It was an offer that the men of the U.S. Olympic modern pentathlon team couldn't refuse.
From strippers in Kansas.
"Hey, beer companies support the Olympics," said Mike Gostigian of Newtown Square, Pa. "Why not exotic dancers?"
The latest donation to the three-man U.S. team came courtesy of the Flamingo Club, a topless bar in Lawrence, Kan. The 40 dancers pooled their tips, added a stake from the owner, and raised $3,300 to help defray training expenses for Gostigian, Rob Stull of Austin, Tex., and Jim Haley of Lake City, Fla.
"All they wanted to do was help us out," Stull said. "They're not pushing their morals or anything. We could have come to the Games without the money. But we would have been in a lot more debt coming home."
The dancers are simply doing their jobs.
"Some of us are working a shift for the team," said Tracy Jones, a junior prelaw major, who is dancing to pay her way through college.
This is no lark. Wes Kabler, the bar owner, wanted to duplicate the strip-for-the-Olympics theme from down under. Dancers in New Zealand helped finance a career of one of their country's swimmers.
Kabler consulted media guides and talked to friends. He finally picked the modern pentathlon team when he received an Olympic trading card that pictured Stull. He immediately called Stull at his home in Austin and made his pitch.
"It was late and I couldn't believe it," Stull said. "But the guy was serious. What could I do? We needed the money."
The U.S. Olympic Committee didn't block the donation, but organization spokesman Mike Moran objected to the source of the cash.
"We told the team that it's in pretty poor taste," Moran said. "If that's what they want to do to publicize their sport, then fine. But it's pretty sleazy."
"To stereotype us like that isn't fair," she said. "We're helping somebody out. It's not fair to call us sleazy or in bad taste."
Will the modern pentathletes pay a visit to Kansas after the Games?
"You bet," Haley said. "That's a road trip I wouldn't want to miss."
This is the first of a daily roundup of Olympic-related items from reporters in Barcelona from the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Baltimore Sun and Hartford Courant, all Times-Mirror newspapers.