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Ron Judd's Olympics Insider

Ron Judd, an Olympics junkie and Seattle Times columnist who has covered Olympic sports since 1997, will use this space to serve up news and opinion on the Summer and Winter Games -- also inviting you to chime in on Planet Earth's biggest get-together.

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August 20, 2008 4:13 PM

Masked-cyclist scandal: Hate to say told you so, but ...

Posted by Ron Judd

Remember our post last week about the dustup involving U.S. cyclists arriving at the Beijing Intergalactic Airport wearing -- God forbid -- breathing masks?

We suggested at the time -- after being told so on the sly by at least one of the athletes involved -- that the contrite confession they made the next day was forced by U.S. Olympic Committee officials, who had in fact instructed athletes to wear the masks, but refused to back them up when their pictures were plastered all over the Internet.

Now that their competition is over, cyclists Mike Friedman and Bobby Lea are publicly confirming exactly that.

Lea, quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, said the USOC "threw us under the bus." Friedman concurred: "They completely hung us out to dry."

Lea said the athletes felt betrayed by the organization supposedly there to represent their interests.

"I was really upset with the way that we were treated," she said. "They should have taken more responsibility -- maybe publicly supported us and behind the scenes slapped our wrist. It's hard to say what kind of toll that would have taken, but for sure, our first five days of the Olympics were terrible."

Friedman told the paper he'd been inundated with more than 15,000 "hate e-mails" from around the world. "It definitely took away from my Olympic experience," he said. "It showed me that the USOC separates themselves (from athletes). They made it more of a story when they said, 'We're going to make you guys apologize.' They forced us to. We weren't trying to offend the Chinese, but we weren't sorry that we wore the masks."

Jennie Reed of Kirkland also wore one of the masks, and also signed on to the apology. None of the cyclists medaled in Beijing.

No comment yet from the USOC.

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Blogroll and links The official International Olympic Committtee site, with news releases, a searchable Olympic medals database and other archival information. Olympic news site from one of the Games' primary sponsors.
NBC Olympics columnist Alan Abrahamson's column/blog
Chicago Tribune Olympic sports writer Philip Hersh's blog U.S. Olympic Committee's athlete web site. Ed and Sheila Hula's Olympic News Service (subscription). News service with audio, video and text coverage of Olympic sports, during and between Olympics. Free, but charges for live video feed subscriptions. Beijing Organizing Committee Web site. Vancouver Organizing Committee's 2010 Winter Games site. London 2012 Summer Games site. Sochi, Russia's 2014 Winter Games site. Candidate city Chicago's summer 2016 bid committee site.
Olympic swimmer Tara Kirk's highly entertaining WCSN blog
Bellevue Olympian Scott Macartney's WCSN alpine ski-racing blog
Other WCSN Olympic athlete blogs.