Protecting The Integrity Of Sports
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!