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Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Updated: August 12, 12:41 PM ET
Sex, Olympics go hand in hand

By Jeff Merron
Page 2

Maxim. FHM. Playboy. Naked (or half-naked) Olympians are going to be all over the newsstands real soon, if they haven't already arrived in your mailbox. There's nothing new here. Ever since the ancient Greeks trained in what author Tony Perrottet calls "palaces of pederasty," and competed nude before thousands of men and (young) women, sex has been part of the Games.

But there's been a revival of late. Over the past 10 years, Olympians and Olympian wannabe's have been stripping down in ever-increasing numbers. At Page 2, we like to keep abreast of these issues, as you know. So we thought we'd bring you up to speed.

Condomania
The Olympics are all about numbers and stats.

Olympic Village
Welcome to Athens, which is about to become the sex capital of the world.
In Athens, there will be ...

Countries: 199

Officials: 3,000

Athletes: 10,500

Condoms, courtesy of Durex: 130,000

Tubes of lubricant: 30,000

Durex doesn't blush about its contribution.

"As the official supplier of condoms and lubricants, we hope the donation will help athletes improve their achievements between the sheets," says one Durex mouthpiece.

If you ask the athletes and look at the history (previous Games have run short long before the Closing Ceremony), this supply probably won't be enough. In fact, we find the math just plain confusing. The reports from Sydney were that each athlete got 51 cloaks upon arrival at the village, which was far from enough. But maybe Durex expects Greece to be less, umm, exciting -- 130K works out to only 12 condoms per competitor.

(We think someone did some bad division in one newspaper article about Sydney, and that number just appeared everywhere, unchecked. At the start of the Games, there was talk of a supply of 50,000 condoms, which works out to about five per athlete.)

In any case ...

"There's a lot of sex going on," javelin thrower Breaux Greer told Men's Journal. "You get a lot of people who are in shape and, you know, testosterone's up and everybody's attracted to everybody."

Other fun nuggets, courtesy of Men's Journal, which conducted a survey of sorts: Swimmers do it longer; the French do it most often (but only with compatriots).

In Sydney, the Cubans ... well, they ran through their ration faster than any other nation.

"I don't know what they're doing with those things," said one official. "Maybe they're making water balloons. They're lovely, lovely people. They're very friendly."

For sure.

So, will the Athens supply last? Should you start an office pool on the re-supply date?

It might all come down to design.

The first major effort at condom giveaways was at the Barcelona Games in 1992, and it was a huge success. The shields were emblazoned with the colorful Olympic rings, apparently a mood enhancer (or a cool souvenir).

In 1996, Atlanta's organizers pushed five-packs, with one 'prophy' in each official Olympic color.

In 2000, the colors were gold, silver, and bronze.

Apparently, they all went fast. Which either means that style counts, or doesn't count at all.

Speed dating -- the real thing
The ancient Olympics, like the current Games, were a tremendous, highly-anticipated spectacle, and a huge party as well. Tens of thousands of spectators would travel for weeks to get to Olympia, where they'd bake in the mid-summer sun in a venue with no restroom facilities. They'd go unwashed for days (bad form back then, too), and enjoy the company of men. Women weren't allowed.

But there were exceptions. Prostitutes selling their wares in all price ranges were welcome, and could earn a year's wages during the five-day festival. Adolescent girls also frequently got an invite -- dads and brothers would bring them along so they could choose a future mate.

Obviously, depth of character was not criterion No. 1. But the Greeks didn't care, according to Tony Perrottet, author of "The Naked Olympics," a lively history of the ancient games. "Few cultures have been quite so shamelessly vain and superficial in their worship of physical perfection as the Greeks."

The body-body question
Philosophers have been in a quandary over the mind-body question for ages.

Athletes, coaches, and, umm, interested observers also have an age-old question: Does it hurt or help to have sex not long before competing?

There have been a few memorable quotes on the matter:

Casey Stengel: "The trouble is not that players have sex the night before a game. It's that they stay out all night looking for it."

Mickey (Rocky Balboa's trainer): "Women weaken legs!" (The old retort to that one: "Only if you're doing it right.")

Roman historian Pliny the Elder tackled the issue in the year 77. In "Natural History," he wrote, "Athletes when sluggish are revitalized by love-making, and the voice is restored from being gruff and husky."

Linford Christie
Sprinter Linford Christie decided on a no-sex policy before his races.
But some folks just don't heed the ancient wisdom.

Brit Linford Christie, the 1992 100-meter gold medalist, went without, according to Paul Thomas of U.K. newspaper The People. In 1994, Thomas reported that Christie "locks up his famous lunchbox" three days prior to a race. Christie said he wasn't sure it would hurt him, but he didn't want to take any chances.

The great American miler, Marty Liquori, thought abstinence the best policy. "Sex makes you happy," he said, "And happy people don't run a 3:47 mile." Liquori fell five seconds short of 3:47 himself, but maybe there was a problem with his happiness theory.

Lynn Jennings, one of the best U.S. distance runners ever, breezed to her 1993 10K U.S. title after having sex with her husband. "I found that sex the night before solidifies my core feeling of happiness."

We're going to straddle the happiness fence and go with the current conventional wisdom among sports physiologists and psychologists: Sex sure doesn't hurt, and probably helps.

"It's simple," said one Russian psychologist. "More sex means more gold."

That's general advice. Some doctors get more specific. Israeli scientist Alexander Olshanietzky, prior to Barcelona, said, "Women compete better after orgasm, especially high-jumpers and runners." Hmmm. We'd like to see the research.

And for men, there's anecdotal evidence aplenty.

Exhibit No. 1: Bob Beamon. He says he did it the night before the 1968 Olympic long jump competition. He'd always abstained before competition; this time, after the act, he worried that his chances were ruined. Of course, he was wrong. He shattered the world record by almost two feet on his first jump.

Exhibit No. 2: In 1972, Dave Wottle says he had some fun the night before the 800-meter final. He had tied the world record in the event in the Olympic trials, but he wasn't considered a medal favorite. Of course, he went out and won the gold, by a margin of just .03 seconds. Could sex have made the difference?

We could go on with more examples; but the evidence strongly suggests that for almost all athletes, there's no longer any doubt. In 2000, the Aussies conducted a survey asking athletes if they'd have sex the night before competing. A couple of sample answers: "I already have" and "I would take it any night I could get it."

Free Willy!
Everyone knows that the Ancient Greeks competed in the nude at Olympia. Nobody is sure why, but there are a couple of theories: 1.) Boy, was it hot!; and 2.) Boys, are they hot! Probably a combination of the two. The Ancients also liberally slathered themselves in olive oil, finding someone else to do the job whenever possible.

These facts are indisputable. But Stephen Instone, a historian, was still unsure about the ... comfort factor. Can you really sprint with your ... umm, things hanging all out? Instone, a 49-year-old competitive runner himself, decided first-hand experience was the only way to find the truth. So he sprinted, boffo, in a race against a couple of lycra-clad buddies. And he did just fine.

"I just tried it to show you can run perfectly well naked. People these days say it's difficult from a practical point of view ... In some conditions, like a warm summer's day, it would be very pleasurable."

Cathy Rigby
Cathy Rigby, performing at the 1972 Summer Olympics.
Cancel my subscription immediately! (But let me keep this issue)
Cathy Rigby is a pioneer. In 1972, she posed nude on the balance beam, and the photo appeared in ... Sports Illustrated. It's thought to be the only nude photo ever to appear in SI (excepting the swimsuit issue), and it is, well, a nice sight. The one-and-a-half-page spread, shot from the rear, is tasteful, and actually has a context: Rigby wanted to see Olympic divers and gymnasts compete in their birthday suits.

If you're a ... collector, the issue date is Aug. 21, 1972. Rigby, 19, had medal hopes, but finished far out of the running. She went on to Broadway fame as the title character in "Peter Pan."

Get ready for Athens ... Wait, you there! Not so fast

The stock line trotted out by female athletes who pose nude is that they do it to "bring attention" to their sport. Maybe so. But this year's racy spreads in FHM and Playboy won't hit newsstands until the Olympics begin (or later). Which is exactly when (obviously) Olympic sports are getting the most attention. Hmmm.

In any case, we thought it prudent to investigate. Because it's our job, we actually read the words. Some choice tidbits from the FHM and Playboy posers:

Amanda Beard (swimmer)
Hot: "I wear a two-piece to train in, and I wedge it right up my butt."
Not so much: Went skinny-dipping with sisters and cousins at bachelorette party.

Haley Cope (swimmer)
Hot: "I'm pretty comfortable naked."
Not at all: "I worship Martha Stewart."

Jenny Adams (track)
Hot: "I feel sexy in my track clothes."
Not even interesting: "I really don't like to wear short skirts in public."

Logan Tom (volleyball)
Hot: Goes clubbing with teammates. "We like dancing with each other. We'll grind and do whatever."
Not for the small guys: At the clubs, "You can't miss us. We're huge!"

Amy Acuff
Amy Acuff graces the cover of Playboy.
High jumper Amy Acuff, who's done plenty of nude-ish pictorials over the years, graces the cover of the September issue of Playboy. The mag calls its pictorial "Women of the Olympics." Only problem: Three of the eight women who pose are (as Playboy diplomatically says in its press release) "not attending Athens."

As if it was their choice.

The three not going:

U.S. pole vaulter Mary Sauer: Posing doesn't seem to bring Sauer much luck. In 2000, she showed skin in Maxim -- and didn't make the Olympic team. She posed again for Playboy this year and finished seventh in the Olympic trials with a vault of only 14 feet, five inches.

German long jumper Susan Tiedtke-Greene: Long gone from the world track scene. She tested positive for steroids in 1995 and was banned from competition for four years. (The ban was later reduced to two years.) Her biggest triumph was winning the German national championship in 1997.

Canadian 1,500-meter specialist Katie Vermeulen: After word got out that she'd be featured in Playboy, she told the Toronto Globe and Mail, "This thing is done to celebrate women and women at the Olympics, and it's not about boobs or butts." Vermeulen didn't meet the Olympic qualifying standard.

Stella the Fella, Dora the Herman, and Princess Grace
On Dec. 4, 1980, one of the greatest athletes in women's track history was shot and killed in Cleveland. Stella Walsh, who lived in the United States from age 2 but competed for Poland, was 69.

Stella had a long and illustrious career. She set a world record in the 100-yard dash in 1930, running a 10.8; and she won gold and equaled the 100-meter world record of 11.9 in L.A. in 1932. She took a silver in Berlin in 1936, losing to rival Helen Stephens. According to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, Stephens faced questioning about her gender, but the Germans backed her up, saying they had checked her out and she was, indeed, female.

But Stella was not, as her autopsy revealed. She had male sex organs, but was neither completely male nor completely female. The Washington Post reported that the deputy coroner said the case was "not black or white. Nature is infinite in her manifestations. This case is unique in my experience. We haven't put down a final diagnosis or conclusion as to sexuality."

Walsh had been married, but her former husband couldn't shed much light on the question. They had had sex, he said, only "a couple of times, and she wouldn't let me have the lights on."

Walsh was an all-around star who competed in the sprints, the discus, and the long jump. She held world records in four events, and won 28 outdoor national championships. In 1975, she was inducted into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame.

Maybe those 1936 Olympics should be nicknamed the weird sex games.

Stella was the best -- but not the only -- fella competing in the women's events. Also up: Dora Ratjen, who finished fourth in the high jump. (In 1938, he/she won the European championship with a world-record jump.) In the mid-1950s "Dora" -- actually a Hamburg waiter named Herman -- came out as a male. He said the Nazis forced him into the ruse.

Word had it that he -- it hurts just to think about it -- scrunched up his bits in order to pass. But the tactic didn't fool silver medalist Dorothy Odam. "I was positive that she was a man," she wrote in a recent letter to the London Sunday Telegraph.

At the 1976 Montreal Games, all female athletes underwent sex testing. Except one. Princess Anne, 25, of Britain, who competed in equestrian events, got a free ride, so to speak.

Heil no, Hitler!
Helen Stephens was a true heartland hero. Not only did she beat Stella in the 100 in Berlin on the way to a new world record, but she also turned down some serious sexual advances from Adolf Hitler.

Stephens, writes Wallechinsky in "The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics," made the obligatory visit to Hitler's box after her victorious sprint. She offered a firm handshake (Americans didn't give the Nazi salute), but Hitler offered a firm grope. "He gets ahold of my fanny," the Fulton Flash said, "and he begins to squeeze and pinch and hug me up, and he said, 'You're a true Aryan type. You should be running for Germany.'"

Then Hitler laid on the big offer: a weekend at his retreat in Berchtesgaden. She turned him down.

Gymnasts gone wild!
We're not certain exactly when Olympic athletes began to explode out of their uniforms, but we're pretty sure that Russian gymnast Svetlana Khorkina, a three-time all-around world champ and Olympic medalist, pried open the floodgates.

Khorkina took it all off as the centerfold in the November, 1997, Russian edition of Playboy. Her mother thought she looked beautiful. Her father went ballistic. And we all found out that some serious skin was hiding there behind the Iron Curtain.

Lavinia Milosovici
Have you seen the DVD with Lavinia Milosovici?
Then came the Romanians. Corina Ungureanu, 19, a member of the 1997 and 1999 world championship teams, posed nude in the December, 1999, Romanian Playboy. National team officials penalized her by keeping her from being named one of the top 10 gymnasts in the country, an honor that would have come with a nice little $2,000 gift. When Hef's company found out, they came through with the money.

Apparently, we wanted more. More nudity. More Romanians. More prominent gymnasts.

So Lavinia Milosovici, who won two golds at Barcelona, and Claudia Presecan, the 2000 Olympic all-around champ and gold-medal team member, joined Ungureanu in posing nude for two issues of the Japanese magazine Shukan Gendai. And then they added motion to it all, putting out a DVD. It was just a gymnastics movie. Except they were totally naked. And it was broadcast on Japanese TV.

The Romanian gymnastics federation suspended them for five years. The problem wasn't what they did, said the officials. It was that when they donned unis in the flick, they included the emblem of the Romanian federation.

Can't buy me go-oals!
Australia's women's national soccer team, nicknamed the Matildas, set off a mini-scandal way back in 1999, when they broke new ground, posing nude in a team calendar to raise money.

Early in December, the book, which featured full frontal shots, was launched at a jam-packed press conference that featured enormous poster-sized reproductions of the revealing photos. One of the 12 players who bared all, Amy Taylor, said, "We are not big, butch, masculine, lesbian football players."

Nobody argued with her. And the calendar was a huge hit. The club netted about $28,000, and each player-poser earned about $2,800. More important, perhaps, was the publicity: A virtually unknown team became an overnight sensation both at home and abroad.

Didn't do the squad much good at the Sydney Games, though. They finished seventh in the eight-team draw, going 0-2-1.

Jeff Merron is a staff writer for ESPN.com.