“I ski fast. That’s why I’m here.”
(the Robert Redford character in the movie Downhill Racer)
Dear Readers: Tomorrow (hopefully) I will have a real treat for you: My review of the Metropolitan Opera production of Semiramide – yay!
But please be patient, because, for today, we are in the world of sports!
Bilyaletdinov Speaks Out
Grizzled, popular and outspoken Russian football coach Rinat Bilyaletdinov (Army Sports Club of Khabarovsk – СКА-Хабаровск) had a few choice words to say about all that doping going on at the Winter Olympics. And not by Russia, but by Norway!
In this lengthy interview with Sport-24 (Reporter = Alexander Muyzhnek), Bilyaletdinov covered a host of topics, but I am focusing on just one juicy sound-bite towards the end of the piece. This section of the interview is entitled: “Norwegian Skiiers Belong At the Special Olympics“. Might sound like sour grapes, but it’s funny because it’s true. The backstory, of course, is Norway’s phenomenal success at the recent Olympics in South Korea. When all was said and done, and the eternal flame snuffed out, Norway had wone the games hands down with 39 medals, 14 of them Gold! People attending the games heard the Norwegian anthem played more times than sailors on the Pequod heard Captain Ahab addressing fellow-seafarers with his standard greeting “Hast seen the White Whale?”
Granted, there is a certain point of view out there on the internet. Certain Internet People claim that Russia actually won these Olympics. Not in the sense of a moral victory either, but an actual physical victory. Because these folks believe that the only two events that truly matter there are Hockey and Ladies Figure Skating. If true, then Russia did actually win. I personally don’t hold to that view, I believe with all my heart that Curling, Snowboard Acrobatics, cramming three men into a Bobsled, and Skeletoning and the like, are equally important. If not, then why even do them? I personally would like to see even more events , like, for example, tumbling people down the mountain in a giant hamster ball, and see who gets to the bottom first. Or maybe — hey, if Water Polo is a real sport, then why not Ice Polo? With horses?
But returning to the Glory that is Norway: What, oh what, was the secret of this great nation’s success, aside from a long tradition of snow sports, and the fact that Norwegian babies are all born on skis? Doping, of course. Anabolic Steroids are the Gold Standard for building muscles, increasing endurance, and overall performance enhancement. Now, the Norwegian cross-country skiiers are routinely given anabolic steroids under the guise of asthma medication. It’s a known fact, but they get to keep their medals, because this sytem is considered kosher by The Powers That Be. Those judgey gods and goddesses who reign Up there on the Olympian Heights. They who decide, in their infinite wisdom, that asthma medications produced in Western countries are okay, and yet Meldonium is not okay.
Bilyaletdinov’s ire is triggered when Muyzhnek brings up the issue (4 segments from the end) of a Russian footballer named Ruslan Kambolov, who was apparently accused of doping. This sends Bilyaletdinov on a rant about Western athletes faking various conditions in order to disguise their use of anabolic steroids.
The veteran coach retorts that Kambolov received a serious injury (trauma), and the docs had to prescribe pain medication. “But certain substances, which were permitted 20-30 years ago, are now, it seems, forbidden. There is this substance called kenalog. In the 80’s it was impossible to obtain. It consisted of 4 doses, each costing 25 rubles. In those days people’s salaries were 89-90 rubles, and here one packet (of kenalog) costs 100 rubles! (….) This kenalog was an [effective] treatment for muscle injuries when the tear [in the muscle] was not extensive. (….) And now kenalog has been declared to be an anabolic. Why? It’s all about the money. Meldonium is a medicine, it’s not doping. People are told they have to take the American equivalent, which is 10 times more expensive….”
[yalensis: Meldonium is a medicine, developed in the USSR, which is used to treat coronary artery disease. In 2016 the World Doping Agency contracted by the Olympics declared it to be a performance enhancer, banned it, and retroactively punished Russian athletes who had been using it.]
Bilyaletdinov continues: “I am not a doctor, it is not my place to judge, which substances should be banned, and which not….” Bilyaletdinov then challenges the reporter: “Do you know why I didn’t follow the Olympics?” “No, why?” “Because I couldn’t bear to look at those Norwegian skiiers. Every one of them — an asthmatic! With such diagnoses, they belong at the Para-lympics. They need to get cured, and yet they stand on their so-called therapeutical exceptions. Or get a load of that American gymnast — turns out she has ADHD. My Lord, what is doing on the balance beam? You’re going to hurt yourself, my poor dear! Or get a load those female tennis players with male hormones. They have the type of musculature that any muzhik would envy!”
Like I said, it’s funny because it’s true.