February 19, 2006

How to get disqualified without really trying

By Bill Barclay

SESTRIERE, Italy (Reuters) - Zip your top up properly,
leave the wig and false mustache in your chalet and, whatever
you do, do not sip the wrong kind of cola.

Doping aside, there are plenty of weird and wonderful ways
to get yourself disqualified from the Winter Olympics and at
times the rules and regulations governing each sport read like
a pedants' manifesto.

In ski jumping, for example, a competitor who fails to zip
his suit up to the very top risks more than catching a cold.

Presumably to prevent somebody wearing a Michelin Man-style
inflatable outfit for extra air buoyancy, the rules state that
competitors' suits must cling closely to the body.

The "anterior crotch length" is especially tightly policed
with a modest four centimeters the maximum leeway allowed.

On Thursday, during the Nordic combined event, the Finnish
team protested that one of the German jumpers, Bjoern
Kircheisen, had breached the rules governing the air
permeability of his suit because it was slightly unzipped at
the neck. The appeal was unanimously rejected by the jury.

In the same event, one of the rules stipulates that a
competitor will be penalized if he takes his skis to any
official ceremonies. Furthermore, as Japan's Masahiko Harada
found out in Normal Hill qualifying, a jumper is disqualified
if his skis are longer than his height, multiplied by 1.46.

In the exhausting sport of cross-country skiing, a
competitor is disqualified if, in a fit of masochism, he skies
more than one leg of the course in a relay or, even more
mysteriously, if he takes part in the competition "under false

The latter charge could arguably have been applied to Costa
Rican Arturo Kinch. The mustachioed 49-year-old brought an air
of slapstick to Friday's 10-km classical race when he stumbled
and almost fell in the first few strides en route to 96th

The false pretences rule also covers Alpine skiing where,
as in ski jumping, having the wrong-sized skis is another cause
for disqualification. That was the fate suffered by Briton
Chemmy Alcott in the women's combined event on Friday. Her skis
were found to be a miniscule 0.2mm too narrow.


A freestyle skier can be disqualified for doing a trick
they are not qualified to try or for attempting a trick which
is more difficult than those they performed in training.
Rule-makers have so far resisted the urge to dock them points
for appalling choice of music to accompany their run.

Sponsorship enforcement is also a deadly serious matter at
all Olympic venues. Woe betide a competitor or spectator who
sports or consumes a product that is not made by one of the
companies on the list of official sponsors.

In the spectator's case they will have the offending bottle
of cola removed from their possession while the athlete cannot
display any form of advertising at venues, where even the
official sponsors' products are kept hidden. Offending logos
get covered up with duct tape.

The wrong kind of spoken word can also be costly.

At the biathlon on Tuesday, American Jay Hakkinen risked
being disqualified following claims that he used inappropriate
language after missing all five shots at the target in the
10-km sprint.

Asked if Hakkinen had sworn audibly, U.S. coach James Upham
ducked. "I don't know. I didn't ask and he didn't say