Protecting The Integrity Of Sports

Dominica Flag

Dominica Flag

We have just come through another exciting edition of the Winter Olympics. Weary, western hemisphere fans are only just now recovering from 2 weeks of thrilling athletic competition, albeit at the expense of workplace productivity. It was fascinating to watch the various athletes from all over the world compete for the gold medal. Unlike its warm weather counterpart, the winter version has a more limited grouping of athletes since many of the world’s countries don’t even have ice and snow. But wait, there were a few Sochi surprises that, in my mind, threatened the integrity of the Games.

Did you know that the tiny Caribbean nation of Dominica was represented in cross-country skiing? Gary di Silvestri, 47, and his Italian-born wife, Angelica Morrone di Silvestri, 48, were first-time Olympians. Though not residents of this tropical paradise (pronounced Doe-ma-NEE-ka, and not to be confused with better-known Dominican Republic) they were granted citizenship as a token of gratitude for their philanthropic work there after their initial visit 7 years ago. The Silvestris, avid skiers, founded the Dominica Ski Federation and managed to meet the Olympic-qualifying standard (barely). Hailing from Staten Island, NY and also holding Italian citizenship, they nevertheless carried the flag of the tropical hot spot, Dominica, as the Games began.

If all of this has you shaking your head in disbelief, and maybe even a bit of anger, read on. They were each entered in one lone event. For Gary it was the men’s 15km classical race, while Angelica was on the roster for the women’s 10km classical race. Here’s the kicker: Angelica never even started, citing a broken nose, while her husband managed about 200 metres before succumbing to what was reported as a case of gastroenteritis. So, the official race results of Dominica’s maiden voyage into the Winter Games read thus: one DNS (did not start) and one DNF (did not finish). I’m seething just typing this!

When I learned about this fairness fiasco I couldn’t help thinking about all those athletes that Canada profiled in their lengthy and costly path to the Olympic Games. The outrageous behaviour of the Silvestris and the shockingly passive stance of the International Olympic Committee are unacceptable. Many in the press called these people the “Olympic tourists” of the Games. The phrase is coined to refer to athletes who cannot make the grade in their own country so they adopt another one where the bar is clearly lower in the competition department. It tarnishes the integrity of the Games and cheapens the level of excellence that is represented there. It represents all that is wrong with the sporting world, that one can buy their way to the top instead. Perhaps we need actor John Houseman, who used to do those advertising spots for investment firm Smith-Barney, to come and say again, “We make money the old-fashioned way. We earn it!” The true Olympians are those who have done the hard work, day in and day out, earning the coveted position of representing their country in their chosen sport. “Make the Olympic team the old-fashioned way,” I can hear Houseman say, “by earning it!”

There is a way out of this latest moral dilemma, as I see it. If the Silvestris would just come clean, admit that their participation in the Games was a farce of monstrous proportions. They could salvage something here by admitting what they did was wrong and damaging to the sport and pledging to stay far from such antics ever again. Hold a press conference and tell the world that integrity is something that matters. Blow the whistle once and for all on this cancer that has crept into the world’s finest athletic stage and vow to play by the rules, the real rules, not those held up by flimsy, politically correct guidelines that give people 15 minutes of fame. Long live the Games!

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  • comment-avatar
    Colin 7 years

    The English speaking East Caribbean island nation of Dominica is so often mistaken for or confused with the Spanish speaking Dominican Republic, that few travellers are even aware of its existence. It’s mountainous terrain, cloaked in primordial rainforest veined with rivers is in fact a great venue for the active vacationer. Lakes, waterfalls, prime scuba, hot springs, hiking trails and NO mega resorts, make visiting the Nature Isle, as it is often referred to, a personal and memorable experience.

    Whilst the entry of Americans Garry & Angelica into the games at Sochi was certainly unorthodox and their embarrassing performance on behalf of Dominic a huge disappointment, the volume of media coverage this has attracted has, in fact, done Dominica a great service – the tourist board couldn’t have done a better job. At least now a lot more potential visitors are aware of our existence and will hopefully plan a vacation there with activities in mind other than skiing. So thanks Gary & Angelica – 0 out of 10 for skiing ability, 8 out of 10 for style!

    • comment-avatar

      Well, Colin, I must say that I am very glad for this silver lining to the cloud that the di Silvestri’s put over Dominica at the Sochi Games in February. Bravo!

      • comment-avatar

        I went to your web page, Colin, and found that it is one that promotes Dominica. Perhaps you have missed gthe entire point of my article, that such commercialization and other forms of short cuts cheapen the integrity of sports. The di Silvestris’ representation in the Sochi Olympics does NOTHING to promote athleticism, sportsmanship, and fair play. That was my point.This couple, although inadvertently helping the cause of tourism in Dominica, nevertheless are extremely poor representatives of this Island nation in an international sporting event as elite and well-respected as the Olympic Games.

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    Colin 7 years

    Hi Bryan, yes, I agree with your sentiments entirely – 0 out of 10 for ethics. Silver lining – yes, also – simply making an observation. At least a few more people are now aware of our beautiful island and the many activities it has to offer other than skiing – hiking, scuba diving, snorkelling, whale watching, birding (176 species), hot springs and river bathing, river tubing…. Why not consider it for your next vacation? I will be pleased to assist you personally with all your on-island requirements.

    • comment-avatar

      Hi Colin, I still think you’re missing Brian’s point. He’s talking about protecting the integrity of sport. Sport has nothing to do with promoting the resorts or beaches of a nation. If Dominica were to host a major event, drawing in visitors through sport tourism, and they naturally fell in love with the country, that’s different.

      You’re here to, in my opinion, promote your tourism company. Brian is talking about ethics, achieving something you deserve and have worked for, and competing for a country you were born or raised in, not one that adopts you, despite the philanthropic giving, just so you can fulfill some type of personal conquest.

      I think these athletes did nothing to promote the things you’re talking about. They were willing to do anything to reach their agenda, regardless or the hundreds of more qualified athletes across the globe who missed out, and it appears you’re here to push an agenda regardless of what this article is actually about…which is why I’ve removed the link to your website.