THE INSIDE DOPE
One of America's Olympic bosses was banned for blood doping
Expect drugs, not vote buying, to be the hot topic when the IOC
meets in Athens this week. A vengeful IOC could use the session
to strike back at the U.S. for what it considers Uncle Sam's
grandstanding Olympic-corruption investigations and the
posturing of Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the U.S. drug czar, who has
called the IOC "a group of self-appointed people hiding behind a
Some IOC members might say the real myth is America's vaunted
self-image. Few Americans have heard of Jim Page, the USOC's
assistant executive director of sport. Fewer still know that he
was banned from competition for his involvement in a
blood-doping scandal. In 1987 Page was director of the U.S.
Nordic skiing program. Before the world championships in
February '87 he approved a plan to fly a doctor to Switzerland
to illegally "pack" Nordic combined skier Kerry Lynch, removing
red blood cells and reinjecting them before the competition to
boost the skier's endurance. Lynch won a silver at the '87
worlds--the only Nordic combined medal ever won by an American.
That December, Lynch, Page and a U.S. coach confessed to the
doping. Skiing's international governing body stripped Lynch of
his medal and banned him for two years. Page got a lifetime ban,
which was lifted in 1990 after the U.S. Ski Association
requested he be reinstated. Page says he told USOC officials
about his involvement in Lynch's blood-doping in the fall of
'87--before the story went public but several months after he
was hired as an assistant director of international games
preparation. The USOC took what spokesman Mike Moran calls
"appropriate disciplinary action," and in '92 Page was promoted
to his current position. Moran told SI last week that Page's
past involvement in blood doping has no bearing on the USOC's
antidrug efforts because Page has nothing to do with them. Until
two years ago, however, drug control director Wade Exum reported
directly to Page.
In international sports circles the U.S. is often considered
hypocritical for its holier-than-thou pronouncements about
doping. Page's tenure near the top of the USOC doesn't help that
image. Neither does the fact that Kerry Lynch is now an
assistant coach of the U.S. Nordic Combined World Cup team.
Death by Pedro
September should have been R&R time for Indians fans, since the
Tribe wrapped up a playoff berth around Flag Day. Instead
Clevelanders spent the month watching the scoreboard and getting
edgier than Bobby Valentine. How could the Indians lead the
American League in victories, as they did for most of September,
only to draw Boston in the first round of the playoffs?
The Red Sox, of course, have Pedro Martinez. He was 23-4 with a
2.08 ERA, 312 strikeouts and a measly 37 walks in 212 1/3 innings
through Monday. If he wins twice in the best-of-five Division
Series--a good bet, since Boston has won 22 of his 29 starts and
he's 4-0 lifetime against Cleveland--the Sox will need just one
victory in the other three games to advance.
Such numbers have kept matchup-minded Cleveland fans rooting
schizophrenically. They cheered for the A's in Oakland's
wild-card race against the Red Sox. They rooted for the East
Division-leading Yankees against Boston until the Red Sox swept
a recent series at Yankee Stadium, at which point it made more
sense to root for the Red Sox against the Yanks, hoping Boston
would win the East and face the West Division-champ Rangers in
the first round. Tribe fans even found themselves backing the
Red Sox against their beloved Indians for the same reason. They
rooted for everyone against Texas, but then it became clear that
the one way Cleveland could avoid Martinez in the first round
was if the Rangers wound up with the league's best record and
had to face the wild card--so they began rooting for Texas
against everyone else. Is that clear?
Scoreboard watching shouldn't be this maddening, and it wouldn't
be if the playoffs' first round were best-of-seven like the
league championship series and the World Series. "Seven games is
a much fairer gauge of who has the better team," says Reds
manager Jack McKeon. "There's no question that Arizona, with
Randy Johnson, and Boston have an advantage in a short series.
I'd hate like hell to have to face Pedro."
If any postseason set should be best of seven, it's the Division
Series. Giving a club that didn't win its division a chance to
knock off the best team in the league with a mere three
victories cheapens the whole season. That's why it's vital to
beef up the first round.
You can argue that the season is already too long, but if it is,
another couple of days won't matter, especially days that are
full of postseason drama. So let's make the Division Series four
out of seven before it's too late--before some poor Cleveland
fan's head explodes.
The New Comeback Kid
It's the perpetual barroom question--fourth quarter, trailing by
a touchdown, who do you want at quarterback?--and it has a new
answer. With John Elway retired to life as a beer spokesman, the
Patriots' Drew Bledsoe has become the NFL's premier
fourth-quarter miracle worker.
The Pats held off the Giants last week without last-minute
heroics, but with a pair of fourth-quarter comebacks already
this year, Bledsoe has 16 such turnarounds through the third
game of his seventh NFL season. That's not far short of Elway's
18 in his first seven years. Elway went on to win 43 games with
late comebacks, nine more than active leader Dan Marino, who had
12 in his first seven seasons.
"The only way this team is going to be out of a game is if we
panic," Bledsoe said after leading a late charge against the
Colts last month. "We can come back in any game. We believe
that, and I believe that." Now the rest of the league is
starting to believe it too.
A Cruel Twist Of Fate
Fans got a jarring reminder of how dangerous football can be
when UC Davis running back Sam Paneno had his lower right leg
amputated on Sept. 20, nine days after dislocating his knee
while running the ball on the first play of overtime at Western
Oregon. "He just got hit awkwardly," says UC Davis coach Bob
Biggs, who knew how badly Paneno was hurt when he saw players
waving frantically. "He was in tremendous pain."
Paneno was treated on the field and rushed to nearby Salem
Hospital, but an artery behind his knee had ruptured. Despite
four operations over the next week, the muscles and nerves in
Paneno's lower leg were so badly damaged by poor blood flow that
surgeons saw no choice but to amputate. Paneno, 22, a psychology
major who scored two touchdowns in his final football game,
should walk again with the help of a prosthesis.
His teammates were hit hard by the news. "It gave me a different
outlook," says running back Trae Milton, who ran for 171 yards in
the Aggies' 42-16 victory over New Haven last Saturday. "I used
to complain about things like my leg not feeling good, but every
complaint in my life became irrelevant. I have a leg."
The news that Missouri-based billionaire Bill Laurie, owner of
the NHL's Blues and St. Louis's Kiel Center, has agreed to buy
the Vancouver Grizzlies for an estimated $200 million triggered
the sort of speculation not seen in British Columbia since the
gold rush. GOING, GOING... read a Vancouver Sun headline,
alluding to the common belief that Laurie will move the Grizzlies
to St. Louis as early as the 2000-01 season. Vancouver coach
Brian Hill, posing for a photo with Laurie, casually asked about
the seating capacity at the Kiel Center.
Laurie is a basketball junkie who played guard for the Memphis
State team that lost to UCLA in the 1973 NCAA championship game.
He could become a hero in St. Louis by bringing the NBA back to
the Gateway City, which lost the Hawks to Atlanta in 1968.
Staying in Vancouver--where the weak Canadian dollar works against
him and where he'd have to pay rent at General Motors Place--can't
be too appetizing. "It's a business decision," says Jack Scott, a
season-ticket holder famous for waving a huge Canadian flag
behind the Vancouver bench. "He'll do what's in his best
NBA rules require that a majority of the 29 owners approve any
franchise relocation. One general manager says that Laurie might
have to cough up some extra dough to his fellow owners in the
form of transfer fees, but that shouldn't be a dealbreaker:
Laurie's wife, Nancy, is the daughter of Wal-Mart co-founder Bud
Grizzlies fans, who have filled GM Place to 87% of capacity
during the Grizzlies' four seasons, will probably ask
commissioner David Stern for help in retaining their franchise.
No NBA team has moved since the Kings left Kansas City for
Sacramento in 1985, and five years ago Stern helped quash a bid
by the Timberwolves' owners to move their franchise to New
Orleans. "David Stern made a commitment to Canada," says
Grizzlies fan Bob Wong. "Vancouver has done its part by
supporting the Grizzlies. Maybe he'll convince NBA owners to
keep the team here."
If Stern did that, he'd rank somewhere between Wayne Gretzky and
The Guess Who on the list of Canada's heroes, but Vancouverites
aren't counting on it. "Trust me, the Grizzlies are gone," says
Scott, adding that he won't be unfurling his red-and-white
Canadian flag at Vancouver games. "This year," he says, "I'll be
waving a black one."
Honer Thy Muther
USC tailback Sultan McCullough loves his mom so much that he has
MABLE tattooed across his chest in four-inch-high letters. One
hitch: She spells her name M-A-B-E-L. "It doesn't really
matter," she told the Los Angeles Times. "That's my baby. He's
such a sweet young man."
No S---, Shulock
In Philip Roth's The Great American Novel, pitcher Gil Gamesh,
peeved at home plate umpire Mike (the Mouth) Masterson, hits him
in the neck with a 120-mph fastball. Last week veteran American
League umpire John Shulock accused Devil Rays southpaw Wilson
Alvarez of taking a page out of Roth's book.
In the bottom of the third on Sept. 20, the Angels' Garret
Anderson homered off Alvarez to give Anaheim a 7-1 lead. Matt
Walbeck came up, and Alvarez threw a fastball that whacked
Shulock flush in his mask. Alvarez would claim he had
accidentally crossed up catcher Mike DiFelice, but the ump
thought otherwise. He shouted at Alvarez and jawed at DiFelice,
jabbing a finger into the catcher's chest protector. Tampa Bay
manager Larry Rothschild pulled Alvarez from the game, which the
Angels went on to win 10-5.
Afterward Shulock, who would be suspended for three games by
American League president Gene Budig for his outburst, went off
on Alvarez. "He's going to get his," he announced darkly,
leaving listeners to wonder how objective he'll be the next time
he calls a game Alvarez pitches. "I know in my heart that son of
a bitch meant to hit me.... The only things he could hit all
night were the Angels' bats and my mask," Shulock said. "One of
these days somebody is going to hit a line drive off the side of
his f------ head, and I'll be the first guy laughing."
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY RANDY DAHLK
COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER (MARTINEZ) Ace's wild Boston's first-round foe might have a deuce of a time beating the Sox and Martinez.
COLOR ILLUSTRATION: ILLUSTRATION BY MARK ZINGARELLI
COLOR PHOTO: FRANK GUNN/AP
TWO COLOR ILLUSTRATIONS: ROCKWELL GROUP
COLOR PHOTO: MARCO BUCCO/REUTERS
Deion Sanders is coming back this week. Colonel Sanders, who
died in 1980, isn't. Neither is Barry Sanders, but his
retirement looks more and more like a sabbatical. Barry's dad
wants him back in uniform. Will that be enough to send the
world's best running back running back to the NFL? If so, he
might still outgain Ricky Williams this year.
Value of each U.S. golfer's Ryder Cup wardrobe, including those
awful $160 shirts the team wore on Sunday.
Weight, in pounds, of Azusa Pacific quarterback Neo Aoga--down
from 305 in the preseason.
Age of boxing trainer Eddie Futch, who spent the night of his
birthday at Hugh Hefner's Playboy Mansion.
Consecutive wins by De La Salle High of Concord, Calif., after
its 42-0 rout of state power Mater Dei.
Tickets a fan bought for last Sunday's Cards-Reds game after Mark
McGwire hit his 60th homer in the eighth inning.
The Dolphins' Dimitrius Underwood, who was found on a Lansing,
Mich., street, bleeding from a neck wound that police say was
self-inflicted. He had been jailed the previous night for
failing to pay child support for his 17-month-old twins, who
live with their mother in Lansing.
The Duchess of Kent, who may skip Wimbledon because the All
England Club said she was letting too many commoners' kids sit
in the Royal Box.
John Daly, from 26 months of sobriety. Drinking and gambling are
"in my blood," said Daly after he admitted he went off the wagon
last June by pounding a 12-pack of Miller Lite. He rejected
treatment for alcohol abuse, losing a $3 million endorsement
deal with Callaway Golf. "It's sad," he said, "but I think it's
great to be free."
Indians rookies, including shortstop Jolbert Cabrera, who were
made to dress in drag per Tribal tradition.
1,300 Celtics fans with premium-seat licenses, who got a
weeklong cruise to Bermuda--and the chance to play golf with
Bobby Orr--to help make up for last season's NBA lockout.
A reported $1 million offer from CBS to make The Late Late Show
with Craig Kilborn the official sponsor of the Humanitarian Bowl.
Tiger Ballpark, Burning Bright
While studying for his degree in architecture at Syracuse, David
Rockwell spent a summer working for a Broadway lighting
designer. That's when he realized the two disciplines could be
fused into something he calls entertainment architecture. "I was
interested in theatrical excitement," says Rockwell, 43. "The
building is part of the show."
Now his Rockwell Group is one of the hottest stadium design
firms in the world. Its first sports design was Coca-Cola Sky
Field, a 22,000-square-foot rooftop playground that opened in
1997 at Atlanta's Turner Field. Dominating Sky Field is a
42-foot Coke bottle made partly of catchers' masks and batting
helmets that shoots fireworks after Braves home runs.
Theatricality runs wild in Rockwell's designs for Comerica Park
(above), the Tigers' new home that's scheduled to open next
season. The park will feature huge tigers guarding the entrance,
columns fluted with tiger-claw scratches (right), and an ivy
jungle on the centerfield wall.
Also on the drawing board is Rockwell's proposal for the
Steelers' new stadium, scheduled to open in 2001. The plan
includes a grassy bank in the south end zone affording an
unobstructed view across the Allegheny River to downtown
Pittsburgh. That view is framed by two huge towers, which
Rockwell would like to belch 30-foot flames after Pittsburgh
scores. "David has captured the spirit of the town and team,"
says Steelers president Dan Rooney. And the flamethrowers? "We
aren't sure about that," Rooney says. "This city is a little
sedate. It's not Disney World."
The Swatch Wave Tour hit Florence with a 1,000-ton artificial
wave in a huge tank that had surfers including pro Albert Liu
(below) ripping the lip near the 15th-century cathedral Santa
Maria del Fiore. The wave reaches 13 feet high, and the
machinery that generates it circulates 130,000 gallons of water
a minute. After a four-day splash in Piazzale Michelangelo
(that's Piazza Mike to you Mets fans), the gear was loaded into
more than 40 tractor-trailers and trucked away.
This Week's Sign That the Apocalypse Is Upon Us
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers endorsed BYU linebacker
Rob (Freight Train) Morris for the Butkus Award.
If you Yahoo, then you know that the Internet search engine
provides an eclectic menu of sports sites on which to click.
Yes, Yahoo sports include baseball, football and soccer. What,
however, is Danball? Or Shinty? Isn't Sepak Takraw a
best-selling author? Herewith, six of Yahoo's most arcane sports
Danball: Created in 1992 by a pizza-snarfing gang of
Midwesterners, Danball is a hybrid (as are most "new" sports) of
ice hockey and football. There are three players per side. Think
hockey rink in terms of offsides, but instead of goals there are
end zones across which players push the "puck" (which is about
the size of a volleyball) to score.
Korfball: Invented in 1902 by Dutch educator Nico Broekhuysen,
Korfball resembles girls' six-on-six basketball. However, each
squad is made up of four males and four females. The court is
divided into halves, and two males and two females from each
team stand in each half. Goals are scored through a basket 3.5
meters high. Scholars believe that Broekhuysen was inspired to
invent the game while pulling an all-nighter preparing for a
class on Mendelian genetics.
Netball: A close cousin to Korfball, seven-member teams try to
score goals through a basket that does not have a backboard.
Scottie Pippen would founder in this sport.
Sepak Takraw: Using a court and net the same size as
badminton's, this popular Southeast Asian sport has three
players per side. No rackets. No shuttlecocks. Instead, players
strike a ball over the net using any body part except their
hands. Hacky Sack meets volleyball.
Shinty: Most popular in the Highlands and islands of Scotland,
Shinty is related to the Gaelic sport of hurling. There are no
more than 12 and no fewer than eight players per side. They use
wooden camans, which resemble field hockey sticks, to put a hard
leather ball the size of a baseball over the goal line and under
the 10-foot-high crossbar.
Tchoukball: This "sport" is more difficult to understand than it
is to pronounce. Its Yahoo site lost us with the sentence,
"Defenders crouch with hands on the ground, palms up and move
around as a unit to cover the rebound."
Assistant executive director Page approved the 1987 blood
doping of an American skier.
They Said It
Lions running back: "I'm not the next Barry Sanders. In fact, I
won't even be the main G. Hill in this town."