Tina K. Russell

February 5, 2009

Perspective on Michael Phelps

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 5:55 pm

Steve Duin on the Michael Phelps “oh my God inspirational sports heroes occasionally do stupid things like smoke marijuana” scandal:

Michael Phelps and illusions of perfection – OregonLive.com
I always thought the crime of “betraying” America was reserved for spies, war profiteers and Ponzi schemers, rather than world-class swimmers who might have a buzz on. (Phelps has apologized that he “engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment,” but he has yet to admit that he was one toke over the line.)

To get myself up to speed on this savage betrayal of all we hold dear, I decided to check out the fine print on Phelps’ gold medals. You know, the stern warnings that victory in the Olympic pool requires that he immediately forfeit his youth, his privacy and his margin of error.

The formal announcement that, as a celebrity icon, Phelps must now live in accordance with the (generally) hypocritical standards and expectations of people he’s never met.

I have yet to find those cautionary notes, but they must be around somewhere. They explain the hysterical criticism of a 23-year-old kid who worked like a backstroking dog for four years to make much lazier Americans feel good about themselves and who was enjoying a few weeks off before he dove back into the deep end of Olympic training and Olympian ideals.

He was hugging a bong, sports fans. Not an Uzi, not a pit bull, not a tobacco lobbyist. He’s Seth Rogen, not Michael Vick.

See also Study: 100 Percent of Americans Lead Secret Lives. See also Jesus.

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August 13, 2008

College sports excess

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 3:00 pm

Editorial – Football Fantasy at Rutgers – Editorial – NYTimes.com
Ever since Rutgers, New Jersey’s largest state university, began its campaign several years ago to become a big-time football power, bad things have happened. Less-glamorous sports teams — tennis, swimming and fencing among them — were downgraded to intramural status to save on the budget, and more and more money has gone to football rather than academics.

This single-minded, ask-no-questions push for football stardom has now reached a crisis, brought to a head by a report in The Star-Ledger of Newark that a campaign to raise $30 million in private contributions for a $102 million, 14,000-seat expansion of the university’s football stadium is on the rocks. Only $2 million has been pledged so far, and Rutgers already has committed itself to borrowing $72 million, leaving it millions short.

Replace Rutgers with the University of Oregon, football with basketball, and rich donors with taxpayers and the editorial still works.

July 30, 2008

Athletes and the elusive definition of sex

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 11:01 am

Yes, they’re setting up a clinic in Beijing to test the sex of Olympic athletes who are, ah, “claiming” to be female.

This led me to learn about the case of Santhi Soundarajan, who competed in the 2006 Asian Games. Read:

The sad story of Santhi Soundarajan-The Times of India:
She should have been home with her poor brick-kiln working parents and four siblings in rural South India celebrating her moment of glory at the Asian Games.

Instead, Santhi Soundarajan has been reduced to leading a life of public humiliation amid uncaring and insensitive officials, shattered by the fact that her sporting career may be over.

The Olympic Council of Asia stripped Santhi of the silver medal she won in the 800m in Qatar, saying she had been “disqualified as per the recommendations of the medical committee on a Games rule violation.”

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) said the 25-year-old had failed a sex test, implying she had deceived the sporting world by competing as a woman when she was actually a man.

Of course, she may have had a relatively rare condition with precedent in such international games:

Normally, women have two X chromosones (XX) and men have an X or Y chromosone (XY) in their cells. The presence of XX chromosones confirms the person’s female gender.

However, some people born with a Y chromosome develop all the physical characteristics of a woman except internal female sex organs, a result of a genetic defect that does not produce testosterone.

A person with this condition – called androgen insensitivity syndrome or AIS – might be XY but she is not a man because her body never responds to the testosterone she’s producing.

Since testosterone helps in building muscle and strength, an AIS case would not give an XY female athlete any kind of competitive advantage.

Seven of the eight women who tested positive for Y chromosones during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics had AIS. They were allowed to compete.

A year later, amidst the public humiliation, Soundarajan attempted suicide.

I can’t say I know what the correct solution is for the entirely unlikely problem of whether a country would enter a man disguised as a woman into an international competition (though I would imagine the likelihood of the information coming out, and the country’s subsequent humiliation, would be sufficient deterrent). Perhaps a more likely problem would be coaches, looking for a less obvious way to cheat, would use male hormones instead of steroids as the drug of choice to tell players to take and not to ask questions about. However, then you would want to have a look at recent medical history, as male hormones have fairly obvious effects over time.

I do think, though, that countries or teams flinging accusations of gender impropriety–the entire stated reason for these sex-verification clinics is to “protect” athletes from such accusations–represent the very highest in poor sportsmanship, unable to accept anything but the most vicious, scandalous, and titillating explanation for their loss. I can say that there must be a better way to do this, lest we lose another talented athlete like Santhi Soundarajan, a cissexual victim of anti-transsexual ignorance and prejudice.

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