Cyclists Say They Were Dissed By USOC; Wants Apology

ThomasSenior Writer ISeptember 6, 2008

Remember those four American cyclists who came to Beijing wearing black masks?  They wore the masks because of concerns for the air in Beijing. They were ordered to apologize to the Olympic community for their actions.  Now, those four cyclists want an apology from the USOC (United States Olympic Committee).

In a letter sent to the leadership group of the Athletes Advisory Council, an attorney for the four cyclists—Michael Friedman, Sarah Hammer, Bobby Lea and Jennie Reed—not only asked the USOC to apologize, but said the flap was “emotionally devastating” and adversely affected their performances at the Beijing Games, where none of them medaled and only Hammer managed a top-five finish.

The athletes also want “an unequivocal statement from the USOC that they did not engage in any inappropriate conduct” and “systemic assurance that something like this does not happen to future Olympic athletes.”

The cyclists' attorney, Christopher Campbell, wrote in the letter "No athlete who has trained for years to become an Olympic athlete should be subject to such disrespect.  It was their first Olympic Games. They should have been in a supportive environment so that they could enjoy their Olympic experience and perform at peak levels. The false accusations, done in such a public fashion, was humiliating and emotionally devastating. It affected the Athletes’ performance.”

The USOC have not yet commented on the letter yet.

Although Hammer and Reid were favorites in the cycling competitions, both of them did poorly. 

Hammer, a two-time world champion, was fifth in the individual pursuit, and Reed finished eighth in the sprint after coming down with a flu-like illness during the Olympics. Lea led the men’s points race before dropping out of the event, citing fatigue, and he and Friedman combined to finish last in the 16-team madison race.

After that race, Friedman tore the USOC apart.  He said he felt betrayed and that he should've been allowed to wear the mask.  He said that the masks were even given to the cyclists by the USOC.  More than 200 of the masks were distributed, but only a handful of American athletes publicly revealed wearing theirs at any time in Beijing.

Andy Sparks, Hammer’s personal coach and fiancee, who also served as USA Cycling’s track coach for the Beijing Games, said:  "It is unfortunate that those that are supposed to support the athletes in their Olympic dreams were so quick to look out for their own interests."