Edition number 22; dateline 6 August 2008

Only a game? Not at my age…
In sport as in life there are those who understand the phrase, “It’s only a game” and there are those who would cheat their own son at tiddlywinks if it meant “a W”. Sideliner would never call Sir Rocco Forte a cheat, although the price of one night’s B&B at The Lowry in Manchester borders on highway robbery, but he is certainly well up the competitive end of the spectrum that runs from Corinthian to cut-throat. His excuse for not dominating the world over-60 triathlon rankings offers a clue. “It’s very difficult for me to get as competitive as I’d like because of the work I do – a lot of people in my age group are retired and full-time professional athletes now.” Even his excuses are inflated and egotistical. Does he spend time with Kevin Pietersen?

Making a Fuss over Hirst
If you have ever wondered how much a second-rate artist gets paid the tale of Peter Fuss, a Polish Damian Hirst copyist, is salutary. Hirst has created a work called For the Love of God which is essentially a diamond-encrusted skull. It is priced at one hundred million pounds. Fuss is banging out ‘appropriations’ of the work at the bargain price of £1,000. The cheap copies are entitled For the Laugh of God and involve £250 of fake diamonds. The remaining £750 pays for the eighteen hours of Fuss’s time that each copy takes. All of which means that Fuss gets paid £40 per hour for sticking on sequins.

Sideliner and Gnasher: ‘It should have been me’
And speaking of important cultural events, the 70th anniversary of the Beano comic gives occasion for the trotting out of a near thirty-year-old boast. When Sideliner was studying at university – for a proper degree in a real subject, mind you, not your basket-weaving or media studies nonsense – the budding columnist had a letter published on the Dennis the Menace Fan Club page. Is it just us or three decades later does the Today programme’s trumpeting that its team, led by the appositely monikered James Naughtie, will feature in a Dennis strip seems decidedly old hat? Or are we letting our professional envy show?

From Victor, the spoils
With Beijing upon us we hear two very different views on what to do with drugs cheats. Linford Christie – a man well-versed in the practices of the doper – argues that “the sport” should “rehabilitate” disgraced ex-Olympian Dwayne Chambers, not “leave him to rot”. He even used the word ‘ambassador’. Contrast this with Douglas Logan chief executive of USA Track and Field (their athletics governing body) on Marion Jones’ attempts to get George W Bush to commute her six-month sentence for perjury: “To reduce Ms Jones’ sentence or pardon her would send a horrible message to young people who idolised her, reinforcing the notion that you can cheat and be entitled to get away with it.” And speaking of getting away with it, does anyone else find the Christine Ohuruogu situation a little uncomfortable? Her crime was to miss three drugs tests. Her defence was that she is scatter-brained and busy. Victor Conte, the president of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (Balco), has gone into print with a rationale for why drugs tests get missed: “First, the athlete repeatedly calls their own cell phone until the message capacity is full. This way the athlete can claim to the testers that they didn't get a message... Secondly, they provide incorrect information on their whereabouts form. They say they are going to one place and then go to another. Thereafter, they start using drugs for a short cycle of two to three weeks. After the athlete discontinues using the drugs for a few days and they know that they will test clean, they become available and resume training at their regular facility. Most athletes are tested approximately two times each year on a random out-of-competition basis. If a tester shows up and the athlete is not where they are supposed to be, then the athlete will receive a ‘missed test’. The disadvantage for an athlete having a missed test is that they have one strike against them. The advantage of that missed test is the athlete has now received the benefit of a cycle of steroids. Long story short, an athlete can continue to duck and dive until they have two missed tests, which basically means that they can continue to use drugs until that time.” Sideliner will not be watching much athletics from China.

Games? What Games?
Indeed as the event approaches the motivation to get out of bed in the early hours withers almost to the size of a testosterone-fuelled weightlifter’s testicle. China were awarded the Games against their promise to improve their human rights record, deal with the smog and allow proper access to the world’s media. Currently, as our colonial cousins would say, they are “batting oh for three”. The best thing we can do now is ignore the whole affair – apart from the cycling – and leapfrog ahead to the 2012 games. Which were awarded to London against the promise that they would deliver a wonderful legacy to the youth of Britain…

And from the corridors of power…
We know we shouldn’t do it but now and then some juicy gossip crosses the Row Z desk and the need to share keens within us. Sideliner can resist anything except temptation and there are two crumbs from the toppest of tables to give you this month. While treading the corridors, or at least courtyards, of power, we hear that Sir Clive Woodward is “briefing against” British Olympics Association colleague Simon Clegg in a bid for power. Given that a recent consultants’ report suggests the BOA find someone with “a strong background in business and management”, Clive will no doubt be making much of the fact that he was once a photocopier salesman. Meanwhile in London Town all is quiet before the Olympics storm – or should that be a post-Olympics storm? One might have thought that with London about to take on the mantle of Olympic host city, Mayor Boris, London's very own blond bombshell would have something to say on the subject? Surely he couldn't be keeping the powder dry for a post-Beijing onslaught, could he?”

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