The U.S. Olympic Committee apologized to four cyclists who arrived at the Beijing Olympic Games in August wearing pollution-prevention masks.
On September 14, the U.S. Olympic Committee Chief Jim Scheer apologized to the four Olympic track cyclists who came under intense scrutiny for their decision to don the masks. In a letter obtained by the Chicago Tribune, Scheer stated that the committee had mishandled the incident. This letter comes a week after the cyclists wrote their own letter to the committee, demanding them to apologize and stating that the event caused them to be "publicly berated and harassed."
After months of speculation over the air quality in the notoriously polluted Beijing, when several cyclists walked off their flights Aug. 5 at the Beijing International Airport wearing masks, they made front page news.
They were also heavily criticized by the U.S. Olympic Committee, among others, who said they were embarrassing their host country. This came as a shock to the cyclists, who had been given the masks by the U.S. Olympic Committee, and had been told to wear them by the committee's lead exercise physiologist. One of the cyclists, Mike Friedman, told The New York Times:
"When you train your whole lives for something, dot all your i's and cross your t's, why wouldn't you rather be safe than sorry? They have pollution in Los Angeles, and if the Olympics were in Los Angeles we would probably wear these masks, too."