FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sports and Drugs

by DAVID MACARAY

What do Marion Jones (American Olympic track and field champion and disgraced drug-user) and Lance Armstrong (American multiple Tour de France winner and disgraced drug-user) have in common? Neither of them ever failed a drug test.

As a life-long track fan (and a former high school and college distance runner), I can vividly recall seeing Marion Jones perched in front of a microphone, defiantly lashing out at the media for even hinting that she was dirty. Looking back on it, her martyred performance that day was worthy of an Oscar. She wearily noted the countless times she had been tested and retested, and how every single test had come up negative.

Enough is enough, she pleaded. What do I have to do to prove my innocence? I sympathized with this woman. I believed her. I defended her. Then I saw the subsequent press conference where she broke down and cried, admitting that she’d been as doped up as a damned racehorse. She was forced to return all her Olympic medals.

And we all recall the saga of Lance Armstrong, cancer survivor, bicycle phenom, and poster boy for courage and hope. Not only did Lance, like Marion, repeatedly deny using performance-enhancing drugs, he took it a step further. He attacked his accusers. He threatened to sue people. He threatened to sue the media for even suggesting he was dirty. Then, of course, it all fell apart for him. He was revealed to be an habitual drug-user, a liar, a bully, an instigator, and a spectacular fraud.

On July 13, Tyson Gay, America’s premiere 100-meter sprinter, admitted he had failed a drug test. What made the admission so heart-breaking was that Gay had more or less come to be regarded as the face of clean, drug-free competition. In fact, Gay was cleaner than clean; he was an anti-drug zealot. Because he deplored what performance-enhancing drugs had done to the sport’s credibility, he’d become something of an anti-drug crusader. And then he himself admits to being juiced. A sad day for track and field.

Of course, Gay isn’t the first track champion to be caught using drugs. The practice goes back decades, to even before Ben Johnson, the Canadian sprinter (a contemporary of Carl Lewis) who scandalously tested positive for steroids. There have been literally scores of world-class male and female track and field athletes—Americans as well as international stars—who’ve been found guilty of using illegal drugs.

The problem (one of them at least) with the newest generation of ultra-sophisticated performance-enhancing drugs is that they’re all but impossible to detect. What makes them so difficult to identify is that the testers often have no idea what they’re even looking for. The purveyors of these drugs are light-years ahead of the drug police. Anabolic steroids are yesterday’s news. Even HGH (human growth hormones) have become passé.

Although the testing agencies are getting better at detecting this exotic stuff, they still lag far behind the purveyors and users. Jones and Armstrong were caught by old-fashioned detective work, the evidence from which was overwhelming. Just consider: If the evidence hadn’t been so incriminating, neither of these world-class athletes, in the absence of a single positive drug test, would ever have confessed to it.

How important is drug use among track athletes? It largely depends on whom you talk to. While some people believe the proliferation of chemically-altered performances marks the end of civilization as we know it, other people couldn’t care less. You tell them that some resourceful runners, prior to a foot race, had ingested speed-juice, and they’ll say, So what? Who cares? What’s some silly track meet have to do with world poverty or climate change?

Still, this raises an awkward question. If it’s a fact that HGH and other compounds make you run faster, and if it’s a fact that many big-time sprinters (Gay, Justin Gatlin, Asafa Powell, et al) have used them, how does Usain Bolt continue to beat these guys? Is he simply “fast,” or have the investigators not yet discovered what he’s taking?

Clearly, it’s an inflammatory question, but we’d be naive not to ask it.

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor” 2nd edition), was a former union rep.  Dmacaray@earthlink.net

More articles by:

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail