A secret investigation sent shock waves across the sports world yesterday, when it revealed that the Special Olympics, one of the nation's premier annual athletic competitions, is fixed.
According to the undercover probe, hundreds and possibly thousands of participating athletes have been declared "winners" over the years, despite losing their respective contests, often by wide margins.
"I don't think there's anything 'winning' or 'special' about finishing in eighth or ninth place," chief investigator Harlan Brundage said. "Do these kids think they're winners just because they tried? Just because they gave it their all? Well, let me tell you, trying doesn't make you a winner. Coming in first does."
An estimated 15,000 athletes participated in the Special Olympics this year, and, according to Special Olympics awards records, every one of them was declared a "winner."
According to Brundage, all Special Olympians will be stripped of their medals and held for questioning, pending a thorough investigation. Several Special Olympics officials and judges are also being detained.
Evidence of the massive scandal first came to light June 17, during a Special Olympics competition in Milpitas, CA. Marcy Simms, a 27-year-old gymnastics contestant, was declared a winner in the individual competition, despite falling off the two-foot-wide balance beam some 11 times and failing to execute even a single cartwheel.
Upon finishing the routine, Simms raised her arms above her head and cheered in triumph. Her parents then raced over to hug and kiss her, sharing in their daughter's "victory."
"When we saw Marcy celebrating, we were immediately suspicious of corruption," Brundage said. "Her routine was terrible—what could she possibly have been so happy about?"
Gymnastics judge Olga Rublovskya, a bronze medalist at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, agreed.
"I would have to give this performance of Marcy's a 0.0," Rublovskya said. "The routine was not very good at all."
The scope of the scandal widened at this year's Harwich, MA Special Olympics, where Jeff Coombs, 32, was awarded a medal in the 40-yard dash competition despite coming in fifteenth out of 15 competitors.
Following the race, an investigator asked Coombs if he realized how poorly he fared, to which Coombs replied, "I'm special! I'm a winner!"
When the investigator countered that Coombs was neither special nor a winner, but rather an exceptional failure who finished in dead last place, Coombs vehemently maintained his specialness.
"These are substandard athletes at best," Brundage said. "Why they are competing in something called the Olympics is a question we must answered. I promise a full investigation."
The scandal has also resulted in a loss of revenue for the Special Olympics Committee. Reebok and Toshiba, the event's two largest sponsors, have announced they are pulling out, and Pepsi is expected to follow.
"It is in Reebok's best interest at this time to put our money behind the 1996 Atlanta Games, where the athletes have proven their ability to run, jump and catch," said Marvin Balsam, Reebok Director of Marketing, explaining his company's decision to shift $158 million from the Special Olympics to the Atlanta Games. "Until we see more physical skill from these Special Olym-pians, we have no choice but to spend our sponsorship dollars elsewhere."