The apparent ringleader of the mask-wearing U.S. Cycling team had a life-threatening pulmonary embolism two years ago that severely damaged one of his lungs. However, Mike Friedman, 25, didn't use his medical condition as a defense of his decision to disembark in Beijing wearing a USOC-issued black mask.
The world is still abuzz over the U.S. Cyclists arrival this morning in China, clad in masks that appeared to make a statement about the smog in Beijing. Newspaper and websites worldwide have run pictures of the team walking through the Beijing Capital International Airport and reaction has been critical.
The New York Times reports that two of the cyclists wore the masks on the airplane, which makes sense since breathing recirculated air for ten hours is an easy way to catch a cold. The other two athletes didn't wear the masks on the plane, instead waiting until touchdown to don the black masks.
The masks were issued by the USOC and came with the recommendation that they should be worn on the plane and outdoors in Beijing. Despite this, the USOC is said to be angry with the riders for choosing to wear the masks indoors in plain view of the media.
Mike Friedman, one of mask-wearers, told The Times:
"This is really a surprise because I didn't think it was going to be such a big deal. Why we wore the masks is simple: pollution. When you train your whole life for something, dot all your I's and cross all your T's, why wouldn't you be better safe than sorry?"
It sounds like a valid statement until you consider that Friedman didn't address the main question: why they were wearing the masks inside? I mean, unless you're Jack Nicholson or Stevie Wonder, nobody wears sunglasses when they're not outdoors. So why wear a mask while walking through a well-ventilated airport? It's a decision that reeks of self-importance. When you're Jack Nicholson, that's OK, but not if you're Mike Friedman.
Photo via USOC