Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
We know that the Summer Olympic Games in Athens, Greece are quickly approaching this year. That means a lot of excitement, a lot of money to be made, and a lot of ink set to be spilled praising the glory of human achievement in sports, and the congregation of the brotherhood of man in an ecumenical spirit of peace. Voices crying that it is all for naught will never be heard.
Ignoring for the moment that sports are the least important thing in the universe, the bald fact of the matter is that the Olympics do not represent the best in sporting achievement. That is the stuff of the various world championships in each event, not of the Olympics. If I want to watch the best tennis in the world, I will watch Wimbledon, or the various national opens. If I want to watch the best athletics in the world, then I will watch the indoor and outdoor athletics world championships. If I want to watch the best swimming, then world swimming championships are available to me. The same is true of running and jumping, boxing and weightlifting, gymnastics, shooting, diving, wrestling and all the rest.
Personally, I would favor seeing an official Drug Olympics just to see what limits there are to the physical structure of the human body. I would like to see a man run 100 meters in five seconds. I would like to see a man jump fifteen meters straight up in the air. I would like to see a man life a thousand kilograms, etc. Those would be far more interesting than the commercial product that will be presented to us this summer.
Published on Sunday, March 21, 2004 as “Break out the steroids!”
Ever since Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson was banned for life from his sport at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 I have had a dim view of vociferous, pontificating proclamations against drugs in sports. In the case of Ben Johnson he gave Canadians exactly what they wanted - Gold and a World Record in the 100-meter sprint, the definition of the fastest human. In addition, contrary to democratic fairness and legal precept that maintains a person to be innocent until proven guilty, most Canadians and Canadian media denounced him before all the evidence was in. Of course, he was guilty. But labeling him guilty before the demonstration of guilt just isn’t right. And it doesn’t look right, either.
Now, I don’t like organized team sports, and I balk at the way sports are pushed down our cultural throat by media and their corporate backers (who are also the corporate sponsors of professional sports teams). The Olympics is a business, riddled with a lot of corruption itself. So I don’t see the moral basis for its organizers to talk about fairness or legality in sports achievement. The objective is to win and humiliate one’s opponents, isn’t it? Sports are less about health than they are about politics and proxy warfare.
Professional athletes are freaks of human nature. I mean, their bodies are finely tuned for competition at specific times for specific ends, and their achievements are impressive. I certainly couldn’t do anything that athletes can do. But so what? Contrary to expectations, I am not interested in ‘natural’ freaks. If you want to be really freaky, then why not embellish it? Use drugs to explore the absolute engineering limits of the human physique.