bobsled

Getty Images

Steven Holcomb had pills, alcohol in system at death

1 Comment

Olympic bobsled champion Steven Holcomb had prescription sleeping pills and alcohol in his system when he was found dead last month, according to a toxicology report provided to his family and USA Bobsled and Skeleton.

Holcomb’s blood-alcohol level was found to be 0.188, well above the threshold for intoxication. He also had more than the typical dosage of the sleeping aid Lunesta in his system, and the report indicated that combination was fatal for the bobsledder who was found in his bed at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, N.Y., on May 6.

An initial autopsy last month showed that fluid in Holcomb’s lungs was a significant factor in his death, but no precise cause of death was revealed pending the toxicology report.

“We hold our memories of him close and are so proud of him, not only as an athlete but also as a person,” the Holcomb family said in a statement to USA Bobsled and Skeleton.

The investigation by Essex County Coroner Francis Whitelaw is now complete, according to U.S. bobsled officials. But it remains unclear if Whitelaw will ever release a final report, or if his process of putting that together was even completed. Whitelaw said Monday that he was prohibited from saying anything new pertaining to the slider’s death because Holcomb’s family threatened to sue.

Whitelaw shared the toxicology report with Holcomb’s family, as well as a draft of his planned press release to seek feedback and ensure accuracy. Holcomb’s family felt the draft “included speculation beyond the scope of the toxicology report and autopsy findings” and requested through an attorney that the release be withheld.

“Anyone who knew Steven knew what a private person he was despite being a public figure,” his family said. “Our intentions were to continue to respect his privacy, even in death.”

E. Stewart Jones, an attorney retained by the Holcomb family for the autopsy-release matter, said making the report public without a court order or permission of the family would be a violation of county and state law.

“The family wants to move forward. They want Steven to rest in peace and they want to be in peace,” Jones said.

The New York State Police also plan to release a report about Holcomb’s death, though what that will contain and when it is coming remain unknown.

The 37-year-old Holcomb was a three-time Olympic medalist, including a four-man gold medal for the U.S. at the 2010 Vancouver Games. He won two bronzes at the Sochi Games in 2014, and was a virtual lock to make his fourth Olympic appearance at PyeongChang next winter.

“Steven’s passing is a tragedy and we are devastated to lose him,” the Holcomb family said. “Steven was an amazing son and brother who was loved and cherished by his family, his friends, the bobsled community and all the communities he touched around the world.”

He was the biggest star USA Bobsled had, with 60 World Cup and 10 world championship medals in his collection. He spoke openly of his past battles with depression — including a suicide attempt — but also had many plans for the coming months, including sponsor appearances, a planned surprise visit to his mother and training sessions with U.S. teammates in Tennessee.

No other probes into Holcomb’s death are planned, his family said.

“I’m not a religious person, but spiritual, and I beg of the universe that this puts Steven’s passing to rest in a graceful and positive way,” said Stephanie Peterson, Holcomb’s sister.

His team is ready to start moving on as well. A team camp is set to begin later this month, and Holcomb will be inducted into the USABS Hall of Fame on July 1. U.S. officials waived the customary 10-year waiting period before former athletes are eligible for enshrinement.

“We’re still in shock and struggling to come to terms with our loss,” USABS CEO Darrin Steele said. “The sliding community is a tight-knit family, and we lost one of our brothers. The outpouring of support from around the world has helped us begin the process of healing, but his absence will be felt for years to come.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: ‘Our champion:’ Bobsledder Steven Holcomb’s life celebrated

‘Next Olympic Hopeful’ searches for new crossover Olympians

Getty Images
Leave a comment

DENVER (AP) — America’s got talent, and the leaders at the U.S. Olympic Committee are turning on the TV cameras to find it.

The quest for gold and America’s insatiable appetite for reality television are merging this summer with an Olympic scouting camp — titled “The Next Olympic Hopeful” — that will ultimately be packaged as part of a two-hour broadcast on NBCSN in August.

Instead of earning a final rose, eight athletes from an original cast of 100 will find themselves competing for spots on future U.S. Olympic teams.

“For a few years, we’ve been thinking a lot about talent transfer. High-level athletes around the country playing one sport or another who may not make it to the top of that sport,” said Alan Ashley, the USOC’s chief of sport performance. “This is a chance for them to look at Olympic sports, to transfer over and get involved.”

Lest we all start jumping off the couch and warming up, there are a few caveats:

— In the first phase of the project, the USOC is looking only for athletes for cycling, rugby and the sliding sports of bobsled and skeleton.

— The USOC is in search of “elite” athletes, and is focusing much of its attention toward college rosters.

— The individual sports have lofty requirements to even be considered for the initial tryout roster of 50 men and 50 women: For example, a rugby hopeful would need to squat around two times his or her weight for three repetitions; a man trying out for bobsled or skeleton would need to broad jump nearly 11 feet (at most NFL scouting combines, about a dozen players reach that distance).

The idea of crossover athletes at the Olympics nothing new, of course.

Patriots special teamer Nate Ebner is one of three players to wear NFL uniforms who went on to earn a spot on the U.S. rugby team in the reintroduction of that sport to the Olympics last year.

And track stars (see Lolo Jones), football players (see Herschel Walker) and people who do both (see Willie Gault) have long been crossing from their original sports to ride bobsled in the Winter Olympics.

But where the individual sports organizations and athletes were often left to discover each other on their own in the past, now they’ll get some institutional help from the USOC, which will host the 100 candidates at the Olympic Training Center in July for a week’s worth of workouts. They’ll be searching for eight athletes — one man and one woman for each of the four sports — to become eligible for financial, training and medical services as they prepare to compete for their spot on the Olympic team in their sport.

“It’s great the USOC is jumping into this,” said Darrin Steele, the CEO of USA Bobsled and Skeleton. “From Day 1, we said, ‘Hey, we’re perfect for it.’ We know it’s not a golden ticket onto the team. It’s a screening process. It’s throwing a very wide net and trying to appeal to athletes who might not realize what the possibilities are.”

Make it or not, they will get air time.

Team USA will feature the camps on its social websites. Then, NBCSN will swoop in with a two-hour recap of the action, complete with — of course — an announcement of the eight winners.

Steele says he’s not against using a bit of showbiz in the name of success.

“I don’t see it as an issue,” he said, “because the only way you make our team is if you’re able to help us win.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Mo Farah casts doubt on 2020 Olympics

‘Our champion’: Bobsledder Steven Holcomb’s life celebrated

AP
1 Comment

The sympathy cards came from places like Germany and Italy, where Steven Holcomb was their bobsled enemy. Mourners flew in from all across the country. Generations of Olympians packed a ballroom, sharing in grief.

They wept. They hugged. They laughed.

“Steven Holcomb was like no one else,” Olympic teammate Steven Langton said. “He was one of the finest to wear the red, white and blue.”

Sentiments like those came for hours Thursday in the tiny Olympic town of Lake Placid, N.Y., when friends and family gathered to celebrate the life of America’s most successful bobsled driver. The 37-year-old Holcomb was found dead in his sleep Saturday at the Olympic Training Center, the dorm where not only many of his teammates live but where the offices for USA Bobsled and Skeleton are housed.

“Steve was, and always will be, our champion,” said Tony Carlino, who manages the Mount Van Hoevenberg track where Holcomb dominated.

The celebration of Holcomb’s life was supposed to last an hour.

That proved impossible. Put simply, there was much to celebrate — including the 2010 Olympic four-man gold medal, which ended a 62-year drought for the U.S. in bobsled’s signature race, and a pair of bronze medals from the 2014 Sochi Games.

“I have no words to describe my sadness,” said International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation President Ivo Ferriani, who called Holcomb a brother in a recorded message. “The sadness is indescribable. We need to remember Stevie for what he gave to us all. … Stevie, you will stay always with us. I will never forget you, my friend.”

For the public memorial, hundreds of people packed a ballroom at a conference center attached to the same building where Lake Placid’s signature moment — the “Miracle on Ice” from the 1980 Winter Olympics — happened. Photos of Holcomb played on a loop on the electronic message board outside the arena. Local police officers shooed people away from nearby parking meters near the building, saying no one needed to worry about such things on this day.

“Steve’s one of the most passionate, humble souls I’ve ever known,” said a teary USA Bobsled head coach Brian Shimer, who considered Holcomb the younger brother he never had. “He looked you in the eyes. He engaged you. And he did that with every person who was drawn to him by his charm … and by his greatness.”

The public ceremony was preceded by a private, intimate one for family, teammates and close friends atop the track at Mount Van Hoevenberg, not far from the start line and overlooking the magnificent Adirondack Mountains in the distance. His sleds were displayed on either side of the medal podium, the same one he stood atop of plenty of times in his career.

The U.S. flag — the colors he wore as an Eagle Scout, as a member of the Utah Army National Guard, and as a bobsledder — was at half-staff, rippling in the crisp breeze. Speakers read passages from Winnie The Pooh, from Dr. Seuss, from the Bible. They told stories of how he was the ultimate teammate. They told stories of how he was the ultimate jokester.

His mother, Jean Anne, wore Holcomb’s gold medal from the Vancouver Games. His father, Steve, wore one of the bronze medals from the Sochi Games. His sisters both spoke, one of them wearing his other Olympic bronze from Sochi. Many teammates wore or carried “Superman” shirts, like Holcomb used to wear under his speed suit on race days.

“He was a boy when he came here,” said Holcomb’s father, also named Steve, who thanked Lake Placid for playing such a role in his son’s life. “And he was a man when he left.”

USA Bobsled and Skeleton CEO Darrin Steele has lost count of how many times in recent days he’s been asked about how the team will go on — especially with the Pyeongchang Winter Games looming in nine months — without Holcomb.

He doesn’t have an answer laden with specifics yet.

“As tough as it is, we have to,” Steele said, as he struggled to get the words out. “We have to continue his legacy and continue the work that he worked so hard to start. We owe it to him. We will push forward. We will find success again. He’s not the pillar of the organization any longer, but we are where we are because of Steven Holcomb.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: Holcomb’s winning runs at 2010 Olympics