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  • Op Ed-- Athlete Dramas Build for Beijing Olympics


    British drugs cheat Dwain Chambers won’t be going to the 2008 Olympics. And that’s a good thing for Beijing, which is in desperate need of athlete triumphs, not troubles.

    The English High Court ruled against Chambers as he sought to block a lifetime Olympic ban imposed by the British Olympic Association.

    He could have appealed, but didn’t. That spared Britain and the rest of the world a protracted wrangle over the rights of an athlete busted for doping.

    But one storm cloud dissipates and another builds.

    The IOC and President Jacques Rogge will now wrestle with the question of Greek sprinter Katerina Thanou’s participation in the Beijing Olympics.

    Rogge would like nothing better than to keep her out of Beijing after the unseemly scandal she heaped on the Athens Olympics with a missed drug test and resignation from the Greek team – just as the IOC was set to expel her.

    This woman keeps putting the IOC on the spot: she also is waiting for word on whether she will inherit the discredited gold medal of Marion Jones from the 100m in Sydney.

    The IOC may have little choice but to give it to her, given the absence of evidence of wrong-doing in Sydney. And the pucker won’t disappear from Rogge’s face in Beijing. Unlike the BOA, IOC rules don’t bar an athlete from the Games for a drug offense -- yet. The IOC may adopt a change in Beijing, but whether it applies to Thanou retroactively likely will spawn an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

    Thanou could have the satisfaction of wreaking havoc on the eve of two consecutive Olympics!

    But there are athletes who are bringing some positive drama involving sport in these final weeks to the Games.

    Yao Ming is back in action for the first time since he suffered a stress fracture months ago in the NBA. If he stays healthy, the matches he plays with China could be among the most avidly followed for as long as the team stays in the tournament.

    Or how about the thrill of a showdown in the 100m between Usain Bolt of Jamaica and Tyson Gay of the U.S.? It may be the only true marquee matchup for the Beijing Olympics so far. The IOC and TV networks now have to hope that Bolt decides to run the 100m and that Gay won’t trip and fall in one of the heats.

    Eyes will be on Michael Phelps to set a record with eight gold medals in swimming. Each event he wins will lead to tension until the next. But a tenth of a second is all it will take to burst the bubble building around Phelps to make him the star of Beijing.

    The joy of the Olympics in Beijing may come from the unexpected, the athlete or team that rises from nowhere to capture the hearts of the spectators.

    As we have mentioned before, the plight of Iraqi athletes is one that should not be ignored. But few seem to care much anymore about the travails the Iraqis face coming to Beijing. There’s been no apparent movement on the part of the IOC or the government of Iraq to remove the suspension levied by the IOC on Iraq in April after the NOC was taken over by the Iraqi government.

    The next move may have to come from the IOC, which will have to provide the resources and credentials needed to get the Iraqis to Beijing. We hope there’s still time.

    Op Ed is a weekly column of opinion and ideas from Around the Rings. Comments, as well as guest columns are welcomed: