Thursday 22 March 2018

Nutella in Rio - there should be a Dail inquiry into the O'Donovan brothers' diet

Calling for a Dail enquiry into the diet of those O'Donovan boys, Maurice Gueret has plans for more Olympic medals

Gary, right, and Paul O'Donovan celebrate winning silver in the Lightweight Men's Double Sculls Final at The Lagoa Stadium in Rio
Gary, right, and Paul O'Donovan celebrate winning silver in the Lightweight Men's Double Sculls Final at The Lagoa Stadium in Rio
Dr Maurice Gueret

The highlight of the summer were those outstanding performances by the Irish medal winners in Rio. I am surprised that no politician has called for a national enquiry into the 6,000-calorie daily diet of the O'Donovan brothers. Steak and spuds for breakfast, lunch and dinner were only part of their Olympic regime.

There was granny's home-made soup, in mushroom or vegetable, decanted into two flasks each day with none of "those things coming in from Spain". Carrots, parsnips and fungi were all west Cork home-grown fare. Her brown bread and roast lamb dinners played their part, too. And we mustn't forget the mountain of porridge and the lake of milk consumed along the road to Rio. And what of the bread rolls covered in Nutella and the delivery of pizza? Well those foreign treats came after the boys' medal-winning race and not before. If you are going to eat that many calories in one day, you need to take their advice on burning them off. Close your eyes and pull like those O'Donovan heroes.

* As a sporting nation, Ireland are serial underachievers at the Olympics. Countries with similar populations to our own, such as New Zealand and Denmark, always have far more to celebrate than we do. Scotland competes as part of the British team, but their individual sportsmen and women have a colossal medal haul in the last five Olympics. They have about four medals for every one achieved in Ireland. Why is this? Well I have a theory about it. And it is something to do with wink-and-favour politics. Just like health and education in Ireland, the system is founded on political patronage. It's precisely why we have failing hospitals and mediocre schools in every parish. Those who pull like dogs on the lapels of ministers and their political parties get the funding. Performance doesn't enter into it. Lottery funds are personally approved by ministers, and handed out like Confirmation money. And those who control many sports in Ireland seem to be in jobs for life. It may not be a very sporting view, but it's high time we looked at the performance of those who control sport rather than our athletes, who can only give their best.

* Time is running out on my own Olympic ambitions. It will be 2024 before darts qualifies as an official sport, and coxless dreaming could be further away still. The plans that I had for synchronised ticket reselling in Tokyo 2020 have also had to be put on hold. It was a minor arm ailment that prevented my selection for Rio this year. Too many hours with my forearm propped up on a hard desk has given me a bad dose of Popeye elbow. Correctly known in medical circles as olecranon bursitis, this is a painful, cushion-like swelling that appears just beneath the point of the elbow. Other names it has attracted over the years are student's elbow, baker's elbow, gamer's elbow and plain old elbow bump. I like Popeye elbow best. It hints at lots of muscles. But the truth is that a bursa is a closed purse of soft flesh with some fluid inside it. We have them near most of the major joints of the body, but the ones that cause most trouble are those close to the knees and elbows. They can get irritated or infected, which is when doctors use the term bursitis. My own personal treatment is wait and see. Every day, I examine the swelling for any change in size and try to gauge its temperature on the back of my hand. I'll report any deterioration to you on the road to Tokyo.

* Spare a thought for an eye specialist at the famous Moorfields Hospital in London, who reported himself to the UK's General Medical Council for 'crossing boundaries'. The ophthalmic surgeon once successfully treated a gentleman for cataracts, and the patient later made contact with him, expressing an interest in the surgeon's online blog and charity work. The two arranged to meet for a drink, and sure one thing led to another, which led to a 15-month relationship. Alas, they didn't part eye to eye, and after a series of angry emails, the patient told hospital management. This summer, a Medical Practitioners Tribunal received glowing testimonies from nursing and charity colleagues of the surgeon. They heard about his 'magic fingers' and 'enviable hands' and decided that though what he did was wrong, his case was exceptional, and it would not be in the public interest to suspend him.

* The case brought to mind the famous Goodness Gracious Me duet of Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren, where a wealthy Italian lady and her Indian physician seduce each other. The song was used to publicise The Millionairess but never actually appeared in the movie. The doctor says: "You'll be so glad to hear/That both your eyeballs are so clear/That I can positively swear that you are well." And the patient replies: "If you have eyes to see/The face that makes my pulses race/Is right in front of me."

* Guidance for Irish doctors is as follows. "Patients who seek medical help should be able to trust that you will be concerned only with giving care, advice and treatment, and will not use your position for personal advantage. You should make sure that you maintain professional relationships with patients, respecting their privacy and dignity. You must not use your professional position to form a relationship of a sexual, inappropriate emotional or exploitative nature with a patient, or their partner, or with a close relative of the patient." That's pretty straight advice, no matter how rose-tinted or clear your eyeballs are.

Dr Maurice Gueret is editor of the 'Irish Medical Directory'

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