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Monday, August 30, 2004

On being asked to give the medal back - again 

Yesterday a deranged (my purely subjective jusdgement), defrocked Irish priest (Cornelius Horan) tackled the leader in the men's marathon, the Brazilian Vanderlei de Lima, with about three miles left in the race. De Lima fell, appeared to be injured, but got up and continued the race, finishing in third.

In light of the Paul Hamm huballo (i.e. those who say he won the medal on a mathematical error so should give it back (ignoring what seems to be the current conventional wisdom that if the whole South Korean routine was reviewed he would do worse)) it seems reasonable to ask whether the Italian who won the race (Stefano Baldini) should give his gold to de Lima.

I've argued below that I think, more or less, that Hamm has every right to hold onto his gold. Evaluating what happened in the marathon seems both harder and easier. Harder in the sense that no one will really ever know whether de Lima wasn't almost all spend (i.e. whether the other runners were about to put on a late burst to bring themselves back into contention). Easier in the sense that Horan's actions clearly tilted the playing field away from de Lima. Would you really want to recieve a medal which, mostly, might come from your principal rival being attacked. I think I can say with some certainty that I would not (for more on the story see this news item. Kieren Healy's also posted on the nutty Irish guy here)

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