A Fond Adieu To Scotty Lago

Scotty Lago

Scotty Lago dedicated his bronze medal to injured teammates Kevin Pearce and Danny Davis. (Al Tielemans/SI)

Scotty Lago

Scotty Lago early Friday morning, courtesy of teammate Greg Bretz's Twitpic account. (Twitter @GregBretzz)

WHISTLER, British Columbia — First thing I thought when I saw the photos of U.S. snowboarder Scotty Lago that surfaced on TMZ: It’s a good thing he’s not Japanese — because all it took for Kazuhiro Kokubo’s home country to start freaking out on him was photos of his loosened tie and untucked shirt. Lago had his Team USA t-shirt pulled all the way up, and his bronze medal in the mouth of a girl who was mimicking something … perverse. Japan’s news wires would’ve melted down if that had been Kokubo’s medal.

After coming back to my hotel from the men’s free skate on Thursday, I saw the photo that Lago’s partner in crime, fellow U.S. snowboarder Greg Bretz, had posted to Twitter (displayed at right). It looked like Lago was having a grand old time with the bronze medal he’d won the previous night on the halfpipe — so much so that he could barely keep his eyes open.

To me, there was nothing shocking about that Twitpic. It was hilarious. You didn’t really expect a 23-year-old snowboard halfpipe star to behave himself on a night out in Vancouver after his medal ceremony, did you? When SI’s Sarah Kwak wrote about Lago’s bronze on Wednesday, he had even hinted about his post-halfpipe plans:

“You know, I’ve never partied with my family before,” Lago said thoughtfully. “My dad said he wanted to party. So, um, I’m definitely going to have to take that opportunity and party with him. … No holding back tonight.”

Apparently there was no holding back the next night, either. But when the TMZ photos hit the Web, U.S. officials were bound to overreact, and they did, having Lago issue a formal apology and “volunteer” to leave the Olympics:

Lago apologized to the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, which required athletes to attend a special ambassador program prior to the games to avoid potential publicity nightmares.

“Scotty Lago is a great athlete, but with that comes a responsibility of proper conduct, and his involvement in this situation is not acceptable,” said Association President and CEO Bill Marolt in a statement. “Scotty realizes his conduct was inappropriate. He has formally apologized and also made a decision to leave Vancouver today.”

Lago’s legacy, now that he’s gone from these Games, will be that of a bronze-medalist — and the first Olympic victim of the online paparazzo era, all for being nice enough to let a fan taste his hardware.

  • Published On Feb. 20, 2010 by lukewinn

    1. 2/22/10

      The snowboarding teams have come off as the Unsupervised Minors of the Olympics. Juvenile rowdiness and attitude is part of the sport’s culture, and it’d be the same if skateboarding somehow ever became a legitimate Olympic summer sport. What did people expect? It seems to be another unnecessary drama that’s surfaced in these games.

    2. 2/22/10

      Hey, ya think intoxicants of some kind might have been involved? Rather than blaming the “paparazzo era” how about some shout outs for personal responsibility and not losing control of one’s own wits?

      Was that taste of hardware the worst thing ever? No. But as Lago has learned, it was enough to punish him during what should have been one of the happiest weeks of his life. In retrospect, the reaction he got was hardly surprising. Maybe the reaction was way too “pc” but that’s the way it is in the Olympic spotlight. I wonder if he has any regrets or would he conduct himself exactly the same way again?

      Athletes and celebrities like Scotty Lago and Michael Phelps received an education that life post-Olympics might be slightly different. They need to know who their real friends are and protect themselves accordingly.

    3. 2/22/10

      Either way, he’s an amazing snowboarder. He couldn’t completely control what that girl was doing… To be honest I think most people his age would be pretty stoked if they won a medal in the Olympics, and would go celebrate :)

    4. 2/22/10

      I, for one, am not bothered about what he did, at least in relation to how the Olympic authorities think he should behave. Do they want to pretend that he didn’t do what he did? – or exclude him from future events because of it? … No, clearly. So what are they bothered about? The same thing as myself – that he may have behaved like a total knob-end. But what relation does that bear to the Olympics – surely we can make our own minds up, rather than being told what to think. For the record, I reckon he did behave like a total knob-end … which, in a free world, should be his right (and what about forgiveness of his youth?). I don’t need some didactic body of Olympic moral arbiters to tell me what I should think. As far as I’m concerned, they can suck my medal.

    5. christian

      HMM.. Well they are in Vancouver, gee i wonder what snowboarders could be doing in BC that wouldnt be so legal in the US…who cares he won an olympic medal, let him celebrate..

    6. drow

      IOC: “Congratulations, but don’t you dare express your happiness.”

      who’s the total dick in this scenario?

    7. TMZ sucks

      Man Screw TMZ for ruining everyone’s fun.

      And screw the olympics for taking this seriously.

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