Olympic Jiggery-Pokery

One of the legacies of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, aside from his keen intellect and originalist interpretation of the US Constitution, was his masterful use of the English language, particularly using an obscure word or phrase to add color to his written opinions.

He used one such phrase in a 2015 opinion regarding his colleagues’ reasoning in allowing healthcare subsidies nationwide, accusing them of “interpretive jiggery-pokery.”  This term dates back to the late 1800s, describing dishonest manipulation or nonsense. Other dated but less colorful, words include hocus pocus, baloney, hogwash, hooey, or as President Joe Biden would say when unable to form a coherent sentence, malarkey.

Scalia’s words certainly livened up his writings, unlike what we hear from the current White House, such as “c’mon man” or “circle back” as insipid conversation fillers used by those unable to think on their feet, much less speak coherently.

Jiggery-pokery is a perfect phrase to describe recent Olympic news, especially decisions on who is allowed to compete and who is not.

First is Brianna McNeal, the 2016 Olympic champion in the 100-meter hurdles who last month qualified a second time for Team USA. She had a secret which she understandably preferred to keep that way, her abortion last year. She was emotionally traumatized after her abortion and missed a doping test two days post abortion. She said she was in bed recovering from her procedure and did not hear the antidoping official knocking on her door to administer the random test.

As such, she was suspended for five years for, “tampering with the results management process.”  This was not her first suspension. Four years ago, she missed three tests saying she forgot to update her whereabouts in a system that tracks athletes for random testing, or else entered the wrong time when she would be available.

She has not been accused of doping, only of not following an increasingly complex and nuanced procedure perfectly and wishing to keep her abortion private from Olympic officials and the world. Now with a five-year ban, she is effectively retired from Olympic competition.

Second is Sha’Carri Richardson, a 21-year-old sprinter with blazing orange hair, who won the 100-meter race at the Olympic trials and was a medal favorite at the Tokyo games. She received a one-month suspension over a positive marijuana test, making it impossible to compete in the 100-meter Olympic event, less than a month from her suspension, possibly only the 4x100 meter relay, just over a month after her suspension, assuming she is not booted off the Olympic team.

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She too suffered a traumatic emotional event, the unexpected death of her biological mother during the Olympic trials, calling it triggering and “definitely nerve-shocking”, using some weed to calm her nerves which were already jacked up just being at the Olympic trials.

Note that recreational marijuana is legal in 19 states and that there are several bills in Congress to decriminalize it at the federal level. Does marijuana improve athletic performance?

A 2016 systematic review found a dearth of good scientific evidence either way noting that “the effects of marijuana on athletic performance remain unclear.” If anything, they found “decreased physical work capacity compared with sham” suggesting it degrades, rather than enhances, performance.  A 2020 systematic review concluded, “Based on the available evidence, cannabis does not appear to positively affect performance.”

So why was she banned?

The US Anti-Doping Agency tries to explain using jiggery-pokery. Cannabis may cause, “Increased risk taking, slower reaction times and poor executive function or decision making.” If anything, these effects would diminish an athlete’s performance, particularly at the Olympic level. A slow reaction time coming off the starting blocks in a sprint race could mean the difference between first and last place. They also claim that using illicit drugs (ironically legal in Oregon where the Olympic trials were held), “Is not consistent with the athlete as a role model for young people around the world”.

So, smoking some weed, legally, after the death of one’s mother serves as a bad role model. But turning away from the American flag during the playing of the national anthem, as hammer thrower Gwen Berry did, is perfectly fine, serving as an exemplary role model for young athletes. Not to mention a series of racist tweets from her past. Jiggery-pokery. (I’d like to see a young Chinese or Russian athlete turn their back on their national anthem and see how well it plays.)

Third is transgender New Zealand weightlifter, Laurel Hubbard. A successful male weightlifter until age 35, Hubbard now identifies as a female and the Olympic committees think it is perfectly fair that he competes against biologic women. Guys outlift gals by over 20 percent meaning that the guy who identifies as a gal is a lock for a medal.

Talk about performance enhancement. This makes Lance Armstrong’s blood doping look like child’s play. Missing a few random doping tests or smoking a joint is disqualifying but growing up as a male, muscles, and bones bathed in testosterone during puberty, is not a performance enhancement? Jiggery-pokery.

Finally, the woke media overlook the obvious racism and sexism at play here. Two Black female athletes, one reaching the pinnacle of feminist virtue by having an abortion, are denied their earned spots on the US Olympic team. Yet a White guy, now a gal, is given a pass.

CNN and MSNBC should be outraged. The DOJ should be investigating these civil rights violations rather than indicting Trump executives who received generous perks and fringe benefits from their magnanimous boss.

If anything, this confirms that transgenderism sits higher on the intersectionality and victimhood totem pole compared to being female or Black. At least for now, until some other self-assigned characteristic trumps gender identity.

The Olympic organizers have made clear who their sacred cows are and who gets tossed to the back of the bus. But their arbitrary decisions suggest the Olympic motto of “faster-higher-stronger” should be condensed into one word, “woker.”  Olympic jiggery-pokery.

Brian C Joondeph, MD, is a physician and writer. He is on sabbatical from social media.

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