Five-Ring Circus

A Field Guide to Olympians Who Really, Really Hate Their Bosses

American skater Maria Lamb competes during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 19, 2014.

Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images

Over the last few weeks, Sochi has become a hotbed of dissent. Not political dissent, mind you—that’s still being suppressed with horsewhips. Rather, Sochi is full of athletes who hate their bosses. All over the Olympic Village, various competitors have voiced their displeasure with the federations that supervise their sports, blasting those bodies for mismanagement, poor financial support, and general idiocy. Which athletes are angriest, and are their complaints justified? Read on and find out!

U.S. speedskaters vs. US Speedskating: American speedskaters have had their worst Olympics ever, and their terrible performance has exposed a rift between the athletes and the federation that supports them. In a recent interview, Maria Lamb, who finished dead last in the women’s 5000 meters, ripped US Speedskating, claiming that the organization is hampered by “leadership that’s really just systematically not listened to athletes,” and has really bad taste in futuristic racing suits.

Merit score: It seems cheap for the American skaters to blame anyone but themselves for their abysmal performance in Sochi. But the fact that every single skater underachieved makes you think that the organizational chaos is real, and that it has had a real effect on how the skaters train and prepare. We’ll give the speedskaters an 8 out of 10.

“Team Outcast” vs. the Australian Olympic Committee: Australian snowboarders Jarryd Hughes, Belle Brockhoff, Scotty James, and Torah Bright think they don’t get nearly enough support from the Australian Olympic Committee. This foursome has been calling themselves “Team Outcast” as a way to protest how the AOC allegedly supports some Olympians—like snowboarder Alex “Chumpy” Pullin—while leaving others to fend for themselves. Before the games began, James said, “We’re not part of a team and we are not helped along the way in our journey to the games or any other events.” This week, Brockhoff’s father released a statement blasting the federation for its cheapness and noting “anger and disgust among the Australian snowboard cross community” at the way Team Outcast had allegedly been treated.

Merit score: Bright is a celebrity who can support herself, to be clear, but the other Australian Outcasts aren’t quite as fortunate. I’m not sure what to think here, but I will note that Alex “Chumpy” Pullin failed to medal, so if the AOC is indeed unfairly favoring some athletes over others, well, the strategy appears to be ineffective. 5 out of 10 for the Aussies.

U.S. bobsledders vs. the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Federation: Some American bobsledders have blasted their federation for allegedly putting marketing ahead of merit when choosing which athletes to send to Sochi. When USBSA named track star and famous person Lolo Jones to its Winter Olympic squad, some longtime bobsledders protested. This week, American bobsledder Charles Berkeley, who competed for the United States in Vancouver but did not make the squad for Sochi, fanned the flames when he told the Associated Press that “There are athletes who deserve to be there who are not there, on the women’s and the men’s sides. And you have to ask yourself why is that the case. What is wrong with the selection process? Why is it flawed? Why is it corrupt?”

Merit score: You can certainly empathize with athletes who become upset when they work hard, only to be passed over. But it’s not as if anyone else would have done that much better than Jones on the third-string American sled. Jones and her partner may have finished in 11th place, but they had the fifth-fastest average push times during the first two heats. (And as Slate’s Ben Blatt has established, the first two heats in bobsled are really the only heats that matter.) USBSF may have had an ulterior motive for choosing Jones, but that doesn’t mean Jones was unqualified to be there. Plus, the USA has won five combined medals in bobsled and skeleton thus far. If this federation is doing a terrible job, we should all be so terrible. 2 out of 10 for the bobsledders.

Read the rest of Slate’s coverage of the Sochi Olympics.