Genuine sports lovers must be ruing their passion over the latest revelations about Lance Armstrong. The seven-time tour-de-France cycling champion’s history of doping to enhance his performance over the years is now beyond every benefit of the doubt that his fans have accorded him for so long.
Many had considered Armstrong a hero, what with his ‘successful’ battle over cancer and all that… but now I am sure they feel foolish, if not betrayed, having looked up to someone who didn’t really deserve the elevation.
But Armstrong is only one example, albeit a high profile one. We all know the epidemic scale of performance enhancing drugs use by athletes big and small, the world over.
Just check out the kind of substances that are abused by athletes, and one wonders how so many chemicals in one’s system can actually help anyone without eventually killing the user. There are what they call ergogenic aids, stimulants, amphetamines, caffeine, sympathomimetic drugs, anabolic steroids, human growth hormones, erythropoietin, narcotic analgesics, beta-blocking agents, diuretics, probenecid and a variety of nutritional supplements.
How do all of these substances help a body? I really don’t want to know.
But the question more important to me is, why do they have to use such drugs?
Let me take a deep breath and ventilate: Since time immemorial, sports have been the single most unifying past time for populations across geographies and cultures. Sports have always been about testing of endurance and more importantly, about excellence in human physicality.
But, I don’t think it was ever meant to be about performing humanly impossible feats. Sporting excellence is about besting what is humanly possible and not about doing what is beyond.
Why do athletes have to keep breaking records? Why do they have keep bettering their own previous performance? With each performance, why do they have to be stronger, faster or quicker? I mean, how much faster can a sprinter run or a swimmer swim? After all, they are only human.
Obviously, the illogical pressure to push athletes beyond their capacity by parents, coaches, trainers, sporting associations and even governments comes from extreme corporatization and the ridiculous monetary value that sponsors and product endorsement companies put on athletes.
So, today if someone were to tell me that sportsmen, even those representing their nation at international sporting events, push themselves purely for the prestige and pride, I would take it with a pinch of salt.
It is sad that I should feel this way, but I think competing athletes need to think for themselves and not let their sponsors speak for them. What they should know is that competitions are always about the best of the lot and never really about the best of the best. And that is because, there is, as yet, no measure for perfection.