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U.S.O.C. Apologises

A USA rider wearing a face mask to protect against Beijing's smog

A USA rider wearing a face mask to protect against Beijing's smog (Image credit: AFP)

The United States Olympic Committee (U.S.O.C.) has apologised to the four American cyclists who arrived at the Beijing Olympics wearing masks supplied by the U.S.O.C. to protect them against pollution according to the New York Times. Sarah Hammer, Jennie Reed, Bobby Lea and Mike Friedman were forced to apologise for embarrassing the Olympic hosts for wearing the masks as they disembarked their airplane in Beijing.

A letter sent to the four riders from Jim Scherr, chief executive of the U.S.O.C., acknowledged that they never intended to offend the hosts or make a political statement. He wrote that there was "confusion or a misunderstanding" between the cyclists and the U.S.O.C.

The committee had developed and issued the carbon-filtration masks to USA's athletes before the Beijing Games. At the Olympics, though, U.S.O.C. officials publicly criticized the cyclists for wearing those masks at the Beijing airport.

"We are acknowledging that some things could have been handled differently," the U.S.O.C. spokesman Darryl Seibel said. "The athletes brought that to our attention in a very constructive way and we are going to do everything we can to make sure that something like this does not happen again."

The four track riders began pursuing an apology from the U.S.O.C. at the conclusion of last month’s Olympics because they had felt humiliated by the incident and that it distracted them from their performances in Beijing.

Hammer, finished fifth in the individual pursuit event, Reed was eighth in the sprint and Lea and Friedman finished last in the Madison.

"My Olympics and my dream were pretty much ruined and they can never be given back to me," Hammer told the New York Times. "They treated us like we were just stupid athletes and like we didn’t matter. They harassed us and threatened to kick us out of the Olympics. There was no support. It was just so sad."

"My name was dragged through the mud and I really wanted my name cleared. None of that ever should have happened," Friedman said.

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