Lowering the Bar
What might have been the dawn of a new era in the Olympics has ended before it ever began.
Out gymnast Josh Dixon had hoped for a spot on the U.S. men’s gymnastics team at this month’s Summer Olympics in London. The San Jose, California, native competed in the Visa Championships in late June and the ensuing two-day Olympic trials in his hometown. Ultimately finishing 13th out of 15, however, extinguished any chance for Dixon to take his place under the glow of the Olympic torch. He was not chosen for the eight-man U.S. team, which consists of five main contenders and three alternates. If he had been selected, he would have been the first openly gay American gymnast in Olympics history.
It was a disappointing coda to an otherwise promising upward swing. Dixon had bounded into the championships and trials fresh from a triumphant second-place showing at the U.S. Men’s Qualifier in early May in Colorado Springs.
Gymnastics has been a lifelong passion for the Stanford University graduate, from training to competing. For Dixon, who is half-black and half-Japanese and was adopted by a white father and a Japanese mother, his single-minded devotion to his sport precluded any exploration of the same-sex feelings he had felt from an early age.
“Eat, sleep, train and do homework,” said Dixon in a May 6 interview with Outsports.com’s Cyd Zeigler, Jr. “Gymnastics was my number one priority, and if something got in the way of that I had to push it aside.”
However, as Outsports.com reports, when Dixon was a junior at Stanford, the time was right for him to become what he was. At the university, he found a welcoming circle of friends, fellow athletes (some of them also gay), and other students to whom his coming out process was matter-of-fact.
With Dixon’s coming out on the road to what would have been a spot on the U.S. Men’s Gymnastics team at the Olympics, he may not have achieved one goal, but he has instead lowered the bar for visibility and inclusiveness of other openly gay athletes in competitive sports to come.
Kicked Out for Lighting Up
An openly gay Olympic hopeful has been booted from this summer’s London games after recently testing positive for marijuana.
Wrestler Stephany Lee, a lesbian, had qualified for the 2012 London Olympics and married her longtime partner, Brigg McDonald, just one day later. It was surely a heady and joyful time for the athlete. But when test results came back showing marijuana in her system, she was disqualified.
I’ve never been a marijuana user, but I firmly believe it should be legalized. Its outlawed status doesn’t make logical sense to me. I’ve known enough people in my life who’ve smoked pot, and they were always intelligent, functional, active individuals who didn’t turn into crazed and kooky fiends they moment they inhaled. Granted, there’s a lot of popular culture out there that paints a portrait of marijuana users that way; in movies, for example, we get everything from the early campy scare-tactic melodramatics of Reefer Madness to doofus, sexy stoner James Franco in Pineapple Express. Hell, somewhere in between, we even had Scooby-Doo and Shaggy Rogers in the original Scooby Doo, Where Are You? cartoon series and its myriad follow-ups. If those two, with their constant jaw-stretcher munchies, weren’t taking tokes in the back of the Mystery Machine, I’d eat my shoes.
My guess, though, is that the average recreational marijuana user simply smokes it to relax and unwind – whether it’s after a long hard day at work or kicking back with a few friends on Saturday night. But while I recognize that smoking pot doesn’t seem to pose a threat to the casual-yet-ongoing user, I imagine its effects probably do linger well enough in more hardcore users that their demeanors may actually draw comparisons to Franco’s character or some other comedic caricature.
I don’t know which of those categories of pot smoker Stephany Lee falls into, but from all appearances she’s an accomplished, hard-working woman who has achieved great things and reached admirable goals. I’m also not an athlete, so I don’t have a personal frame of reference for the types of substances and habits that driven athletes must abstain from in order to reach and maintain peak performance levels.
However, I do know enough that if an athlete is training for any sort of team or competition – in this case, the Olympics – there are very specific rules, regulations, and codes of conduct that are required of each athlete in order to maintain the fairness and integrity of the competitions. This is something that every athlete is fully aware of going in, and to blatantly disregard that integrity but not putting one’s predilections for indulgence on the back burner while training or competing is a foolish personal choice.
It’s the same reason why you wouldn’t want to be sparking doobies or putting coke up your nose while you’re in the middle of a job search: there’s a strong likelihood that it’ll come back to bite you in the ass.