Monday, June 30, 2014
By Jay Unver
(Lehrton, MS) Despite a hush, hush approach-- there was never an official announcement of the charges or the date of the hearing-- Zane Hodge appeared before an Association of Sports Swimmers Disciplinary Board Monday morning in the presence of local citizens of a spate of news reporters. Noticeably absent were rival Randy Beets and legal counsel for the accused. The normally upbeat Hodge looked somber, tense, and tight lipped as he entered the Big ASS Endurance Training Center in downtown Lehrton wearing his best blue suit and sporting shined shoes. Once inside, Hodge ignored reporters’ questions and made his way to the conference hall.
Inside the Hall, things moved quickly. After spitting out his snuff, Jim Bob Dugan sang the national anthem, Barney Bob Smutt said a prayer, and Dr. Timothy Nomann called the Board to order.
“The charges,” Nomann read between swigs of an unknown liquid, “are charge one: one count of use of an illegal substance in a Big ASS swim, and charge two: one count of breaking pool rules by taking a photograph inside the Biloxi Natatorium. These offenses allegedly occurred on the respective dates of June 14, during the Chicot Challenge, and June 24 at a training session in the city of Biloxi, Mississippi. How do you plead. Mr. Hodge?”
Hodge responded: “Charge one, not guilty, and charge two, guilty.”
There was a minor buzz that wafted through the room when Hodge said, “Guilty.”
The illegal substance charge stemmed from an allegation by Randy Beets that during the Chicot Challenge Hodge was consuming a drink he called “Rocket Fuel,” a mixture of Gatorade, Red Bull, and a white powder that Hodge refused to identify. Nomann then called for the lab report and the bailiff handed him a large, sealed, manila envelope.
“According to the lab report,” Nomann said after opening the envelope and extracting the paper work inside, “the white powdery substance seized from Mr. Hodge’s home by Lehrton County sheriff deputies on the morning of June 16 is creatine. Since creatine is a legal supplement in all Big ASS Endurance events, I find you not-guilty on charge one, and I ratify your world record swim at the Chicot Challenge.”
“Concerning charge two, you plead guilty. Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
“Heck yeah I have something to say for myself,” a now animated Hodge responded. “It was Randy Beets who told me about the Biloxi Natatorium. I should have known there was a catch. He never said anything about rules. The woman who checked me in at the pool never said anything about rules. While I swam, the bleachers filled with women who all had visible cell phones. You know cell phones all have cameras. What was to make me think I was doing anything wrong by taking a picture of the pool. There was nobody in the photo I snapped, only the pool. Heck, they ought to reward me for giving them free publicity. This whole thing is nothing but sour grapes from Randy Beets because I broke all his pool records there.”
Nomann paused and seemed to ponder the merits of Hodge’s arguments. After a few seconds he said, “Rules are rules and though no harm may have been done, ASS athletes are expected to maintain the highest moral standards. You are a representative of Big ASS Endurance everywhere you go and at all times. I hereby find you guilty and sentence you to a two week competition suspension. Your pool records at the Biloxi Natatorium will stand, however. This hearing is adjourned.”
With that, Nomann struck the gavel and slowly the crowd began to filter out of the building, a red-faced Hodge among them. I caught up with stunned swimmer just before he made his way out the building entrance door.
“What do you have to say?” I shouted, sticking a microphone in his face. Slowly his eyes refocused and he looked at me with a mien that can only be described as murderous.
“I’ll get that Beets if it’s the last thing I do!” a furious Hodge exploded.
“A two week suspension now is really not a big deal. I mean, there are no major competitions this knocks you out of, so it’s really just symbolic,” I offered trying to calm him down.
“Symbolic!?!? I was set to go the UK and race Annabel Lavers! This stupid revenge stuff of Beets just cost me a trip to England. I’ll get that Beets if it’s the last thing I do. I will!!!”
And with that, Hodge made his way out the door, to his truck, and like so many before him, he burned a tire while pulling out of the parking lot.