I have always been an admirer of Freerepublic for having balanced viewpoints on both sides so here is my two cents.
When I first heard this story I got the impression that Shani Davis had let his teammates down. However further research shows the following:
1. Shani Davis was not originally selected for the pursuit team.
The articles make it sound as though he backed out and left his teammates high and dry. In fact, he never skated with the pursuit team, never practiced with them and was not an original member of the team. (Thanks to Wikipedia for good info). He was asked to participated, but how soon before the olympics is a matter of dispute.
2. Eric Heiden (Dr. Heiden) Defends Him
I have tremendous respect for Eric Heiden who is considered probably the greatest speed skater in history. Many press articles state that Heiden had "...a few choice words" for Shani Davis. But in Eric Heiden's actual articles he sings a much different tune by saying,
"Davis did the right thing by not skating in the pursuit. His goal was to skate the 1,000 and the 1,500. He was put in a unique position with team pursuit. It's a new race for the Olympics and the format was something that none of the teams were quite sure how to deal with."
Further in this article he notes that
"Another thing that people may be overlooking is that, in Salt Lake City, Davis was a member of the short-track team for a relay race, but didn't get to skate. So he's been in that situation before, where he didn't get to participate and he didn't want to do that to somebody here. It's tough to fault him for what he did. He may look selfish, but he was in that same position four years ago and didn't want anyone else to be in that position here."
In other words, Shani Davis felt bad about knocking someone out of an Olympic spot in Salt Lake and then not racing. He stated that the would never take a spot from someone again which hardly makes him sound self-centered. see also
The actual quote from Shani in the above article is, ""I'll say this 100 times,'' he said. "... After 2002, when I went to the Olympics but didn't get to skate, I told myself that I would never, ever take someone else's opportunity to skate at an Olympic Games.''
I am sure that this controversy will continue to rage, but given the information I found beyond the basic headlines, I have to wonder if the some of this controversy is not due to the press playing on the competitive nature of two very good athletes, Chad Hedrick and Shani Davis.
A nice rationalization.
Heiden actually criticized Davis initially, but is likely tying to kill the controversy now.
Jansen says Davis is not a team player and should have skated.
The fact that Davis won the one thousand really is irrelevant. Because Davis won gold in his main event excuses him from not skating in a team even for his country....? That doesn't justify anything. He should skate for his team and his country. He didn't. Fine. But the majority of Americans won't forgive him for that. He is not a team player and a piss poor American.