The Year I Was Banned from the Olympic Games (The Highs and Lows of Living with Diabetes #5)

1972 was a big year for me–the year of the Olympic Games, and I was participating.

I was 12 years old and won 27 gold medals. At least I should have.

The other competitors, Tim Ward, age 11, and Jeff Ward, age 10, competed too. The events all took place in my backyard, garage, basement, and around our neighborhood on Matson Avenue. I designed and crafted each of the gold, silver, and bronze medals by cutting pieces of cardboard into circles, coloring them with the appropriate crayons, punching small holes in the tops, and looping pieces of string through the holes. I draped all the medals on one of my dad’s ladders that hung in our garage. As each event concluded, the top three athletes met in the garage and stood atop boxes at different levels to receive our cardboard medals. I played the National Anthem on my cassette player.

It’s true. I had a decided advantage over Tim and Jeff because of my superior athletic skills. The fact that I planned all the events helped too.

There were the usual events, such as weight lifting, 100-yard dash, marathon (once around the block), cycling (I was the only one with a 10-speed), high jump (using all of the pillows and cushions in the house as a landing mat), and discus throw (amazingly, we broke only one of mom’s plates). Then we had some “unconventional” events. These were sports I was particularly good at or ones I knew Tim and Jeff couldn’t do well. Like chess. Air hockey. Bumper pool. (I had an air hockey and bumper pool table in my bedroom). Algebra (the Ward brothers hadn’t gotten that far in math yet). Against Tim’s protests, we didn’t have the football or baseball throw. Tim was a pitcher and could throw a ball a mile. I did give in to the one-on-one basketball tournament and because of it I got my one silver medal.

About a week into the competition, I couldn’t be caught in the medal race. Tim had a bunch of silver medals and Jeff had a ton of bronze. This is when “the scandal” began. Jeff said I had to submit to drug testing. He claimed he had incontrovertible evidence that I had been shooting up.

He was right. I took insulin shots twice a day. I had been diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes a year earlier. Jeff said he and Tim had all the evidence necessary to prove I had an unfair advantage because of the “performance-enhancing drugs” I was taking. They had seen me taking shots, they had found broken syringes in our garbage can, and noticed my markedly improved performance after eating what looked like sugar cubes.

The urine samples I was forced to provide were unnecessary. My diabetes was no secret–I had told them about it so they could understand why I sometimes had to stop playing to eat some sugar. I tried as hard as I could to convince the Ward brothers that insulin wasn’t a drug and that it gave me no advantage in our competitions. I showed them the pamphlets I had received from the hospital. I had my mom testify on my behalf. I provided an official statement from my doctor. The Ward brothers weren’t convinced. It was put to a vote; I lost two to one. I was suspended for life from the Matson Avenue Olympic Games and stripped of all my medals.

I was devastated. For about two days, when baseball season started and my knothole league allowed me to play. In my first at bat, I hit a line drive up the middle, knocking Tim to the ground. I laughed when I reached first base, where I promptly ate a sugar cube and stole second base.


See the rest of the posts in my series about the Highs and Lows of Living with Diabetes HERE.

So glad you got the last laugh :)

Lol, loved the blog. I’m a cyclist, I wear my pod on my arm sometimes and gave gotten comments about “doping”. It comes with being an athlete. Keep blogging

Thanks, Daniel. Anyone who would see a pod and associate that with doping is, well, a dope! :) I often wear my pod on my upper arm, under my jersey sleeves, so it's unseen. But I DO really like the pod over the tubed pumps because I CAN wear it on my arm without worrying about the tube and finding somewhere to attach the pump. Keep riding!

I’m a huge omnipod fan. Successfully converted a friend from metronic. I don’t mind when people see my pod usually they ask if it’s for nicotine or performance on the bike. I use it as a platform to educate them about diabetes.

I was having breakfast the other day at a local diner and I wear my Dexcom sensor on my upper arm - the pod is generally hidden under my bra. An elderly man walked up to me and said "do you mind if I ask you something ?" I said no and he said - is that a continuous glucose monitor ? I told him yes it was and he explained he had been T1 for 50 years and his doctor was recommending that he get one. I was floored because normally when people ask it's "what is that on your arm ?"
I haven't worn the pod on my arm too much, but if people ask I usually say something like "it's required as part of my prison release program - or it's my GPS".

I love it, Claire! It's my GPS. :0 I'll use these, and don't be surprised if this and others end up in a blog post sometime! :) I wonder what other funny lines people have to explain their pods and infusion sets?

There are a bunch more here

Awesome story, MikeMac!