Travelers Welcome

Travelers Welcome

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Modern Olympian Ode #8 (1960): If I'm Lyin', I'm Dyin'

by Michael Ceraolo

I don't know if this particular idiom
translates very well into Danish,
but it translated into the life
of one Danish Olympian

August 26, 1960
The first event of the Rome Olympics
for which medals would be given
would be the hundred-kilometer
team time-trial road cycling,
four cyclists to a team,
three of whom must finish the race
for the team to have a qualified time

One of the Danish cyclists
had dropped out early in the race
A photo shows two teammates
holding up a third teammate
so he can finish the race,
for the cyclists were well into the race
and the Danes were just out of medal position
(the rules in force at the time
allowed only teammates to help)

But the cyclist,
Knud Enermark Jensen,
to the pavement out of consciousness at first
and a few hours later out of this life,
the first,
             and so far the only,
                                           Olympian to die
on the day he or she competed,
and people wanted to know why

The Danish team trainer would say
that he had given the cyclists,
with their knowledge and approval,
the drug Roniacol,
which would improve circulation in the legs
during the course of the long race
but could cause the blood pressure to bottom out
(an autopsy was done by the Italian authorities
claiming sunstroke as the cause of death,
though the report was never made public
and later 'mysteriously' disappeared)

Years later,
amphetamine use would also be acknowledged,
and a sinister synergy between that,
the side effects of the Roniacol,
and the summer heat
would be accepted as the true cause of death

No better living through chemistry on this day

1 comment:

  1. Dying for a medal, literally, is certainly a high price to pay. I certainly hope the rules stating that only teammates can help have been changed! Although this is a sad poem, it is always a pleasure to read and learn about historical events from Ceraolo's well crafted poetry.