For The Record

News from the Field, January 1997

For The Record
By Todd Balf and Paul Kvinta

Heavens to Betsy!
With off-kilter eyes, a mottled coat of artificial fur, and the most imposing set of buckteeth this side of Billy Carter, Betsy Beaver may not be much to look at. But she has nonetheless become the darling of the American animal-rights movement. The 24-foot inflatable rodent returns home this month after a 15-nation campaign in Europe, where she was deployed to "urge" the continent's trade and environment ministers to ban the importation of fur from animals caught in leg traps. Betsy's handlers, three members of the Washington, D.C-based Animal Welfare Institute, say the trip was a success--but they do admit to a glitch or two. For instance, while cruising down the Champs d'Elysses on the back of a Fiat, Betsy was pulled over by gendarmes near the Arc de Triomphe. "They're totally uptight about bombings," says AWI's John Perry. "They hauled us in, searched us, and then made us sign papers promising not to overthrow the government."

You Say Penalty, I Say Opportune Respite
In a race marked by all manner of oddities--athletes trading punches during the swim, competitors engaged in sideline shouting matches with officials--perhaps it was no surprise that long shot Luc Van Lierde came away with the crown at last October's Hawaii Ironman. The 27-year-old Belgian ripped a course record 8:04:08 in his first Ironman-distance event, not only breaking Mark Allen's 1993 standard by three and a half minutes, but doing so after serving a three-minute penalty for drafting during the bicycle leg. Meanwhile, seven-time winner Paula Newby-Fraser, who decided to come out of retirement to avenge last year's collapse, also found herself in the penalty box with the marathon yet to come. "I kind of enjoyed it," says Newby-Fraser, who stretched, rehydrated, and even sat through a brief interview while being, um, punished. On relatively fresh legs, Newby-Fraser reeled in Natascha Badmann of Switzerland at mile 14 and ran the last hour alone, finishing in 9:06:49, nine minutes off the course record she set in 1992.

Just Spin, Baby
"The silver lining to this situation is that the Telluride Company has now set the highest of environmental standards," declares Mike Shimkonis, spokesman for the Colorado ski resort operator. OK, but what else can you really say when your outfit has agreed to pay $1.1 million in fines after drying out 70 acres of federally designated wetlands to make way for a golf course? After six years of wrangling, the company reached a settlement with Justice Department officials last October. Under the agreement, Telluride has also pledged to restore 16 acres of wetlands to make amends for its earlier landfilling. Still, local activists are not ready to embrace the repentant resort. Says Rocky Smith of the Colorado Environmental Coalition, "They've got an expansion plan now that requires the destruction of about eight acres of wetlands for new runs and lifts."Another squabble waiting to happen? Not really, says Shimkonis. "That's just a pot shot, because that acreage isn't environmentally sensitive," he maintains. "We intend to emerge from this episode as environmental leaders."

The Preferred Term Is "Chronologically Enhanced"
At the athletically ancient age of 38, French cyclist Jeannie Longo-Ciprelli continues to defy the odds. Last October, just 11 weeks after winning Olympic gold, Longo-Ciprelli captured the world championship in the women's time trial at Lugano, Switzerland, her 11th world title. Then, two weeks later, she added yet another achievement to her most successful year yet, breaking the women's one-hour world record in Mexico City. Longo-Ciprelli pedaled 29.92 miles, beating the mark of 29.46 set in 1995 by Great Britain's Yvonne McGregor. After the worlds, many speculated that Longo-Ciprelli would seize the opportunity to go out on top, but the feisty Frenchwoman was quick to quash such rumors. "This," she said of her victory, "could be just the first in the next set of ten."

More Spin, Baby
Attention channel surfers: Don't expect to find Marty Stouffer and his furry friends on the tube this year. In the wake of allegations that he staged scenes and mistreated animals (see "Marty Stouffer's Apocryphal America," Dispatches, June 1996), the Public Broadcasting Service on December 31 stopped airing Stouffer's Wild America, a network staple for 13 years. PBS maintains that the filmmaker's contract simply expired. "The allegations of impropriety have influenced nothing," says PBS spokeswoman Donna Williams. Nonetheless, a network consultant determined that if PBS ever decided to rerun the programs, several episodes would need "revisions," including "notification to viewers about the circumstances of the particular production." "That just means Marty needs to update shows with animals on the endangered species list that are no longer on that list," offers Stouffer spokeswoman Mary Ridings. "Listen, there's never been any animals tied up with fishing line, no pens, no gates, nothing that even hints of anything inappropriate."

Warning: This Sport May Be Safe
As the California legislature convenes this month, the skateboard industry will use some twisted political calculus to attempt the incomprehensible: to convince lawmakers that skateboarding is not dangerous, in order to get it officially listed as a Hazardous Recreational Activity. Huh, you say? Well, were skateboarding to make the list--which includes pursuits like tree-climbing and trampolining--cities would be shielded against liability lawsuits, allowing them to build the skateboard parks that they say they need to keep mischievous teens off the streets. "Liability has become a lucrative business," says Jim Fitzpatrick, executive director of the International Association of Skateboard Companies, the initiative's leading advocate. "That's why the only people opposing us are trial lawyers." To make the list, proponents must convince the legislature that injuries, while inherent to the sport, tend to be infrequent and not that severe. Interestingly, skaters themselves are only lukewarm to the idea. "Skateboarding definitely shouldn't be excluded from the list," says Kevin Thatcher, publisher of the skate magazine Thrasher. "But I'm afraid that the cities will then build a bunch of parks and outlaw skateboarding everywhere except in these isolated little cages."

See Also:
Ear to the Ground

Copyright 1997, Outside magazine

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