SALT LAKE CITY -- The extraordinary news conference Friday to announce that gold medals are on the house had not ended and already Sandra Baldwin, president of the U.S. Olympic Committee, was declaring that she will intensify her efforts on behalf of Roy Jones Jr.
Jones, you might recall, beat a South Korean boxer decisively in Seoul in 1988. But the judges, who, it since has been revealed, were receiving payments from the host country's boxing federation, gave the decision to the South Korean. The International Olympic Committee has acknowledged that the circumstances were suspicious but, so far, has rewarded Jones merely with the Olympic Order, not a gold medal.
I applaud Baldwin's efforts on Jones' behalf.
But why stop there?
In 1932 in Los Angeles, Ralph Metcalfe was forced to run three or four feet farther than his competitors in the 200 meters and finished third. He probably would have won if everyone else hadn't had a head start. So let's give him a gold medal.
Every American gets his red, white and blue blood in a boil when he recalls the job that was done on our basketball team in 1972. The players are still so angry that they have never picked up their silver medals. Now they won't have to. They can pick up their gold medals.
And how about the U.S. women swimmers in 1976? They were dominated by the East Germans, who have since been confirmed as drug cheats. Gold medals for Shirley Babashoff and the rest of the U.S. women!
Jim Ryun fell in the first round of the 1,500 meters in 1972. It wasn't controversial. It happens in track and field. But we all know he was the best miler in the world and would have won if not for the unfortunate accident. He deserves a gold medal. Give him one. Same for Mary Decker Slaney, who fell in the final of the 3,000 meters in 1984 in Los Angeles.
Linda Fratianne, Paul Wylie, Nancy Kerrigan. They are U.S. figure skaters who arguably deserved the best marks from the judges in previous Winter Olympics but went home only with silver medals. Gold medals for them too.
Facing the first severe test of his leadership since becoming president of the IOC six months ago, Jacques Rogge failed miserably.
He could have stood behind the motto of swifter, higher, stronger -- the foundation upon which Olympic athletic competition is built. Instead, he proved himself a Belgian waffler.
He enabled the International Skating Union, which governs figure skating, to take the politically expedient way out of a raging controversy in awarding a second gold medal in the pairs competition.
It doesn't matter that there is no evidence that the competition was fixed for the Russians over the Canadians. The French judge at the center of the firestorm has admitted that she was pressured to side with the Russians, but, according to IOC Director General Francois Carrard, the judge said in her official declaration to the ISU that she voted her conscience. It doesn't matter that the ISU said the investigation has not been concluded.
All that mattered to the ISU was that NBC, much of the rest of the North American media and figure skating fans were demanding that the Canadians be given a gold medal.
The ISU capitulated.
The IOC approved.
No matter what anyone might think of Juan Antonio Samaranch, and there are plenty of reasons to believe that he idly watched while the IOC corrupted itself in the last 10 years of his presidency, he never would have allowed this to happen.
Samaranch would have demanded that the ISU complete its investigation before acting. Then, if it had found that the result was tainted, he would have merely asked the ISU to follow its rules.
The French judge's marks would have been eliminated and replaced by the alternate judge's marks. In this case, the marks of the alternate judge, who is from the Czech Republic, favored the Canadians. (That pretty much shoots down the theory of a conspiracy by former Soviet Bloc countries.) That would have given the Canadians, instead of the Russians, a 5-4 edge.
The Canadians would have the gold medal alone. The Russians would have the silver.
Immediately after the IOC-ISU news conference, I went to the media headquarters of the Russian Olympic Committee for reaction.
"Hurry, come with me," said Guennadi Chvets, spokesman for the committee. "Get your coat."
We left the media center and piled into a crowded van waiting outside. He told me we were going to Russia House.
That conjured up images of a dacha from a John le Carre novel.
Twenty minutes later, we instead arrived at a nondescript apartment complex in the Salt Lake City suburb of Kearns. The Russian team's official sponsor, apparel supplier Bosco Sport, has rented the leasing office as a hospitality room for Russian officials, athletes and media.
"The Beauty of Success" signs, Bosco's motto, were on the walls.
Russian officials there didn't seem upset that their pairs team must share a gold medal with the Canadians. But they were concerned about the precedent it sets for the Olympic movement.
"We fear this has started a snowstorm," Chvets said.
He later interpreted the comments of Leonid Tyagachev, president of the Russian Olympic Committee.
"We don't protest this decision of the IOC," Tyagachev said. "But we don't think it is a very good decision."
He mentioned Russian Greco-Roman wrestler Alexander Karelin. While Americans were celebrating the incredible gold-medal match upset in the Sydney Olympics of Rulon Gardner over Karelin, who had never been defeated in international competition, many Russians back home were outraged. They believed the judges had favored Gardner.
Tyagachev said advisors approached him after the figure skating decision was announced Friday and said he should officially protest Karelin's loss to the IOC.
"No," Tyagachev said. "Judging is part of sport, and we accept the decision of the judges."
That is noble. But I suspect the IOC would give Karelin an upgrade if the Russians would just ask. Gold medals aren't as valuable as they were before Friday.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.