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August 17, 1998
College Baseball Low-Flying Bats
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August 17, 1998


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1998: Massive ingestion of diuretics helps four Chinese women swimmers pass performance enhancers through their systems more quickly.

The diuretics show up in test at worlds in Perth; swimmers suspended. Days earlier another Chinese swimmer, Yuan Yuan, had been sniffed out by airport dog named Dinky and found with 13 vials of human growth hormone in her bag.

1994: British shot-putter Paul Edwards tests positive for drugs, including clenbuterol, a masking agent commonly used to fatten cattle.

Edwards hospitalized for stomach ailment. Doctors discover he had tried to flush his system by consuming water and liver salts.

1980s: Soviet athletes from various sports popularize use of catheters through which clean urine could be injected into their bladders.

The catheter has to be coated with antibiotics, to cut high risk of infection, and with a local anesthetic, to cut the 100% chance of excruciating pain.

1978: Belgian cyclist Michel Pollentier of Belgium straps a bag of clean urine to his armpit and uses a tube to drip the urine from under his shorts into the collection cup.

Tour de France officials become suspicious during collection of sample when Pollentier begins pumping his elbow in and out as if playing bagpipes.

College Baseball
Low-Flying Bats

The argument over aluminum bats (SCORECARD, Jan. 12) has escalated beyond a purists-versus-innovators squabble and become fodder for another great American pastime: litigation. On Aug. 6 the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee recommended that metal bats be scaled back to perform more like their wooden cousins. A day later Easton Sports, the largest maker of nonwood bats, filed suit, charging unlawful restraint of trade and seeking $267 million in damages.

Coaches have long been alarmed by the effect that metal bats have on the game. These high-tech clubs can rocket balls back at pitchers at speeds of up to 115 mph, more than 20 mph faster than wood bats. They have led to a scoring orgy—USC beat Arizona State 21-14 in the 1998 College World Series championship game, for example—and a rash of injuries to pitchers.

If approved by the rest of the NCAA (a vote was to be held on Aug. 12), the rules committee proposals would mute the power of metal bats by requiring them to be heavier, with smaller barrels. The changes, scheduled to take effect next season, would force manufacturers to quickly retool to meet the demand of the 900 NCAA baseball schools.

Easton and its main competitors, Worth and Hillerich & Bradsby, may also be cringing at the effect the new rules would have on business. Those three companies, which have driven bat prices to more than $200 in the last year, have dominated the market by sinking cash into the bat technology race; with that race over, there would be little to stop smaller firms from getting into the game. "Prices will fall because there should be more competition," says Bill Thurston, the NCAA baseball rules editor. "Plus, they won't have to use those exotic metals anymore."

Beach Volleyball
At Least Players Got Some Sun

Two years after a successful Olympic debut, beach volleyball has come down harder than a Karch Kiraly kill. Two pro tours, the Women's Professional Volleyball Association and the men's and women's Bud Light Fours, have folded in the last five months, while the main men's circuit, the Association of Volleyball Professionals, has seen its attendance, sponsorship and prize money plummet.

Poor management is partly responsible for the sport's decline, but all along the tours have rested on foundations of sand. They were created not in response to fan interest but for corporate sponsors as hip marketing vehicles. Soon the truth was clear: Smacking around a volleyball is a helluva nice way to spend a summer's day, but like street luge and slo-pitch softball, it's far more fun for participants than spectators.

Cowboys Cutup
Michael Scissorhands?

We may never know if, as some Texas law-enforcement officials believe, All-Pro receiver Michael Irvin inflicted a two-inch cut in guard Everett McIver's neck with barber's scissors. The episode allegedly occurred on July 29 while several players were getting haircuts at the Dallas Cowboys' training camp in Wichita Falls, Texas. According to The Dallas Morning News, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones brokered a "high six-figure" settlement in which Irvin paid McIver not to bring criminal charges. Irvin dismissed the report; Jones denied that any deal was done; McIver refused to comment.

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