Tuesday, August 28, 2012

'The Chap' Gets It Right

As everyone in the world now knows, Lance Armstrong has run afoul of the laser-like attentions of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Travis Tygart, who looks and (unfortunately) acts like a lawyer, is probably the most hated person in the country just now, and not without reason. The statute of limitations for doping violations under the World Anti-Doping Agency code is eight years, but USADA contends that past years of organized doping by various cycling teams should give the agency leeway to convict for older offenses, perhaps as far back as the six-day races of 1893. 

  Travis Tygart

And since USADA is neither required nor inclined to allow its accused the normal legal protocols under due process, Armstrong never knew the precise nature of whatever evidence was gathered against him. In any case, USADA has managed to shift Armstrong's Tour de France titles onto the likes of Jan Ulrich, who in 2006 (the year following Armstrong's retirement) was expected to win the Tour until he was suspended by the UCI in another doping scandal, then decided to retire, and had his record vacated from 2005 onwards. (Bjarne Riis, who won the 1996 Tour, admitted in 2007 that he had doped. Nonetheless, Riis's victory was officially "reconfirmed.")

While the sporting community in the United States is currently busy parsing this tortuous episode, our English cousins have adopted a lighter, more sanguine approach to athletic competition. The Chap, which bills itself a "satirical magazine for modern gentlemen," has just this July instanter concluded its London 2012 Chap Olympiad, the magazine's eighth annual "celebration of athletic ineptitude and immaculate trouser creases."

The event preserves some of the hallmarks of Monty Python's "127th Upper Class Twit of the Year Event," which always rewards another viewing. Following the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic pipe, onlookers in Bedford Square Gardens, Bloomsbury, London WC1, were treated to two days of nattily clad athletes engaged in standard gentlemen's events such as the pipe smokers' relay, the cucumber sandwich discus, hop-skip-g&t, and umbrella jousting.

New events - butler racing, swooning, and synchronised slippages - were executed with an astonishing "breadth of imagination, applomb [sic] and inebriated skullduggery." Following each event, the magazine further notes, "Exhausted Olympians were stretcher-borne to the Gin Tent, topped up with panache-saving Bloody Marys fed from blood bags."

Umbrella joust

And if that isn't doping, I don't know an aquascutum from an aspidistra. The astute reader will have remarked that no amount of doping will ever improve attempts to joust with the outside hand, as in the photo. Still, it boggles the mind how an entire segment of the British male populace can suppose that propriety in attire and a correctly constructed cocktail can stand in for the competitive spirit, but there you have it. I hope you're happy, Bertie Wooster.

Cucumber sandwich discus

It seems the postcolonial Brit may be taking these matters in the right spirit. But like any delicate flower, I'm not certain it exports all that well - I mean, tear up a fellow's tweeds by the roots and transplant them, they begin to suffer from the incongruity. It's what in the U.S. we call Portland.

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