Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.
E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)
Back to main blog
Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.
( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)
The Old Comrades:
November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 August 2007 October 2007 February 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 March 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 October 2009 January 2010 March 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 April 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013
Tuesday, August 17, 2004
It's only a game. In Saint-Exupéry's book Flight to Arras describing his experience in 1940 as a pilot fighting a losing battle against the advancing Germans, he somewhere observes that if the only weapon one had to fight a raging forest fire was a glass of water, then, yes, one would throw the glass. There are cases like that; as desperate as that - may the Lord have mercy on us all.
And there are cases not like that. There are cases when, really, the best thing to do is to sip a cooling drink and enjoy the spectacle of the flames.
Drugs in the Olympics are an example of the latter type. The athletes who take drugs to gain a secret advantage over those who obey the rules are cheats and scoundrels. Individually they deserve to be punished for breaking the rules they freely agreed to. But as scandal after scandal shows, the incentive to cheat is so great that they keep on doing it. Very sad, but, guys, guys, this one's not worth fighting over. It's all only a game.
When a mere game has unenforceable rules, you can just change the rules with no great loss to your honour. Who remembers now that there was once a time when the notion of amateur status was taken so strictly that an Olympic athlete such as Jim Thorpe could be stripped of his medals for taking having played some minor league baseball at $2 a day? All that proved unenforceable, so it was dropped. Do the same with drugs.
I am not here arguing in favour of ending the prohibition of drugs generally, though I do believe it should be ended. Very few of the performance enhancing drugs are illegal in normal life. Many of them are not even on prescription. What a relief it would be if extracting the urine from athletes could be restricted to the pages of satirical magazines. Instead commentators could learnedly compare A's training regime of pheno-ployxl-plasmasteroids to B's of speedilex buzzboosters.
It's true that some of these drugs might cause harm in later life. This bears watching, but it is no overwhelming argument in favour of banning them. Ordinary participation in sports might and often does cause harm in later life. Rugby players break their necks. Gymnasts get arthritis. Horseriders and rock climbers fall off horses and rocks and die. Boxers get brain damage. There are busybodies who want to ban those dangerous sports that are practised by men (they are oddly quiet about the ones, like riding, practised mainly by women) but that won't wash either - sitting in front of the TV refraining from dangerous sport will also cause you harm later in life.
Anyway, it's not as if a world where athletes are not harmed by performance enhancing drugs is a realistic option. All the rules and tests and punishments against drug-taking are evidently not enough to stop people doing it. The severity of that harm will be lessened if information on the drugs and their effects can be exchanged and assessed openly.
Perhaps, under my proposed dispensation, there would still be scope for "all natural" competitions where the present regime of drug testing would still apply. Given the smaller field of competitors the sports authorities would have a better chance of catching the cheats; and given that drug use would be legal for those athletes who wanted it, fewer cheats to start with. If there was a demand for that, fine. However I suspect that most of the appeal of athletics lies in watching people run fast and jump high irrespective of what they put in their bodies to do it.
Let's save our intransigence for battles that really matter.