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Bitcoin welcomed by USA Luge before cryptocurrency controversy

July 6, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - There's been much controversy over cryptomining in the North Country in the past few months. The lack of jobs it creates and the amount of electricity it consumes have caused this village, the city of Plattsburgh, Tupper Lake and the New York Power Authority to place moratoriums on the industry.

However, USA Luge, a national sports association headquartered in Lake Placid, thinks cryptocurrency - in there case, bitcoin - can be a lucrative investment.

Not that they have much of it.

"Back in December, a former luge athlete, who's involved in that world, decided to give us the gift of a piece of a bitcoin," said Gordy Sheer, marketing director at USA Luge and 1998 Olympic silver medalist in men's doubles luge. USA Luge requested the Lake Placid News not publish the donor's name.

"We're treating it as a long-term investment now and just hanging on to it," Sheer added.

In December 2017, the value of a bitcoin ranged from $10,000 to roughly $20,000. These days a bitcoin is valued at around $6,000.

"The athlete only donated a piece of a bitcoin because not everyone can write a check for $14,000," Sheer said.

This doesn't mean USA Luge is cryptomining or owns the computer drives that acquire bitcoins. It just means that it is accepting them as donations.

USA Luge is first the Olympics sports team in America to set up a cryptocurrency wallet, but it's not the first in the world. Donations of Dogecoin actually helped send the Jamaican bobsled team to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Doge is the internet meme of a goofy looking Shiba Inu, and in 2013 Billy Markus and Jackson Palmer created Dogecoin. It was originally just a joke, but the cryptocurrency went on to gain popularity. In 2014, Dogecoin donations, which equaled about $55,000, sponsored NASCAR driver Josh Wise. Dogecoin also helped build a $30,000 well in the Tana river basin in Kenya in cooperation with Charity: Water, a nonprofit organization that provides clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations.

No, the bitcoin piece didn't go toward anything in the recent Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Chris Mazdzer did not rework his sled through cryptocurrency investments. USA Luge hasn't cashed anything in yet.

"We're not really at that point," Sheer said. "When we are, it will go toward our main goal of recruiting, developing and training athletes."

Sheer admitted that he doesn't fully understand the cryptomarket, but he's glad the former athlete walked the association through the basics.

"It's definitely something to keep an eye on," he said. "People smarter than I am are investing into it, and I'm interested to see where it goes in the future."



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