Faster, Higher, Sillier

Stop the presses. The International Olympic Committee may have learned what the words “common sense” mean.

Well, to a degree, anyway. This is the IOC we’re talking about.

For those who missed it, master gold-grabber Michael Phelps nearly had his medals stripped from him this week by the Olympic powers-that-be. Painful for any athlete, this would have been horrific for the all-time record holder, the most decorated Olympian in history.

So what did he do? Was he caught sneaking a joint? Did he fix a race, dope his blood, make a lewd proposition to Prince William’s wife?

No, no, no and no.

Instead Mr. Phelps, to the horror of red-blooded Olympic bureaucrats everywhere, appeared in an ad that … that … (gasp) did not involve an official sponsor of the 2012 London Games.

I’ll give you a moment to recover from the fainting spell.

That’s right. In photos leaked before the end of the Games, Phelps was seen advertising for fashion house Louis Vitton. In an act of magnanimity, Olympic officials decided that Phelps had no control over when those pictures would be released, and thus would not have to give his medals back under IOC Rule 40.

How generous. How kind.

And how come his medals were at stake at all?

Make no mistake, I understand that the Olympic Games have become big business. It’s been reported that the Games cleared over 1 billion pounds (that’s over $1.5 billion) in sponsorship revenue. Ads are no less vital for the athletes, many of whom depend on endorsements to see any kind of income at all from their sport.

Without some sort of exclusive guarantee, the money stays away. I get that. But let’s not forget what this is.

This is an athletic competition.

Medals aren’t based on your looks, your income or even how nice a guy you are. (And let’s face it, all of us can remember some real stinkers who brought home gold.) They’re based on what you did on the field, on the court, in the pool.

And they should only be taken away for the same reason.

If you cheated, if you doped, if you somehow compromised the competition, then by all means strip the medal. I’ll cheer the IOC on as they do it.

But this is just stupid.

I’m guessing the IOC wanted a threat that would get people’s attention. Well, they got it. Now it’s time to get a clue, too.

Levy fines. Big ones if it seems necessary. This was a monetary offense, so it should get a monetary payback.

But if you start invalidating on-the-field performances to feed the cash cow, people will start questioning the purpose of the Games in the first place. Is this for the glory of sport? Or simply the glory of McDonald’s?

Please don’t answer that. I’m not sure I want to know.

The IOC finally reached the right decision. Now it needs to reach the right reasoning as well. Review Rule 40. Please. And make the changes common sense requires.

Otherwise, we’ll be forced to conclude that Phelps wasn’t the only one going off the deep end.