Lance Armstrong has given up his fight against numerous doping allegations. Armstrong conceded – never admitting that he did it – and never admitting that he didn’t. 14 years of athletic achievements have been taken away including 7 Tour de France titles, all winnings since 1998 have been taken back, and he is not allowed any affiliation in any sport associated with the World Anti Doping Code. This announcement comes on the heels of 2 major league baseball all-stars being suspended 50 games for positive steroid tests, Melky Cabrera, and Bartolo Colon.
I don’t care
You may not agree with me and you might get downright pissed off with what I’m about to say. I don’t care that Lance Armstrong and these other men took steroids. I don’t watch sport for the beauty of the endeavor. The amateur ideals since day 1 of the modern Olympics held in Greece was a crock of shit. The fact that the Olympics are still hailed for the beauty of sport is inane. In Canada at least these are athletes who are ignored by their country for 4 years. Many of their families are bankrupted by their sport in their attempt to succeed.
Yet, when Canada wins a bronze medal in 3 meter synchronized diving I’m supposed to have Canadian pride despite the fact that I didn’t know the sport existed until 5 minutes after they won? I have been friends with numerous great Olympians. None of them won a medal. The one commonality is that all of them struggled financially up to and after the Olympics. Have a read through my good friend Alexandra Orlando’s awesome book Breaking Through My Limits: An Olympian Uncovered to see what Olympians actually go through (she also set the record for gold medals on the Commonwealth Games). Sport is not beautiful in its ideals people so let’s stop being tricked into thinking it is.
Sport is beautiful in its accomplishment. The joy of being a spectator is seeing what these superhuman’s can achieve. I don’t care what country they are from. My national pride isn’t garnered by a diver, long jumper, or even a hockey team. My national pride comes from low crime rates, free health care, and a beautiful landscape (among other things).
Sport Sociology Time
Want a different view? Think about this. Sport is used by the Governments of the world to control the masses. If we’re concerned whether a Nascar driver can race around the track 500 times fast we stop caring about the inadequacies of the Governments that are spiraling the world economies into deeper and deeper holes.
While I admit that I enjoy sports (baseball mostly) I’ve thought long and hard and beg you to do the same. Why do you watch football on Sunday? And why do you care that somebody who you never met took steroids?
Read into a sport sociologist named Jean-Marie Brohm. Much of his work is in French but you can get some good translations. He’s taken marxist theories and applied them to sport.
Here are 3 of his main thoughts straight from the Wikipedia page:
1) Sport is not simply sport but a means of government, a means of pressure on public opinion and a mode of ideological framing of the populations and of parts of the youth, and this in all countries of the world, in totalitarian countries as well as in so called democratic countries. This was noticeable during the big political events which were the Olympic Games in Moscow, the soccer championship in Argentina and, more recently, in France.
2) Sport has become a sector of accumulation of wealth, money, and therefore also of capital. It attracts considerable amounts of money; I would even say today it is the most spectacular showcase of the globalized society of commodities. Sport has become a key commodity of this society.
3) The last point, the ideological aspect properly speaking. Sport constitutes a political body, a space of ideological investment in gestures and movements. You can see this for example with Combat sports. It’s also an ideological valorisation of efforts via asceticism, training, self-sacrifice; sport is presented as an ideological model. Sport institutes a bodily order founded on the management of sexual drives and aggressive impulses; insofar as it seems that sport is a form of social appeasement, social integration, reducing violence, allowing fraternity; this type of discourse to me is a load of muddled illusions and mystifications. We have therefore scrutinized sport starting from these three viewpoints: political, economical, and ideological.”
Back to Steroids
Another statement by Brohm which I agree with is that when an athlete becomes a professional he no longer has ownership of his body. Similar to Karl Marx theory of the Bourgeois being the controlling society the athletes body is now owned by their coaches, team owners / managers, and the fans who pay to see them perform.
When I watch sports I want to see an athlete jump higher, bike faster, and hit baseballs farther. I don’t care how they do it. Back in 1998 I was mesmerized by the home run battle between Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Ken Griffey Jr. Although my boy Griffey ended up losing out it was an epic battle. I don’t care (and neither did the rest of the world) that they took steroids. I wanted to see these guys smash home runs, and smash they did. It was years later that the world decided to care during the first baseball inquest. Now it’s an all-out witch hunt ruing careers at every turn.
For all those who believe that these great men (and sometimes women’s) achievements are due to steroids I’ll give you a dose. See if you can accomplish a fraction of what they did. So what if Barry Bonds head has grown 8 hat sizes since his rookie year?
He’s still an incredible athlete. The roids gave him an edge. He wasn’t the only one taking them at the time yet still become arguably the best home run hitter in baseball history.
When I go to a ball game or watch sports on tv (which happens less and less these days) I want to see the extremes. I don’t care about the beauty of sport I want to see dingers. I want to see bigger, faster and stronger — no matter how it’s achieved.
For everybody who is going to comment and hate on me in this post I have two questions for you:
1. How much do you care about the athletes you gain national pride watching them synchronize dive in the Olympics as little as a month after competition? Do you even remember their names?
2. How much do you care about the long-term health of the athletes you watch on tv. Let’s assume that steroids cause long-term negative effects? After you see a guy hit a home run or set a record and post about it on Facebook do you think about it 2 weeks later. Do you ever stop to think about what these athletes are doing in their old age or how they may be suffering? I’ve got bad news for you. Most professional football players are so beat up after their careers they can hardly walk. Given that the average football career is 2 years and most don’t have educations (even those that played in the NCAA has lacklustre degrees) their lives are tarnished by sport. Do you care or even think about them?
What about the kids?
I agree it’s a problem for the kids coming up in the ranks thinking that they have to take steroids to compete. Knowing a lot of young athletes I’ve got bad news for you. It’s rampant and not going to change anytime soon. There is no solution for it. Vilifying great athletes and taking away their achievements because they were the unlucky ones who got caught isn’t going to change anything.
Here’s my solution. How about parents around the world start teaching the love of movement instead of the never ending search for accolades and trophy’s?
Exercise is a beautiful thing and I believe that the love of movement is the most important thing we can instill in future generations. Sport is always going to a means of controlling the masses. At the top tiers there will always be efforts to cheat and gain a competitive edge. Caffeine was once made illegal in some sports. How stupid is that? It cannot be controlled. There will always be more money and motivations in cheating the systems than in controlling it.
It’s not up to WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) or anybody else to control steroids in sport. They will never be able to do it anyway. It’s up to the parents of kids to recognize what’s more important. So I ask you what’s more important? A trophy or a lifetime of movement, proper education, and a healthy appetite for independent thought.
So about Lance Armstrong
Let’s assume Armstrong took steroids (although nothing has actually been proven). Who cares? Let’s celebrate the achievements of this great athlete. What he accomplished in his career was unparalleled. The same goes for Barry Bonds, and Roger Clemens, and any other athlete who has been vilified for their use of PED’s (Performance Enahancing Drugs). They are illegal because some overarching agency decided that they shouldn’t be allowed. If creatine were discovered today I’m willing to bet it would be called performance enhancing and made illegal by some organisations because of the unfair advantage it gives. Gaming the system isn’t going anywhere. It’s just being forced to morph.
So let’s throw out the ideals of sport and call it what it really is — Bigger, Faster and Stronger.
A note for comments. Share your thoughts. I encourage them but please keep it productive. Those that aren’t productive will not be published. I look forward to hearing from you.
Photo credit: Vélocia