Congressman Recalls Losing a Drunken Arm-Wrestling Match to Putin

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 13 2013 2:07 PM

That Time Vladimir Putin Beat a U.S. Congressman In a Drunken Arm-Wrestling Match

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Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin rides a horse during his vacation outside the town of Kyzyl in Southern Siberia on August 3, 2009

Photo by Alexsey Druginyn/AFP/Getty Images

During an interview with KPCC that aired yesterday, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican, was asked if he had ever met Vladimir Putin. It's safe to say his answer was more than a little unexpected.

Turns out, during the early 1990s, Putin, then only a local official, traveled to Washington with a Russian delegation. While there, Putin and two other Russians ended up playing a game of touch football with Rohrabacher and a few of his "right-wing" buddies. Things only got stranger after the game:

"We all ended up going to the Irish Times Pub afterwards, and we were having a little bit too much to drink I guess. But anyway, we started arguing about who won the Cold War, etcetera. And so we decided to settle it like men do when they’ve had too much to drink at the pub. So we got down to these arm-wrestling matches, and I ended up being paired off with Putin. And he’s a little guy, but boy I’ll tell you he put me down in a millisecond. He is tough ... his muscles are just unbelievable. And then his bodyguard gets up and this buddy of mine and says 'oh I’ll take him.' And my friend put his bodyguard down, so it was good."
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Listen to the full clip here. (Play button is over on the left.)

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Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.