, matching the platform silver that he won last time, but Amherst teenager Michael Hixon had an encouraging debut, placing fifth with eight-time veteran Troy Dumais in the 3-meter synchro. “Michael is a great competitor,” his partner observed, “and he’s learning fast.” The Americans fared better in the new high-dive event, a seven-story plunge into the harbor, as Cesilie Carlton and Ginger Huber finished 1-2. “I’m afraid of heights,” confessed Carlton, who’s a performer at the House of Dancing Water in Macau. “That’s why I go so quickly.” . . . The US women’s water polo team, which won Olympic gold in London, was upended by the hosts in Barcelona and ended up fifth as Spain won its first crown. The Hungarian men claimed their first title since 2003 ahead of first-time medalist Montenegro as the US males finished ninth, their worst placement since 2007.
Two out of five
Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney will be the only members of the Fierce Five competing in next week’s national gymnastics championships in Hartford, where they and the rest of the London gold medalists (all-around victor Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, and Jordyn Wieber) will be recognized as part of the 2013 USA Gymnastics Hall of Fame class that includes the 2007 world-champion squad captained by Alicia Sacramone. The entire men’s squad from the Games — Olympic all-around bronze medalist Danell Leyva, John Orozco, Jonathan Horton, Jake Dalton, and Sam Mikulak — will be in action . . . Olympic champion Russia survived a shocking loss to Canada to regain its World League men’s volleyball title in Argentina, knocking off nine-time victor Brazil in a rematch of their London final. “Every point was made of gold,” declared Alexey Spiridonov after his teammates, who’d won a five-set grinder at the Games, produced a 3-0 sweep. The Americans, who won silver last year, failed to advance to the final after finishing fifth in their group and ended up 12th . . . The Americans were floored again at the recent world taekwondo championships in Mexico, with nobody making the medal round for the second time in a row. Among those leaving empty-handed was the Lopez family — Steven and Mark, who won two of the three US medals in 2009, and sister Diana. While the Koreans dominated the sport they invented, winning six of the 16 gold medals, two dozen other countries made the podium, including Gabon (which won the men’s heavyweight crown), Senegal, and Jordan.John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, personal interviews, and wire services was used in this report.