Today it is a 'few'members of the United States cycling squad who arrived at the Olympic Games wearing black respiratory masks, apparently concerned over reports of unhealthy levels of air pollution in Beijing. (Duh!)
About half a dozen members of the team, male and female, were pictured wearing close-fitting face masks covering nose and mouth as they went through Beijing airport. One was identified as Mike Friedman, a track cyclist who competes indoors.
"I suspect it was their choice, you would have to talk to them as to what prompted them to do this," said Darryl Seibel, chief communications officer of the US Olympic Committee.
"I will say this: I am not a scientist, but in my view that was unnecessary."
A cycling official tried to play down the incident which some Chinese may see as provocative.
"I don't believe there was any statement trying to be made," said USA cycling spokeswoman Andrea Smith. (Fashion statement perhaps . . .Michael Jackson eat your heart out!)
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said athletes have the right to express their opinions, but should not do so in the athletes' village or the sports venues.
Beijing's pollution has been a cause for concern for athletes heading for the Games, which begin on Friday. The IOC has said there was no reason for alarm. Its medical commission chief, Arne Ljungqvist, said the air quality did not pose problems to athletes or visitors unless they had a specific condition such as asthma.
"I would not say that those (people) should not carry protection devices if they so feel, but I honestly doubt about the efficiency... unless they are carrying a new generation of masks, I don't know."
The main causes of irritation in pollution such as that in Beijing is PM 2.5 particles which may damage the lungs and may also be able to seep into the bloodstream, while high ozone levels can trigger asthma and other breathing problems in young and old. Not super fit, aerobically superior athletes who are there for 2 weeks!
Now take a leaf out of Aussie Rower James Tomkins' book. . .he has double the lung capacity of most athletes and will be sucking in twice as much Beijing smog . . .is he wearing a face mask and being all precious about a little pollution . . hell no! We grow 'em tough here!