I’ve seen a fair amount of sport scandals erupt over the years—from referees being bribed, to players throwing games, to coaches cheating.
And years ago, I was involved in one.
An offer I could not refuse
It was the 1996 Olympics. In Atlanta.
I was a team leader—in charge of all rowing equipment the US teams were using in the competitions.
It was hands-on work, and I often had my head buried in a boat.
Early one morning, two FBI field agents found me as I was preparing a boat to race.
“Mr. Davenport, follow us…immediately,” they ordered.
It was not the type of request I was about to refuse.
We walked about 1/4 of a mile through a field of rowing shells. In silence.
My questions went unanswered.
We came to a small trailer, I was ushered inside, and told (politely) to sit down facing a desk.
Another agent came in. Identified himself.
Then began a series of questions, all pertaining to our equipment, my recent whereabouts, and any conversations I had had with strangers.
Now, us rowers are a strange lot, so that question about strangers made me smile.
That brought an icy stare, and the rebuke, “Mr. Davenport, we find nothing humorous about cheating scandals!”
I can remember my head spinning…cheating…scandal. WHAT!
I’ll spare you the details of the looong discussions, but an eon passed and the agent was apparently satisfied that I was clueless and not involved in what was happening.
Then he told me what was unfolding.
Apparently, agents protecting the athlete area and race course were picking up strange radio transmissions.
They believed they could be a security threat, or an attempt by a team (the home team in this case) to get an unfair advantage…ahem…cheat.
The signals, they said, were coming from the US rowing shells.
Since I was in charge and had access, I was first on the list of suspects.
TV made us do it
After a day or two of investigation, press avoidance, and head-scratching and stomach-churning it was determined that the strange signals were NOT an attempt to cheat.
But were in fact transmissions used for TV coverage.
It was the first Olympics in which the racing shells were carrying small, stern mounted TV cameras…for the viewing pleasure of the folks at home.
It turned out that we (and me) were not cheaters after all, all though cheating in rowing has certainly happened before.
TV was to blame
The collateral of scandals
Scandals blow up, and swirl around. An unfortunate aspect is often (too often) good/innocent people get burned.
This latest admissions scandal and how it can impact coaches will be no different.
As things are sorted out and the guilty parties are uncovered, here’s hoping any and all innocent individuals survive the damage.