As many of you have undoubtedly heard by now, bridge – the last pure sport in America and beyond – has been rocked by a drug scandal of Cansecoian proportions.
Geir Helgemo, the world’s No. 1 bridge player, recently was given a one-year ban after testing positive for synthetic testosterone and the female fertility drug clomifene at the 2018 World Bridge Series in Orlando, Florida.
The 49-year-old Norwegian, currently serving prison time for tax fraud, could not be reached for comment.
(Man, the game’s top performer is part Bill Romanowski, part Wesley Snipes and part Al Capone; that is one tough sport.)
Okay, let’s get a few particulars out of the way for those of you not bridge-fluent:
Bridge is a card game played by two teams of two partners each who sit around a table, rather reminiscent of the National Security Council minus the national security concerns.
I love trumping an opponent’s high card, I love establishing long suits and I love putting others on tilt by talking about reduced Medicare benefits.
Indeed, bridge – like Metamucil – is very, very popular among seniors.
The average age of a U.S. bridge player is 71, or four years younger than anyone reading this column in a print newspaper while sipping a cup of Sanka with “CBS This Morning” in the background.
Okay, but why would any bridge player be compelled to seek an unfair advantage?
People, people, people, let’s remember the first rule of sports:
If there is something to win, someone is going to cheat.
Heck, don’t you remember James Bond in “Moonraker” stacking the deck to win £15,000 playing bridge against arch villain Hugo Drax?
And, frankly, I’ve always suspected that Scrabble pros, like Tour de France cyclists, are doping big-time.
As it were, a few years back the World Anti-Doping Agency detected a prohibited substance in 1.1 percent of billiards players, 3.6 percent of bridge players and 10.6 percent of professional anglers.
Anglers? First of all, fishing – like deer hunting – is not a fair fight. And, apparently, it’s not enough that anglers reel in these living creatures from their natural habitats for sport or dinner – sometimes using illegal lures – but they’re also all hyped up on recreational stimulants. Moby Dick never stood a chance.
Hey, even pétanque – pétanque! – has been rocked by charges of artificially induced feats. In January, two top Dutch players claimed that two Belgian players took cocaine midgame. “They go to the toilet,” Dutch standout Edward Vinke said, “and do not throw a wrong ball when they come back.”
WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO?
On the other hand, I am proud to report that poker, bowling and golf generally do not attract performance-enhancing tonics. Rather, on the day of competition, rounders, bowlers and golfers generally engage in mood-enhancing pleasures.
Poker: Old school – whiskey. Young guns – weed.
Bowling: Beer. Duh.
Golf: Those effete pinky drinkers wait until “the 19th hole” to empty out the top-shelf spirits from their country club bar.
So let me emphatically implore the World Bridge Federation in the wake of Bridgegate:
Clean up your game.
I don’t mind illegal hand signals or footsie under the table between partners, but clomifene? Geez.
Like most other kids in my neighborhood, all I dreamt of growing up was being a contract bridge professional. It was cutthroat back in the day – everyone wanted to be the next Charles Goren – but I never took anything stronger than a Yoo-hoo.
Ask The Slouch
Q. Could there be a tinge of jealousy in your all-out, out-of-touch attack on Dave Portnoy and Barstool Sports? (Dale Phillips; Tucson, Ariz.)
A. Oh, sure – I wake up every day (usually a little after 12 noon) tinged with jealousy over Barstool’s foul, misogynistic, offensive runaway success.
Q. What happened to your Lakers? (Bruce Levine; Albany, N.Y.)
A. Just because I live in L.A. doesn’t make them my Lakers any more than just because I lie on the beach makes it my Pacific Ocean. They were LeBron’s Lakers – he’s been fine; everyone else stinks.
Q. I understand cheating to gain admission to a top college, but USC? (Mitchell Shapiro; Rockville, Md.)
A. As my dad – UCLA ’48 – often reminds me, USC stands for the University of Spoiled Children.
Q. We lost an hour last week to Daylight Savings Time – does that explain the fact that you answered only one Ask The Slouch question? (Pat Fitzgerald; Colorado Springs)
A. You cannot rush genius.
Q. Is the fact that part of the university admissions bribery scandal was using student-athlete slots for those who wouldn’t be participating in sports the yin to the yang of athletes who wouldn’t be participating in studying? (Duke Taylor; Springfield, Va.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!
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