The Australian Crime Commission has brought to our attention that sports heroes have been using untested, unapproved, performance enhancing drugs, in conspiracy with Organised Criminals.
Teams have come forward, cap in hand. Individuals have come forward, shrunken testicles in oversized palms. AFLers, NRLers, soccerers, NBLers and assorted other athletes are likely cowering quietly in the shadows, hoping the light is not shone on them.
Before we blame the Sports Scientologists, it might be worth considering the biggest shock here is that this was a leak-free announcement.
Models and pornstars don’t have every rib peeking out from underneath a C-cup because their metabolisms are naturally fast.
Tame Impala don’t send their luscious grooves forth into the world solely through years of practice and improvement resulting in technical proficiency.
Ke$ha’s hits sell, but they don’t exactly represent the raw power of the unaltered human voice.
Charlie Sheen could not bring us the “great humour” of playing Charlie Sheen on Two And A Half Men, let alone his glorious and bat-shit insane tiger blood rant, and the series of self-deprecating endorsements and cameos his career has consisted of without, in his words, banging seven gram rocks.
Even beyond the world of pure entertainment, no one’s surprised when the uni students take Ritalin without a prescription and the finance guys are snorting coke on the boardroom table in their lunch break.
Yet these surgical, chemical and technological enhancements of physical capacity are all readily accepted because we understand the iceberg nature of the elite ranks of profession — the struggles and failures of countless others upon which the extreme success of the glorious few are built, peeking above the waterline — but enhance your performance in all means available to you in sport, and members start demanding their money back?
Are we done with this yet?
Major league sport is pure competition, and competition is a great and glorious thing. These people aren’t in it for their health. The point of competition is not to pit opposing teams or individuals against each other and see what happens, for their own good — it’s to see who’s best, for our entertainment.
Oxford professor of practical ethics, Julian Savulescu, said, “To say that we should reduce drugs in sport or eliminate them because they increase performance, is simply like saying that we should eliminate alcohol from parties because it increases sociability.”
We collectively demand that people strive for an outcome so that we may enjoy it, and are shocked when they do what it takes to achieve that.
Are we naïve or just kidding ourselves?
Sportspeople are celebrities, just like musicians, actors, writers, models and whatnot, competing for our money so they can do what they love, or are at least very good at. They are a function of their worth to us, and that worth is reflected in the nexus of how well they perform and how much we are prepared to incentivise their performance — how much attention we are prepared to pay, how much ad revenue that generates, the dollars we are prepared to shell out directly for the Grand Final tickets or the merchandise, and (not least) the love we invest, all for the pleasure we extract from the privilege of watching.
They are here for our entertainment. They are performers, and if performance-enhancing drugs enhance their performance, so much the better! That’s not against the nature of sport, but is its very spirit.
Hoping that sportsmen are competing for love and glory and million dollar contracts and the lifestyle that comes with, is akin to hoping that politicians aren’t saying whatever they think people want to hear this election cycle.
If succeeding at a level so high off the ground requires one’s head to be in the clouds, what is it about using the height-enhancing ladder of chemicals that do something useful that is beyond our sense of the expected and appropriate? The warriors are shooting at what they’ve trained for almost all their lives. We all win when they hit the target.
The advantage here is only unfair because those who follow the rules lose out, unless they’re, y’know, “better”. That sounds a lot like a problem with the rules, not the behaviour.
That might seem to pose a moral problem, but in the question of performance-enhancing drugs in sports, it really doesn’t. No harm is done. Any health costs fall on the user; a willing and overall sport is, in and of itself, far more dangerous than, for example, anabolic steroids. Those not willing to take those lengths will fall behind as long as there are people willing to take their place.
If you want so badly to be the best that you would shoot an untested concoction of peptides extracted from the brains and blood of livestock to stimulate growth hormone production, or whatever weird and wonderful things you’re putting inside you, good for you! May your hormone production be very hormone-y.
More importantly, may the spectacle of your success bring us great entertainment.