I usually don’t condone drinking on the job, unless if you’re a circus performer, mortician, bomb-defuser or sports journalist.
But I stand behind Ivan Ukhov, as he tries to stop himself swaying from side-to-side.
Last week Ukhov became the most famous high jumper since Jack- Be-Nimble, when he jumped an entire foot off the ground.
That’s not a typo. He was drunk.
The 22-year-old, who holds a Russian record in indoor high jumping, was thrown into the spotlight this week after a questionable opening jump at the Athletissima meet in Switzerland, which prompted organizers to pull him from the competition.
According to some of his competition, Ukhov was drinking vodka and Red Bulls while competing. And to be honest, the clips on YouTube hilariously back up the accusations.
But what peeves me is that every article about this pathetic story starts by saying the International Association of Athletics Federation is asking him to explain how, for example, he ended up jumping under the bar instead of over it.
He was drunk — there’s your big explanation. Soak it up.
According to IAAF rules, alcohol is not a performance enhancer — I personally know lots of women who’ll back that up. But now Ukhov is facing a one-year suspension from competitions.
What’s the big deal? It’s not like he was competing in the javelin! Or in Indy car racing, for that matter.
If athletes want to drink during competitions, let them.
In the age of performance-enhancing drugs, where it seems half of all sports stories in the news involve steroid use, this can’t be that bad. Alcohol is the anti-steroid.
Fine, I’ll admit that professional athletes drinking alcohol might not set a good example for our children. But considering we have professional basketball players brought up on rape charges; football players being shot outside clubs at 3 a.m. and another sent to prison for dog-fighting; and scores of other pros from throughout the sports world being investigated for performance enhancing drugs, I wonder if this is really a worthwhile story?
In the last couple weeks, we’ve seen an Olympic taekwondo artist kick a referee in the face and the humorously pugnacious John McEnroe get ejected from yet another match for his acrid language — at age 49.
But a high jumper gets sloshed at some meet and that’s a story? Maybe if he drove home from the competition.
The only reason this story is getting notice is because we all see something mildly amusing in it.
A top-notch athlete getting drunk at competition tickles the irony section of our brain like religious scientists or charitable lawyers.
If this incident got your feathers up in a ruffle, relax. Booze, like in the past, will just be a footnote in this era of sports.
Drunk athletes are not going to last in their sport if they’re sloshed all the time. Unless they’re some freak of nature whose skills are so beyond the competition’s that they’re victorious despite their beer-count.
And if such an athlete surfaces, fans would love it.
Look at John Daly: he’s the everyman’s golfer. He probably gets more fanfare than any other golfer to win only two majors.
Daly shows up late and hung over for tee-times; he smokes cigarettes between holes; he gambles away his money; and, according to his former swing coach who recently quit, he would rather spend time getting drunk at Hooters than hit the driving range.
According to that concise description, the only difference between Daly and me is amazing hand-eye co-ordination and about 40-pounds of belly fat.
But he remains loved more than most pro-golfers because, despite the hurdles he sets for himself, he can still produce some world-class golf.
Ukhov did nothing to improve his standing as an athlete or his commercial value, unless Smirnoff is sponsoring track starts … Actually, even then too.
Last week I wrote a balanced, unbiased piece about the brain-dead morons at the LPGA Tour choosing to make the English language mandatory for players.
The proposed rule would lead to suspensions for those who fail to reach a certain level of proficiency in English.
Just two days after my column hit the streets, the LPGA decided to overturn its decision.