Tom Jicha

Tom Jicha grew up in New York City and worked with John Pricci at the short-lived revival of the New York Daily Mirror. Tom moved to Miami in 1972 for a position in the sports department at the now defunct Miami News.

Tom became the TV critic in 1980 and moved to the South Florida Sun Sentinel in 1988. All the while he has kept his hand in sports, including horse racing. He has covered two Super Bowls, a World Series and the Breeders’ Cup at Gulfstream Park.

He's been the Sun Sentinel’s horse racing writer since 2007 as a staff member, and continues to this day as a free-lancer.

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Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Latest outrage makes Dubai unworthy of racing’s support

Dubai strives to project a cosmopolitan, sophisticated image during its annual carnival of racing. However, a recent event illustrated it is no different than other Neanderthal Middle East nations. A Norwegian businesswoman was raped, then sentenced to 16 months in prison for having sex outside marriage. As long as this barbaric, misogynistic attitude and accompanyng laws endure, racing should demonstrate that is has standards and a conscience by refusing to support the rulers by sending our finest racing talent to compete there.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, Aug. 7, 2013--I’ve never understood the American racing community’s support for Dubai and its Festival of Racing. The purse money might be other worldly but life and principles shouldn’t be dictated solely by just dollars and cents, no matter how many are at stake.

This is especially the case for owners and trainers of Jewish heritage. The sheiks might smile and glad-hand everyone on World Classic night. It’s just good business, especially when TV cameras are in range. But make no mistake, when they are behind closed doors, they are no different than many of their radical Middle East brethren when it comes to Israel and Jews. They despise both and would like to wipe them off the face of the earth.

They might have trusted Bobby Frankel with their prize thoroughbreds but if he had made a move on one of their daughters, the brute with the scimitar might have paid him a visit.

Dubai puts a polished sheen on the cosmopolitan desert city but compelling evidence that the ruling class is no different than other heads of state in the Middle East came recently in an outrageous incident involving a 24-year-old Norwegian woman, Marte Deborah Dalevl.

While in Dubai on a business trip, Dalevl was raped in her hotel room. There is no dispute about that.

She immediately reported the crime to hotel management and insisted she wanted to notify the authorities. According to several reports, she was warned by hotel officials, more familiar with the ways of their world than Dalevl, that this might not be the prudent course of action. Nevertheless, she persisted, as anyone in her position would have and should have.

The animal perpetrator was arrested and sentenced to 13 months in prison. But so was the victim. Dalevl was charged with having sex outside marriage, a crime in Dubai and much of the Middle East, an indication Dubai is no different than its Neanderthal neighbors. She was sentenced to 16 months in prison for her “crime.” In the misogynistic world of Dubai, being raped is a greater offense than being the rapist.

Outcries from Dalevl’s home nation and social media around the world managed to spring Dalevl from prison and get her safely out of the country. This was another business decision for Dubai.
But the law that brought this atrocity about endures. This means the same thing could happen to any woman in racing—owner, trainer, jockey, stable hand or TV commentator—who visits Dubai for the racing carnival.

Apologists might argue that every nation has the right to set its own laws. There also is a rich history of sports being above international politics.

Ping Pong diplomacy played a role in the thawing of relations between the U.S. and China.

At the hottest moments of the Cold War, athletes from America and the Soviet Union met regularly in all manner of competition. Their meets became the backbone of ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

However, in none of these instances were any of the athletes in peril of being savagely violated, then thrown in prison for the crime of being a victim.

These laws could be stricken with a stroke of a pen by the sheiks, who parade so proudly on World Classic night. They don’t have to answer to a Congress or Parliament. They run the nation with dictatorial authority. If they want Dubai to be viewed as a world class city and state, it’s mandatory that they start behaving like one. That they have not done so erases the camouflage that Dubai is different from any of the other nations in the Middle East.

Until they do so, all of racing should treat Dubai as just another barbaric nation to be shunned, no matter the cost.

Imagine Coney Island without Nathan’s, Las Vegas without buffets or Saratoga without mineral water.

The latter actually happened last Sunday. The Big Red Spring in Saratoga’s backyard stopped pumping the famed mineral water out of the earth. According to unauthorized spokespeople—AKA kibitzers—this has become a frequent situation.

I haven’t ever been able to swallow an entire mouthful, so I wasn’t as upset at this turn of events as I was at the reaction of those who heard and overheard me relating what happened. Out of a group of more than a dozen, there wasn’t one who knew that the mineral waters and the baths are the reasons Saratoga is known as the Spa.

I didn’t pursue it but I’d bet that almost all of them know the status of the relationship between Justin Bieber and Selena.

Written by Tom Jicha

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