'Tainted' Medal Could Mean Fewer Dollars Medal Controversies Could Cost Athletes in Endorsements

By Spak, Kara | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 26, 2004 | Go to article overview

'Tainted' Medal Could Mean Fewer Dollars Medal Controversies Could Cost Athletes in Endorsements


Spak, Kara, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Kara Spak Daily Herald Staff Writer

When Paul Hamm flipped from the high bar in the gymnastics all- around competition Aug. 18, he flopped into one of the summer's great debates.

Hamm's gold medal - the first for a U.S. male in the all-around competition - would have been silver if not for judges wrongly scoring South Korean gymnast Yang Tae-Young's high bar performance.

The International Gymnastics Federation admitted the mistake but refused to strip Hamm of his medal or award Yang a gold of his own.

Is Hamm the rightful gold-medal winner? Should the champion have offered to exchange gold for silver? And by not doing that, what has this controversy cost him?

The water-cooler debate hasn't dismounted in the week since Hamm's win.

Randy Cohen, author of "The Ethicist" column for the New York Times Magazine, said the gymnastics judges made a mistake and should now correct it.

"It is really akin to a clerical error," Cohen said. "It's easily corrected and it should be corrected."

But Hamm, 21, shouldn't necessarily be the one to fix it and shouldn't be pressured to give up his gold, Cohen said.

"Hamm in his heart of hearts believes he won," he said. "He has no moral compulsion to do anything."

Though he may not morally have to act, his every action in the wake of his win is being scrutinized by advertising executives.

Gold medals are worth far more than their weight for Olympic athletes in the so-called "glamour" sports of gymnastics, figure skating, track and field and swimming.

The earning potential for athletes like women's gymnastics all- around champion Carly Patterson can "exceed seven digits," said Keith Kreiter, president and CEO of Edge Sports International, a sports management firm in Skokie.

Kreiter represents Athens Olympic gold medalist Lovieanne Jung, a second baseman on the gold medal-winning U.S. woman's softball team.

"A gold medal to a bronze medal is like comparing the Ritz to a Best Western," Kreiter said. …

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