Join 3,418 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Being a fair sport
September 4, 2013 11:14 PM   Subscribe

In athletic competitions, what qualifies as a sporting chance?
posted by Gyan (41 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fascinating article. Even for someone like me who is completely meh about all sports. Thanks.
posted by davidmsc at 11:53 PM on September 4, 2013


Great article, but I guess one question raised but never answered is what we want sports to be a test of. If it's just natural ability then yes, it's kind of just a menagerie. But it's not just about work ethic, either (or else the physical aspects mean little.) We can redraw the lines but the lines have to be drawn somewhere so that competition actually has a framework, and like many things those lines will be somewhat arbitrary. The arbitrariness of those lines and rules doesn't imply sympathy for those who breach them, however. Nobody needs to bike through France at near-superhuman speeds - one does it because it's a competition, with rules.

To put it in "The Wire" terms, this article is equivocating like a motherfucker.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:22 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It should be noted that this is part of a ongoing pseudo-debate Gladwell and Epstein are having in public. In his book, Epstein mentioned (not specifically targeted) Gladwell's rather silly "10,000 hours to become good at something" posit.

Agreeing with Navelgazer above, Gladwell, in contrast to his initial reaction, "is equivocating like a motherfucker." Or perhaps, he's just thought it through a little bit. (I'm going with the former, but I don't really like the guy.)
posted by converge at 12:27 AM on September 5, 2013


But there are rules, and then there are rules. The rules that say "Hitting the baseball out of the park is a homerun" is much more meaningful to the sport of baseball as an endeavor we bother to compete in and follow than the rule that says "You cannot inject yourself with certain chemicals whose effects are largely indistinguishable from other chemicals that you can inject yourself with." I (and virtually every one else that follows sports) want sports to be a test of the first kind of rule, and not the latter. But by having those rules, it's becoming more and more about the dopers and not the achievements.

In professional sports, I believe that you should just let everyone performance enhance however you want, because some set of people are enhancing, and winning, and others are not enhancing, and losing. Rules against enhancement are largely punishing only those who choose not to enhance. Take any year that Lance Armstrong won a Tour de France and go through the top 10 finishers on wikipedia. Basically every one of them either was suspended or implicated in a doping scandal. Some of them were cleared, but of course, Armstrong tested clean at the time of those wins as well. Who was the highest finishing non-doping racer during that race? We have no idea, but I bet he's pissed he didn't dope, now knowing that everyone above him was likely doping but has already spent all the prize and endorsement money they earned. There's been no retroactive ceremony for the legit winner, no consolation endorsement deal.

If you let everyone dope - or rather, if you don't bother having rules that forbid doping of certain kinds - you at least can feel better that people are probably competing on a more even playing field. Every pro athlete can get access to roids, or ligaments, or LASIK, or EPO, and then we know they all had the same shot, and we don't have this insane regime where Congress pulls baseball players into hearings and ask how many needles got stuck in their butts.
posted by shen1138 at 1:01 AM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it's disingenuous to gloss over the huge dangers of having polycythemia vera. If you want to transfuse yourself or use epogen at the non-trivial risk of having a stroke, that's your call. The clotting effect is so significant you're not really even supposed to be using it for anemia anymore.

It's also hilarious he skips over the literal doping scandal Eero Mantyranta was caught up in. This is just a theory, but I think the amphetamines might have more to do with his competitive edge rather than his potentially fatal genetic condition.

In my opinion this is more of this Steve Jobs cult of Fate meets Willpower circlejerk horseshit, rather than admitting that life sucks because it's arbitrary, random and unfair. Sometimes you bust your ass and get nothing, and sometimes you get lucky for no damn good reason at all.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 1:13 AM on September 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Rules against enhancement are largely punishing only those who choose not to enhance.

Not quite true.

Seven cyclists died in Europe alone in less than a year in 2003/4 from suspected EPO-related complications (basically, heart attacks). That was the real scandal, not Armstrong. These seven were not the only ones. Young men, primarily, were dying because they felt they had to dope to keep up or become part of a lost generation of cyclists nudging ahead of the broom wagon. There will always be an arms race in sport. But when drugs is part of that, good clinical practice and safety be damned in the name of getting ahead and keeping it secret.

Stories about what EPO did to cyclists are legendary: in the middle of the Tour de France, cyclists would get up in the middle of the night to get on the cycle machines to get their thick blood circulating properly so they didn't die of heart attacks. One story has it that a cyclist had come off his bike on a descent and when the tour doctor arrived the man's blood was gently oozing, like treacle from a gaping , serious wound in his leg. When the doc asked him if he'd doped, the cyclist asked to speak to his lawyer first.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:15 AM on September 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


Don't worry, once the High Fathers of Sport manage to translate those last few lines on the Golden Tablet of Sporting and Games they will surely call a news conference and announce what cool truths they found about exogenous chemicals that affect performance. I hope they choose this time to promote a new golden tablet-inspired performance-enhancing gatorade (sports drinks are not exogenous chemicals that affect your performance because that would be cheating)

But seriously it's crazy to think that the rules of human competitions are organized according to platonic ideals of fair and unfair floating in the sky rather than expediency and greed.
posted by serif at 1:24 AM on September 5, 2013


That's a great point MuffinMan. Gladwell doesn't just gloss over the health risks here, he completely ignores them.

Were the professional leagues (or whatever the Olympics and various, uh, amateur federations) to completely ignore the potential loss of life of their employees (or competitors/contractors, whatever), well, we'd have a slightly worse version of now. Concussions are just the start. Wait until someone (from the NFL, likely) says in court that they had to kill their kidney to keep their job.

Yeah, most professional leagues don't really care right now, but they pay a minor tribute to testing so the press won't eat them (as if the press could). The point in this is not competition, but quality and length of life after the game is done.
posted by converge at 2:27 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


We can redraw the lines but the lines have to be drawn somewhere so that competition actually has a framework, and like many things those lines will be somewhat arbitrary. The arbitrariness of those lines and rules doesn't imply sympathy for those who breach them, however. Nobody needs to bike through France at near-superhuman speeds - one does it because it's a competition, with rules.

Except we pretend that these things are objective skills, that's a big part of why people enjoy them. When you describe sports as "excelling at a certain formula of performance defined by an abstract system of rules," it doesn't sound as entertaining as "is a great baseball player."

This is a crack in the wall of professional sports, of the massive cultural weight that these games carry with all kinds of people, of the importance we accord to players, importance so great that the best players command salaries of millions of dollars.

And really, if it's a substance at a quantity that doesn't harm your health, why shouldn't we let, not just athletes use these substances, but everyone? That would actually make it seem a lot more reasonable that pro sports players could use them, because the measure most of us accord to athletes about whether their personal methods of self-modification are fair or not are rooted 1. in their availability to us, and 2. what moral stance we take on it. Paying for a treatment of performance-enhancing drugs is both not something most of us can do, and sounds like taking a shortcut to success, a way to bypass the heroic stories of personal betterment through training people find inspiring about star athletes, so we disapprove of it.
posted by JHarris at 2:39 AM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


In professional sports, I believe that you should just let everyone performance enhance however you want, because some set of people are enhancing, and winning, and others are not enhancing, and losing.

At the very least, honesty and openness regarding medical treatments and supplements should always be a requirement of fair competition these days. Before you start taking a certain drug or get a certain body modification, you ought to have to declare your intent to the sport's governing body, and the governing body ought to publish this declaration to all registered competitors. Let other competitors match your treatment if they choose to. Make it less a scientific and financial competition and more an athletic competition.
posted by pracowity at 2:46 AM on September 5, 2013


If everyone is using these substances, including the genetically gifted, don't the latter still end up ahead? They then have their genetic advantage + the advantage of whatever drug they are taking. E.g. maybe red blood cell dude would have had even more red blood cells, to a point which other athletes couldn't reach even by doping. I don't see how it really levels the playing field.

That said, I'm all for segregating sports into doped and natural competitions, so that people who want to explore the limits of the human body with assistance can do that, and people who want to explore the "natural" limits can do that. Of course, you'd have the same problem with trying to keep dopers out of the natural competitions, since presumably there'd still be some money and glory in winning those.
posted by lollusc at 3:11 AM on September 5, 2013


Why do so many of the world’s best distance runners come from Kenya and Ethiopia?

While it would seem obvious that certain individual genetic traits give one an advantage as a long-distance runner, the author misses a huge external influence which is culture and competition.

Kenya and Ethiopia have a running culture. Children are encouraged to run and compete, there are excellent coaches, and there is a competitive environment for distance runners that doesn't exist in too many other places.

People tend to associate Asians with being the best at table tennis, for example, but Sweden has produced a number of champion table tennis players. It's an indoor sport, which doesn't take up much space, doesn't require a big investment, and it is hugely popular in Sweden. Some of the most competitive leagues in the world are here and so Sweden produces a lot of good players. Same with golf and tennis. You see a lot of Swedes in the upper echelons of golf and tennis, but this is because these sports are popular and there is a substantial infrastructure for talented individuals to climb on.
posted by three blind mice at 3:21 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kenya and Ethiopia have a running culture.

But is that independent of genetics? Have they always had a running culture, even when it was just neighbor versus neighbor? Or did they develop a running culture relatively recently, when they discovered that a kid from the Kenyan sticks could be recognized as the world's best at something thanks to their genetic advantage?
posted by pracowity at 4:18 AM on September 5, 2013


I'm starting to come to the realization that I simply cannot be arsed to care about PEDs. Try this mental exercise and see whether you agree:

Replace every instance of "PEDs" or "EPO" or whatever the particular thing is with "practice."

In professional sports, I believe that you should just let everyone practice however you want, because some set of people are practicing, and winning, and others are not practicing, and losing. Rules against practice are largely punishing only those who choose not to practice.

...

Five high-school football players died in the U.S. alone in 2011 from suspected practice-related complications (basically, heat stroke).

...

At the very least, honesty and openness regarding practice should always be a requirement of fair competition these days. Before you start practicing in a certain way, you ought to have to declare your intent to the sport's governing body, and the governing body ought to publish this declaration to all registered competitors. Let other competitors match your practice regimen if they choose to. Make it less a scientific and financial competition and more an athletic competition.


It all seems... quaint and weird when you think of steroids or bennies or brandy laced with rat poison as just another component of "practice."
posted by Etrigan at 4:23 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are people who believe that they should have a chance at being competitive in the activity of their choosing without taking potentially deadly drugs as a de facto requirement.

Which ... sounds pretty reasonable to me.
posted by kyrademon at 4:56 AM on September 5, 2013


This week's New Yorker Podcast is on this topic.
posted by moonmilk at 5:25 AM on September 5, 2013


But is that independent of genetics? Have they always had a running culture, even when it was just neighbor versus neighbor? Or did they develop a running culture relatively recently, when they discovered that a kid from the Kenyan sticks could be recognized as the world's best at something thanks to their genetic advantage?

Then there would be the same number of world class runners from all of East Africa: Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, and Somalia which like Ethiopia all border Kenya.

Culture is more important than race. To make champions you need to be able to identify INDIVIDUAL talent early on and then give this talent the opportunity for top class training in a strongly competitive environment. This is what the Kenyans and Ethiopians have done for decades - and Somalia not so much.

"Some have suggested that East Africans' genes might be predisposed to endurance events but many studies have concluded the same thing – there is, at present, no evidence of this."

The assumption "Why do so many of the world’s best distance runners come from Kenya and Ethiopia?" seems to me basically racist if the answer is "genetics."
posted by three blind mice at 5:33 AM on September 5, 2013


Replace every instance of "PEDs" or "EPO" or whatever the particular thing is with "practice."

There is at least one sport that does put limits on practice: Formula 1.

Teams are strictly limited on the time and mileage they can put their drivers in the cars, mainly for cost saving reasons. There was a large scandal this year when one team was able to run an extra thousand kilometers, ostensibly to help the tire manufacturer that supplies tires to every team.

Of course, the teams have millions of dollars to get around limitations like this. Wind tunnel testing and computer airflow modeling is used to develop the car, and the drivers use highly realistic simulators to practice instead of actually getting on track.
posted by arcolz at 5:47 AM on September 5, 2013


Just when I thought Malcolm Gladwell could not possibly be more annoying if he tried, he goes and accents the first é in elite throughout this entire article.

He must be trying. Or, perhaps he has a genetic advantage toward annoyance.
posted by Aizkolari at 5:55 AM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


he goes and accents the first é in elite throughout this entire article.

The people at the New Yorker decide such things.
posted by pracowity at 6:02 AM on September 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


three blind mice: "The assumption "Why do so many of the world’s best distance runners come from Kenya and Ethiopia?" seems to me basically racist if the answer is "genetics.""

Why would that be?

I can understand that claiming genetic basis of superiority is usually based in racism but a knee-jerk "racist" response to any "genetic"basis of differentiation is a bit short-sighted.

Unless you are saying that scientific studies have shown that a lot of advantages in many sports (at the highest levels) are not rooted in genetic differences between people.

I don't think anyone is making case that all sports have such a problem that a genetic mutation can imbalance the playing field. There are quite a few sports (e.g. swimming, long distance running, cross country skiing etc) where having a genetic mutation gives people a lot of advantage over those who don't.

Whether that "a lot of advantage" is big enough to be unfair is an interesting question and thats the view that Gladwell is also obliquely suggesting and hinting that we allow people to make their own decisions about whether to use chemicals to over come these genetic advantages.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 6:26 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Replace every instance of "PEDs" or "EPO" or whatever the particular thing is with "practice."

There is at least one sport that does put limits on practice: Formula 1.


College sports in the U.S. also have practice limits, theoretically to protect the student-athletes from being overly tipped toward the "athlete" part at the expense of the "student" part. They are also routinely gotten around via "optional" workouts (where the coaches are studiously not on the grounds, even though everyone knows what needs to be done in what order) and the like.
posted by Etrigan at 6:31 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait, 8% per kilometer is how many percent per marathon? 320% you say? No wonder they are so good at marathons, they are expending negative effort. Running marathons is equivalent to eating for Kalenjins, or is that not how it works?
posted by Literaryhero at 6:48 AM on September 5, 2013


Wait, 8% per kilometer is how many percent per marathon? 320% you say? No wonder they are so good at marathons, they are expending negative effort. Running marathons is equivalent to eating for Kalenjins, or is that not how it works?

I'm pretty sure that doesn't stack that way, it's probably way closer to just an 8% benefit across the marathon as well. Maybe the only real studies have been done over a kilometer though.
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:02 AM on September 5, 2013


I follow sports and I've heard this line of reasoning before, and largely agree with it. It makes less and less sense to bar all performance enhancing drugs from sports, when some people are genetically disposed to gain those benefits without drugs. HGH is a hot-button PED, and is often used by players who are in great shape to get in even better shape. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but I've heard that it's very helpful when you're recovering from a serious injury to take growth hormones to speed the recovery. If this is safe and recommended by a doctor, who does it hurt to let Kobe Bryant come back from a knee injury more quickly than he would naturally? The other teams in the league, maybe, but not really anyone else.

Speaking of Kobe, he's one of many basketball players who's been going to Germany for the Regenokine treatment, which can't be done in the USA because of some FDA wording in certain laws about modifying your tissue.
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:11 AM on September 5, 2013


I should stop using basketball examples when talking about PEDs though, as they've got notoriously odd PED rules. The NBA policy for drug testing seems fairly solid:

All players are subject to four (4) random tests each season (from October 1 to June 30). All players are also subject to two (2) random tests each off-season (from July 1 to September 30). All such tests are scheduled and conducted by an independent, third-party entity and are without prior notice to the player. The NBA and the NBPA are not involved in the scheduling of any tests or the selection of players for testing.

But some analysts and ex-players have spoken on the fact that the way this often plays out is that players get their fourth random drug test sometime in the Spring, and know that there will not be another drug test until the offseason. The Spring is right when the serious playoff contention, then competition occurs, so in practice it is rumored that players are clean til the 4th drug test, then dope up all they want to help their team win.
posted by DynamiteToast at 7:17 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


When bike racing started around the turn of the 19th Century, riders were open about their doping. Cocaine and strychnine were the drugs of choice. The Tour didn't care about doping until the sixties when a star rider died in a race from overuse of amphetamines. (Tom Simpson) Amphetamines were banned, and the arms race was on.

I have a friend who was an international cycling coach at the highest level. He pointed out that coaches and athletes have competing goals. The coach wants a performance, the athlete wants a career. But the athlete listens to the coach.
posted by Repack Rider at 7:56 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


My favorite movie on this subject is Bigger, Faster, Stronger. There never has been, and there never will be, a "drug-free" sports competition, not as long as million dollar paychecks & SI/ESPN photographers are waiting across the finish line for that first athlete across. Athletes with families and kids dental bills and mortgages.

The top athletes today beating their chests about how clean they are and how scurrilous the accusations against them are just have the really good stuff, the stuff they can't test for yet. The past is prologue.

Like Jack Lalanne said, "As long as the emphasis is on winning, you're gonna have steroids."

The movie also looks at how our attitudes (as Americans) are fucked up about "enhancement". Why is it OK for Tiger Woods to have eye-surgery to improve his vision but Ben Johnson can't juice up to run faster?

The romantic notions about triumph of the human spirit, all-natural, finding out how far pure effort and willpower (and genetics) can take you... wonderful.

Just leave the Pollyanna fantasies at the door once paychecks and television cameras get involved.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:00 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure that doesn't stack that way, it's probably way closer to just an 8% benefit across the marathon as well. Maybe the only real studies have been done over a kilometer though.

Sorry, I thought I was being clearly sarcastic. An 8% gain is an 8% gain regardless of the distance, but when written as I quoted earlier it makes it seem like there is some magical power these Kenyans have.
posted by Literaryhero at 8:03 AM on September 5, 2013


A couple of points:

1. "Sports only decide who's got the best genetics," say some. "What's the point of that? If we had PEDs, we could level the genetic playing field!" To which I'd reply… OK, but once we do that, just what is it that sports are deciding? Who is best at their PED regimen? Is that really an improvement?

Yes — in many individual sports, the victor is the person who had the best combination of genetics plus training plus blind luck. It has always been this way. If this bothers you, feel free to mosey on over to team sports, which also incorporate intelligence and the ability to coordinate across a large group ("teamwork").

2. I'm always surprised at how many people are cynics (or realists or whatever) about PEDs. "If professional sports are about being the best, why don't we just let everyone use PEDs?" Hidden in this question is the assumption that we, in the year 2013, know which PEDs will hurt you (in the short term and the long term) and which won't, even in this arms race where there's a new drug every year. Any PED that is permitted by a league is, in a de facto sense, required by the league, because if you're not willing to gain that competitive edge, you'll eventually be outclassed by those who are. And it seems to me that it's in a league's long-term interest not to require that its members adopt a drug regimen whose long-term effects are largely unknown.

There's also an egalitarian issue here. These drugs aren't free. If it bothers you that competitions only decide who has better genetics, imagine a world in which competitions only decide who has more money.
posted by savetheclocktower at 9:38 AM on September 5, 2013


One worrisome thing I think of when it comes to doping is, a substance like testosterone might not be a problem if taken responsibly. But when it comes down to earning either thousands, or millions, of dollars, and the amount taken may directly influence which of the two you have a chance to get, and the massive difference in quality of life between them, that is not a recipe for responsible behavior. It's going to encourage people to push it as far as they can go, as close to the line as they can. And if you take too much of anything it can cause problems.

Of course we often talk about athletes in terms where "pushing the line" is a good thing, when it's hard work being pushed. If there was a pill that gave you all the benefits of hard work, who wouldn't take it? Of course hard work has other benefits, but those don't translate into inspirational stories as well.
posted by JHarris at 10:00 AM on September 5, 2013


If it bothers you that competitions only decide who has better genetics, imagine a world in which competitions only decide who has more money.

That's pretty damn close to how it is now. There are lots of non-PED ways to improve yourself that are only available to people with money. Training world class athletes is flipping expensive, drugs or no.

Banning PEDs is an arbitrary line. It's not necessarily a bad place for an arbitrary line, since the line needs to be somewhere between "not allowed to train" and "cyborgs". But we should recognise, as Gladwell points out, that all the objections to PEDs can also be applied to common training practices.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 10:09 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


> That's pretty damn close to how it is now. There are lots of non-PED ways to improve yourself that are only available to people with money. Training world class athletes is flipping expensive, drugs or no.

Yeah, and that's lamentable, but the difference between the rich and the poor at this point is not so great that it prevents the poor from ever beating the rich. If PEDs made it so that a 14-seed never beat a 3-seed in the NCAA basketball tournament, that'd suck.

> Banning PEDs is an arbitrary line. It's not necessarily a bad place for an arbitrary line, since the line needs to be somewhere between "not allowed to train" and "cyborgs". But we should recognise, as Gladwell points out, that all the objections to PEDs can also be applied to common training practices.

Yeah, this is the other thing that bothers me about Gladwell's article — he seems to be employing Loki's Wager. He says that Tommy John surgery, LASIK, and PEDs all exist on the same spectrum, and if you allow one you must allow them all. But as someone who doesn't find the idea of cyborg sports compelling, I've got no problem with drawing an arbitrary line. Nobody said this was going to be simple.
posted by savetheclocktower at 10:14 AM on September 5, 2013


Maybe in the future all the competitors will have their brains placed into (or will remotely operate) identical cyborg 'stock bodies' so that only training and personality determine the winner.
posted by Pyry at 10:36 AM on September 5, 2013


This is from Mark Sisson's web site and he blows a lot of smoke so I am skeptical of his information, but the reasoning and logic steps are the best I have seen for the argument to let athletes and their doctors choose virtually any medications.
posted by bukvich at 10:36 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's pretty damn close to how it is now. There are lots of non-PED ways to improve yourself that are only available to people with money. Training world class athletes is flipping expensive, drugs or no.

Depends on the sport. Kenya and Ethiopia (and Eritrea) don't have awesome distance runners because they have big bucks for training. In fact, it's been argued that they have awesome distances runners, in part, because they have no money. If you live in a poor country and have few opportunities, you go all in on the ones that are available to you (see also: why are blacks so good at basketball).
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:06 AM on September 5, 2013


Gladwell and the New Yorker are in way over their heads on this topic. Instead, check out the Josh Rogan interview of Victor Conte.
posted by Chuckles at 11:13 AM on September 5, 2013


Of course we often talk about athletes in terms where "pushing the line" is a good thing, when it's hard work being pushed. If there was a pill that gave you all the benefits of hard work, who wouldn't take it? Of course hard work has other benefits, but those don't translate into inspirational stories as well.

It seems odd to write off "inspirational stories" here. Inspiration is why we enjoy the competition of others. That narrative is the reason we care. It is literally why sports exist.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:15 AM on September 5, 2013


Shen1138, Scott Mercer has some interesting things to say about being an elite (my word choice) non-doper at http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/05/news/scott-mercier-former-postal-rider-says-hamiltons-charges-ring-true_174876 and elsewhere, e.g. “I don’t hold any grudges...I look at what those guys did, and I don’t imagine they feel good or proud about it. But they took things away from guys like myself, and Darren Baker. I suppose we weren’t ‘professional’ enough. We weren’t into winning at all costs. And the cost to me was my integrity, I wasn’t going to give that up.”
posted by manduca at 2:48 PM on September 5, 2013


It seems odd to write off "inspirational stories" here. Inspiration is why we enjoy the competition of others. That narrative is the reason we care. It is literally why sports exist.

Well... define inspirational. There's the little kid looking up to the gold medal winner on the Wheaties box thinking "I wanna grow up strong and fast like them!" That's the happy-smiley version that sports like to sell us. Children are adorable that way, the innocence unsullied by reality.

But the other kind of "inspirational" experience is the tribal "OUR TEAM WINS, YOUR TEAM LOSES!" kind. Humans are wired to celebrate when our side does well, be it bringing home dinner, the heads of dead enemies, or that next touchdown. This kind of inspiration is more combat-by-proxy. This is the small-town "Friday Night Lights" experience at the football game. The chants of USA, USA, USA when I was a kid and we somehow beat the Russians at hockey in the Olympics.

In Bigger, Faster, Stronger Chris Bell interviews a bunch of NY Giants fans tailgating before the game, and he asks them what they think about steroids. "Steroids? I love them if they're on my team!"

Most people don't want to be inspired. They want to be wearing the colors of the winning team, preferably from, a local one. And looking up to professional athletes seems to be not such a great bet if "And they do it without steroids" is part of the appeal.

Because your favorite professional athlete juices.

Another line that sticks with me from the docu is from the former head of the US Olympic Anti-Doping Committee (I believe). After showing a copy of the USOC to letter Carl Lewis detailing how FAILED his drug test before the Olympics (along with a big-ass posse of others) the doctrine of "Inadvertent use" was introduced to let Carl (and the others) off the hook and compete. Of Course, Ben Johnson had his medal stripped from him for doping, and it was given to Lewis (who had a get-out-of-jail-free card).

The guy with years of up-front anti-steroid work's opinion?
"If it's impossible to keep steroids out of athletics, they were meant to be in."
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:11 AM on September 7, 2013


"If it's impossible to keep steroids out of athletics, they were meant to be in."

1. Throwing around language like "meant to be" is problematic. Who does the meaning?

2. Lots of things aren't impossible that we still would like to be very difficult.
posted by JHarris at 8:52 PM on September 7, 2013


« Older Ben Barrett-Forrest offers a paper animation Histo...  |  This is what the last sixteen ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments