Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Alpine Ski Racing Gets Weirder

In the hierarchy of world crises, this is not very pressing, but I just read in this morning's Times that an Austrian Alpine skier (a woman) was accused of wearing illegal plastic underwear in a race. I had to do a double take. I thought, is this a skit on Saturday Night Live? How kinky can you get...? (Check the late night talk shows -- I can't see how Leno and Letterman will miss this one.)

Now, I know cheating in sports is always up there on the media-interest scale, but this is certainly taking it a bit far. Athletes have been juicing for decades now, be it football and baseball players on steroids or cyclists and track and fielders who simply blood dope. That's worth arguing about. But underwear making you faster on a Super-G slalom course? I can understand the concern about outerwear -- the skin tight Neoprene suits have all kinds of restrictions because these athletes need to shave off hundredths of seconds to be competitive. Aerodynamics are paramount when whistling down the hill.

While the article went into substantial detail about the official standard, it did little to explain how underwear makes you faster or slower. Let me quote, "...must have a minimum permeability of 30 liters per square meter per second under 10 milimeters of water pressure." I'm trying to imagine the coaches saying, "Okay, ladies, turn in your bras and panties; we need to test them for permeability."

Why are they requiring this? Who cares? What kind of advantage can you get from underwear fabric? Can you imagine that underwear has to go through wind tunnel testing? Or water testing, or whatever?

I'm for fairness, rules, and regulation, but hey...

Next, we'll have rules telling golfers they can't wear those ugly plaid print pants.

Come to think of it, if I were a ski racer, I'd make a protest run in the nude. Might be a very cold minute and a half, but I'd be sure to lead the evening news. And you thought Mia Hamm was a ham. Ha.

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