I’ve been so caught up in writing that I missed some big news this month. Lance Armstrong, who most of you are probably sick of hearing about, admitted to using performance enhancing substances to win all his medals. I hope this doesn’t come as a shock to many people, but if it does, I’m sorry you had to witness the fall of a hero.
Does it change his accomplishments or his victories? Not really. He still won all those races and he still beat cancer. As Mr. Armstrong himself put it in his interview with Oprah Winfrey, he was leveling the playing field.
That’s what I’ve been telling people for years. No, not that I’m doping up to compete because, well, I don’t compete in any physical venues these days. Although I did spend a year as a competitive powerlifter before a catastrophic injury sidelined me, but that’s another story. From the college level of sports and above (and sometimes even in high school, sadly), athletes are doing whatever it is they need to do in order to compete. They’re told to win and that the end justifies the means. So as soon as one guy grabs a needle then the next guy knows he has to grab one too or he’s not going to be able to stand a chance against him.
The thing is, enhanced or not, these athletes are playing on a level field. There’s no competitive advantage, it’s all about training and hard work. You can’t inject 1000mg of testosterone every week and expect to become the world’s next home run king without working out and swinging a bat thousands and thousands of times. You can’t bench press 800 pounds without spending years working your way up from 135 pounds to 225 to 315 and every five pound increase in between. You can’t skate hard for over sixty minutes while pounding other players into the boards and shooting a puck past a goalie to win the Stanley cup in triple overtime. You can’t survive being pounded by 300+ pound linebackers every time somebody hands you a football and still go on to win a Superbowl ring. And you can’t win umpteen Tour de France and Olympic medals in cycling against an international level of competition. These things can’t be done without years of incredible focus, determination, and hard work. And if even one guy is using a little something extra to get a boost then if you want to win you have to use it too.
The International Olympic Committee and the Tour de France stripped Lance Armstrong of all his medals. Big deal. The guys that got moved up know they didn’t win. Sure, they got a shinier medal now, but they know they did the same thing that he did, they just didn’t get caught for it (yet). And even doing the same things they still couldn’t beat him. But by stripping him of the medals he spent years working hard to earn they sure taught him a lesson, didn’t they?
The lesson, sadly, is that you do what you have to do in order to win and then you have to lie about what it really takes to be a champion. This is one of the reasons why I admire bodybuilding and powerlifting so much – there are no stupid rules that say we want you to do superhuman things, but you can’t do what you need to do in order to win while you’re doing it. Oh, sure, there are drug free federations and competitions and those are definitely worth watching and competing in (that’s what I did, for the record), but when it comes to the pro circuit – the guys everybody looks up to – there’s no hypocrisy involved. And get this – the guys lifting crazy amounts of weight that admit they take testosterone, masteron, trenbolon, deca, anadrol, anavar, winstrol, and a host of other performancing enhancing substances to get there? They’re lifting the same weights that you see in the Olympics or other world class drug free sanctioned events. The same weights that are physically impossible to lift without those performance enhancing drugs and years of hard work.
I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve said it but I’ll say it again. To the IOC, Tour de France, and other legislative bodies made up of scrawny or overweight armchair coaches: Knock it off. Stop being blind and stupid. Stop demanding the impossible and then punish people who find ways to do it. To be fair the world is at fault for wanting superheroes to be real, then demanding that there be nothing super about them. Or as Dash put it in The Incredibles, saying everyone’s special is another way of saying no one is.
Now to twist this into more than just a rant, I can get around all these complications. I do it in my books all the time. I write science fiction and fantasy stories and in those, performance enhancement is the name of the game! Sci-fi offers opportunities beyond anything you can imagine, and I try to make it legal and ethical when possible (unless it’s a bad guy, of course). Fantasy, on the other hand, is the realm of magic. Anything’s possible when you’ve got magic. The hard part about magic is finding balance, otherwise things will spiral out of control and bad things happen. Bad things like villains taking over the story and world and people losing interest because there’s no challenge or adventure anymore.
To be fair, there are dangers involved in using performance enhancing drugs. They vary by substance and a host of other factors, so I’m not in favor of blind acceptance by any means. But, on the other hand, there are dangers involved when communing with an extra-dimensional deity exchanging future favors and promises for the ability to summon fire from the sky and raise the dead. It just goes to show that there’s no such thing as a free lunch…
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.