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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Things that should have happened on April 1st

Eight sports stories you wouldn't have believed...had they happened today

As you will know, today is April Fool's Day, and websites and news agencies the world over will be coming up with outrageous stories to trap the more "trusting" readers into panic, outrage or chaos.  In 1976, for example, a Radio 2 DJ told listeners that at precisely 9.47am, unusual alignments of the planets would lessen the earth's gravitational pull, so anyone who jumped at that time would feel a floating sensation.  Turns out hundreds of people phoned in to confirm that they had experienced it!  On a sporting note, last year the Sunday Telegraph ran a story that cash-strapped London had asked Paris to share the Olympics.

People are becoming more and more cynical, so April Fools rarely work as intended.  The secret is to create as realistic a scenario as possible.  I had considered an April Fool post on Caster Semenya today, but I decided that either I'd have to make it ridiculous to make it obvious that it was a joke (which would probably come across as corny), or people here in SA and some readers would probably take it too seriously if I made it too realistic, and I'd spend the rest of the day explaining that it was just a joke.  So I decided against it!

Then I discovered an interesting link on LetsRun.com, where they've pulled out some stories from the last 12 months that would, on this day, probably be dismissed as April Fools.  Of course, they're entirely true, every one happened, and I've added a few others.  So here are some stories you wouldn't believe, if they happened today:
  1. Man runs 200m in 19.19 seconds
  2. Marion Jones signs a contract with a women's professional basketball team in the WNBA
  3. American Man wins the New York City Marathon
  4. Tour de France passes with only a handful of positive doping tests
  5. Part of Oscar Pistorius' own science "defence team" publishes a paper showing a 10-second performance advantage in a 400m race
  6. Leonard Chuene refuses to resign as President of ASA despite lies, cover-ups, mismanagement and massive financial irregularities.  Now that I'm thinking about it, ASA in general fits the April Fool criteria
  7. Tiger Woods (enough said)
  8. Science of Sport website receives $10 million donation, Ross and Jonathan resign and go on a world tour to cover sports events and talk about the science of sport (OK, so I made that one up, but I'm entitled to day-dream)
Any others that I have missed?  And if you happen to come across any good April Fools with a sporting theme (or not, if they're good jokes I'm happy to hear them), please let me know!

Enjoy the day - be on your guard!



Vava said...

How about "the NHL expands and adds two more teams" to the already overinflated 30 that are struggling to exist. This, as well, is not an April fool's joke, but does rank as humour, since their idiot Commissioner is actually starting to float this ridiculous idea! Half the teams are bleeding, and they want to put more in places where ice only exists in the freezer.

Anonymous said...

This one is pretty good


Anonymous said...

This one scared a lot of people out of their mind:


Anonymous said...

An NFL Team that took 20 years just to make the playoffs, with just 6 playoff appearances and 5-6 records in 43 years wins the Superbowl (New Orleans Saints).

The NFL claims copyrights for the expression "Who Dat"? mjm

Marie said...

This one: "Let Caster Semenya Run"


I'm all for letting Semenya run, when the case has been sorted out. But this article really missed the plot, completely. And no, it was not posted on April 1st, although I think it should have. This individual think that beacuse women now run times, and swim times that men did in the past, there are no significant biological differences between men and women when it comes to athletic ability? I can't really follow that logic.

Here's a sample from the piece:

"What is really at stake here, aside from the persecution of a young athlete? Lurking beneath the salacious coverage is the sports world's underlying ethic--women are inferior to men.

The notion that there is an enormous physical gulf between men and women's athletic abilities is rarely questioned. No male athletes are tested to see if they are inter-sex because maleness is considered the physical gold standard against which women must be judged. Silly details like what happens when attempts are made at leveling the playing field between the sexes are ignored. For example, the 1988 Olympic record in the women's 400-meter freestyle swim would have beaten all men's times before the 1972 Olympics. In cross-country skiing, where endurance, strength and agility are key, the women's Olympic record of the fifteen-kilometer race in 1994 would have beaten all men's before 1992. In the thirty-kilometer race, the women's Olympic time in 1992 would have beaten all men's times in previous 30-kilometer races, according to the Women's Sports Foundation."

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi all

Thanks for the links. Some good stories there. The best one in SA was that our government will double taxes to offset low ticket sales ahead of the FIFA 2010 World Cup. It's exactly the sort of thing they would do. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the April Fool joke gives them the idea...

I see that the guy who pranked the Boston Marathon got a legal letter for his troubles. Funny that the BAA would waste that money . There's no lack of common sense, but I guess that's why it's called an April FOOL?

ANd to Marie:

There's been no shortage of fools when it comes to the Semenya story! I recall that at the time, there was a lot written along similar lines, though until your link, I'd never seen anyone try to argue that the performance gap doesn't exist...that is a new one.

Still, people love to slant the story to suit their agenda. What these people don't realise is that they're unwittingly pushing Caster Semenya into their own spotlight, making her the symbol for their own crusades. That's exactly what they accuse others of doing. I'm sure the irony is lost on them.

As is the likely impact of allowing her to run, without any intervention, on the event and the hundreds of women who would race her. The sooner that issue is resolved, the better, but I fear it will turn ugly regardless.


Marie said...

Well, said! There is some major highjacking of the Caster story going on here. Ahh, if only the loons would stick to April 1st..lol

Love this blog btw, keep up the good work :)

Sam, Dawg Fan said...

The greatest sports related April Fools Day joke had to be

Anonymous said...

"Men's Marathon world record to be bettered twice within two weeks"

In Rotterdam weather should be favourable (fair, 6°C in the morning, up to 13°) ...
And we will see James Kwambai, 3rd all-time by the fraction of a second; Patrick Makau - 3rd all-time in half marathon ; and Vincent Kipruto, Paris victor 2009

Not to mention the stellar field for London!!
Can't wait.

Anonymous said...

Paris is to feature "only" Titus Munji so far.
Boston has an extremely interesting field, too.
And as for London...: Tadese (eagerly awaited), Lel, Wanjiru, Abel Kirui, Duncan Kibet (2nd all time), Kebede, Gharib ... Simply insane. Not to mention dos Santos and Kiflé (!!)
I'm looking forward to your brilliant previews as well as the analyses!

Anonymous said...

"Only a handful of positive doping for TDF".... so normally there are far more than 5 positive dope tests per TDF.... ??? Really

Hey, I know you're joking here an all, but a BIG gripe of cycling fans is that cycling does a lot more than other sports to test and track athletes to the best of their ability... and so catches more dopers and gets punished by media and guys like you for their efforts as a 'bad' sport... when most likely its no worse than other endurance sports, they just test much much more.

If marathons and all the big US sports, and even european football leagues tested the way the UCI and TDF do in cycling with where-abouts schemes blood profiles and lots of in and out of competition blood and urine tests, then perhaps all you marathon split time analysis stuff could go on the junk pile along with the results of the Ricco/Ulrich/Basso cheats that cycling actually catches thanks to its efforts...

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Anonymous

Couldn't disagree more. yes, those other sports are not doing enough to prevent doping. Yes, if their testing policies were tighter, they may well find more dopers.

But to suggest that they would produce the same level of doping if exposed to the level of cycling is simply false. There is doping, no one is denying this, and if you've followed this blog over the years you will have seen that I am equally harsh on athletes who dope as I am on cyclists who dope. And baseballers, football players etc.

But there is no justification at all for saying that cycling is doing more, or that these sports are more affected. In fact, the cycling authorities are a big part of the reason the sport is so deeply in the mire. The only reason cycling is "cleaning up its act" is because anti-doping has been driven by independent authorities like WADA, and then vitally, the sponsors and media. You need only look at the UCI's relationship with WADA to confirm this.

Fact is, cycling authorities knew of the problem of doping as far back as the 1950s, but encouraged it, just as today, they wish the problem would disappear. but the media and sponsors (think Phonak and T-Mobile, and German and Swiss news media) have helped cycling by saying that they will no longer support cycling, or cover it, unless it cleans up.

And so finally, under the threat of the sport imploding financially, the authorities began to act.

So I agree with part of your contention that the other sports are not doing enough. But to suggest that cycling is cleaning up its act as a sport, untrue. The sport is being cleaned up by those "outside". The only exception (and the reason the French never produce a competitive cyclist in the Tour de France), is that the AFLD (French Anti-Doping lab) is at the forefront of the campaign.

Yet bizarrely, they too are met with resistance from the UCI and even the TdF (as you may recall a few years ago, all the bickering regarding who did the testing). The AFLD also drove the development of the CERA test, not the UCI. The doping problem in cycling IS the authorities.

Lastly, if you believe that there are only five doping cases in the Tour, then you're watching a sports event of fiction. That's who gets caught, or is allowed to be exposed. It's pervasive, and it will take a long time before it's eradicated. It's a problem that is starting to come under-control, in that the level of doping has been controlled, but now they're just doping to the level where detection begins.

And finally, I do believe cycling is worse than other sports. I have a good deal of contact (personal and professional) with the Kenyan athletes and coaches/scientists, and I can assure you, doping is not rife there. Some, yes, it would be naive to suggest otherwise. But cycling's problem is systemic, Kenya's is isolated. If you want proof, you need to look at the performances of junior relative to seniors - 17 year olds from Kenya emerge running within 2% of the seniors. There are no drugs when you are 17 and never owned a pair of shoes, yet the talent is there. in cycling, juniors are nowhere compared to the seniors.

I'd bet heavily that Patrick Makau, Sammy Wanjiru etc are not doped. So the split analysis, fortunately, survives. For cycling, I'm afraid this is not the case.


Anonymous said...

and ps... just to check.

You say there is "no evidence" that cycling does more to try and stop cheats...

So please outline for other sport their versions of:
- longterm blood profiling passport systems,
- 24hr/365 whereabouts reporting
- unannounced out of competition blood/urine/hair testing
- scale of in competition testing as per the TDF

... er... not many get even close.

If as you rightly say, some cyclist still get away with it despite all that. Then its a walk in the park to cheat in other sports!!

And again, no wonder other sports don't do more, because as soon as cycling does catch people they dont' get any praise for catching people, they just get slagged of as being dope-infested cheats!

Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas said...

Hi Anonymous

You've missed the point entirely. Yes, more is done for cycling re doping, but to say that cycling are doing it is wrong.

You may argue that it doesn't matter who does the doping control, but it does. Cycling's present situation, where the vast majority of the successful riders are doping, is the result of the sport which didn't want to test until its hand was forced by sponsors and media.

Only then, kicking and screaming and protesting much too loudly, did cycling have its own house cleaned up by "outsiders".

So again, you have a point that other sports are not exposed to the same scrutiny, but we mustn't confuse this with cycling cleaning itself up.

And I still contend that in distance running, the problem is miniscule compared to cycling. That's why the level of investigation has never happened - it's a chicken-egg scenario, and you're trying to give credit to cycling, when in fact they're in the situation precisely because they don't want to clean up.

Running - I'd be surprised if doping prevalence was 10%. Cycling, I'd be surprised if it wasn't! And so the extent of the testing you've outlined is a consequence of the problem. Cycling has cancer, but cycling didn't want to have it removed. Everyone else did, and now it's finally turning.