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Torres, 41, laughs off age, critics

Will swimmer Dara Torres be the darling of the Olympics? Or is there a Ben Johnson-type scandal in the offing?

Torres, who set an American record in the 50-meter freestyle as a 15-year-old in 1982, broke the current mark twice in two days as a 41-year-old to punch her ticket for Beijing. She also qualified in the 100 free, but opted not to swim that event to focus on the 50 freestyle.

When asked how she managed to beat the long odds, Torres said, “Age is just a number.”

If Torres is legit — she claims to have had her blood and urine tested in the past two years and has come up clean each time — it could trump almost every other story at the Olympics.

“It’s insane how this story has impacted people,” said Evan Morgenstein, president of Premier Management Group, a company representing a large number of Olympic athletes. “She has the same following as Steve Prefontaine at this point.”

Prefontaine was a popular and accomplished American distance runner in the mid-1970s who died in an automobile accident at age 24.

To Torres’ detractors who suspect she’s using something illegal to swim faster, she has asked for additional testing on herself. She had been rumored to have used steroids after the 2000 Olympics, but nothing was proved.

“I wanted to take action about it and be proactive,” she said. “I want people to know I am doing this right. I swam against swimmers who were dirty my entire life, and it’s just something I wouldn’t do.”

• NFL’S NEW COP — First, it was the NBA hiring a former Army general to police its referees. Now, the NFL has hired a former Pennsylvania state trooper to prevent another episode of Spygate.

What’s next? The NHL hiring a Royal Canadian Mountie to oversee Don Cherry’s wardrobe?

Col. Jeffrey Miller starts his job Aug. 18 as the NFL’s director of strategic security. In addition to making sure the sidelines are safe from signal-stealing sleuths, Miller will oversee fan behavior at NFL stadiums.

Interesting. A Pennsylvania guy making sure fans behave at NFL games. That’s the same state where a courtroom and jail operate on game day to deal with incorrigible fans at Philadelphia Eagles games.

• PRICEY TICKETS — The new Giants and Jets stadium at the Meadowlands won’t have a jail or a courtroom when it opens in two years. At least not initially. But it will have Personal Seat Licenses. The PSLs, which are a one-time charge, allow the holder to own that seat forever.

The cost? For the Giants, from $1,000 to $20,000 per seat. And that’s just for the right to buy season tickets, which go for $105 per seat per game. For a Giants fan with four season tickets on the 30-yard line, it will cost $80,000 for the PSLs and an additional $4,200 a year for the tickets.

As bad as that is, it’s almost a bargain compared to what the Yankees will charge for premium seats at the new Yankee Stadium. A field box seat near the dugouts or home plate will go for $2,500 a game.

That’s $810,000 for four season tickets and, like the Giants and Jets, doesn’t include parking or stadium club access.

The Yankees aren’t selling PSLs. Still, it’s getting awfully expensive to be a sports fan in New York.


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