Athletic Number Theory

Athletic number-theory

In the 2002 World Athletic Championships, in the 100meter sprint for women, three female runners came in 1st, 2nd and 3rd, as they are wont to in such races and duly received the gold, silver and bronze medals for their performances, waving happily from the podium.
A year later, the receiver of the gold tested positive for doping. So number two duly got the gold, number three the silver and number four, who got nothing, the bronze. Six months later, however, the original number two, now one, also tested positive. So the new number two was awarded the gold, the new number three the silver, and the new number four, who had received less than nothing, the bronze.
And now, yes you guessed it, the new number one, originally number three, has also tested positive. So the original number four has the gold, five the silver, and six the bronze.
As there were 8 finalists, after only two more positive tests, the one who came last will have the bronze. But after three more positive tests, the two who came fifth in the two semi-final heats, thus not qualifying for the finals, will jointly have to be awarded the bronze.
And all this just before the 2004 championships, where, one assumes, everyone will be on some new drug hoping not to be exposed.
Those radiantly happy smiles we see from the podium, are not the result of having won, but of not having been caught.

Howard Gamble
Alonissos, Greece, 2004

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