FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sports and Drugs

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

Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
Tom Clark
Gameplanning the Patriotic Retributive Attack on Montenegro
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail